The late bell hooks (American author, professor, feminist) once wrote the following statement about queerness: “…queer as not about who you’re having sex with, that can be a dimension of it, but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
This quote has been resonating with me as we have been moving into the holiday season. For many in the LGBTQ+ community, the holidays may have been a reminder of things that you know or believe to be true, consciously or subconsciously, about yourself. The holidays can feel upsetting if you’re not seeing your reality represented, but rather find yourself comparing yourself to what you see around you. Perhaps you don’t’ feel like the protagonist in a Hallmark movie, or nobody bought you something from Kay Jewelers which led to that special time-altering kiss, and nobody bought you a Lexus this year. Not to mention, it’s dark all the time, the pandemic isn’t over, and holiday songs can feel like a slap in the face that you just don’t feel the holiday magic.
I remember starting to feel disenchanted with the holidays around high school. There was something about it that just didn’t seem to “fit” with how I saw myself.
Many queer people grow up feeling like they don’t “fit in”. If that’s you, maybe that’s because you don’t! Hear me out, it’s okay, maybe even good, to not fit in. It just means you have an extra dash of sparkly unicorn rainbow blood, and you were never meant to fit in.
To be clear, fitting in and belonging are not one in the same. You can absolutely belong somewhere without fitting in. In fact, I would argue that showing up as your authentic self, in whatever space you find yourself, is doing you and everyone who gets to interact with you a favor.
Whether or not those you connect with this holiday season see or accept who you really are is irrelevant. Fighting against a narrative that you should, or could, be anyone else is exhausting. Embracing your true self, and moving a step closer to true self-love, will serve you and also help others find the courage to embrace their authentic, dinosaur-feathered selves.
This is where I must note that being fully yourself isn’t always (or doesn’t always feel) safe. If this is the case, it may be worth reflecting on the following questions:
· What is it costing me to hide who I am? How does this affect how I see myself?
· What would be the cost of removing myself from this setting that doesn’t accept me (or that I fear won’t accept me)?
· Is there another option, or somewhere that I can feel safe to be my wonderful, authentic self?
We are born into a set of societal expectations that we never asked to be a part of. Throughout our lives, we have the idea fed to us that we should conform to those expectations. Maybe that’s to keep the peace, not ruffle any Pegasus or peacock feathers, or just to allow those around us to remain comfortable.
My question to you is: at what point is protecting others’ comfortability costing you living the life that feels true to you? What makes their feelings more valuable than YOU and your own inherent worth to be who you are?
In my humble opinion and lived experience; Nothing is more valuable than your own worth.
So with that, how can you reclaim your own holiday, your time, and your life? Let’s start by trying something:
Close your eyes and imagine what your ideal holiday would look like. Imagine who is there, where it is, what it feels like, what you’re doing, how you’re interacting with those around you.
Pause. Is there any possibility of making this daydream a reality? Yes – go do that. No – keep going.
What’s stopping you? Consider what parts of your idea are not possible. Now identify which parts are most important. A compromise sometimes feels more worth it when you know the importance of why you’re making it. That could mean choosing to lose touch with a homophobic family member over sacrificing your truth to stay closeted. You could even ditch the traditional family holiday to gather with old or new friends, if that feels more fulfilling this year.
Sometimes creating your ideal holiday means connecting with “framily”, creating new traditions, or just giving yourself permission to be your true self and leave your mark on the world. For example, if what is calling to you is rest over stress, give yourself a break from the overwhelming “to-do”. Create a virtual gathering with people you care about and play games. Bake cookies and send them to the neighbors. Or, create a new holiday in January or February if you just can’t get away on the date that everyone else is celebrating. If you can’t be with the people you typically spend the holidays with, know that you are not alone. Perhaps this year you could spend time volunteering at the local queer community center or a food kitchen.
Whatever it is, please know that you deserve to feel loved and honored for who you are. If you don’t already feel that, there are people out there ready to show it to you! Please see the end of this article for a list of suggestions on where to find a supportive community in your area.
As noted in their quote at the beginning of this post, bell hooks identified the need to “find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.” Every single person deserves to do all of these things and to feel safe in doing so. Nobody deserves to feel confined to silence or solitude. There is always a possibility of thriving. You just need to know where to look.
Please reach out if you feel like you are struggling. Below are some additional national and local resources you may find helpful.
Happy Holidays, unicorns!
Gay Church (provides a list of local LGBT affirming churches)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
(or text: 741741)