Month 3: Chosen Holidays
I’m excited to be dedicating this month to the holidays because I think they are this glorious, complicated, mental health fuckery that never quite goes away. I hear some people fully enjoy the holidays. That they reminisce about childhood celebrations with a sparkle in their eye. That their family gatherings have successful gift exchanges and that for them money, politics, religion, intergenerational trauma, and seasonal affective disorder are issues to shrug at.
If you’re aren’t familiar with this rare experience, when someone asks you about your holidays you may slowly start to shut down from head to toe. Your eyes glaze over and your tongue gets thick and stuck like those silver, pastel pink, and floral boots in the cement in The Baby-Sitters Club. Between capitalist expressions of love, prohibitive travel costs, problematic messages about food, pressures to perform religion in specific ways, and family expectations to spend the holidays with them while YOU’RE QUEERNESS IS ALTOGETHER ERASED… many of us struggle our way through this time of year.
I’m going to get right to the point in case your somatic-based quick-dry cement is kicking in already from reading this:
YOU HAVE THE CHOICE NOT TO SPEND THE HOLIDAYS WITH FAMILY OF ORIGIN.
Fortunately, this is less of a controversial statement to say on the Internet now. Queers, as the magical, magnificent visionaries we are, understand that we have choice and can apply our creativity to holiday rituals that foster our well-being. But while opting out of biological family-centered winter gatherings is a growing option, for many of us, the message hasn’t reached our families yet.
Often communicating that you’re not “going home” to those who negatively impact your mental health can trigger immense guilt. Reading that you have the right not to be stressed, triggered, nor go into debt on social media may give you temporary relief but the sense of obligation is overwhelming. You worry that it makes you a bad child, a bad grandchild, that it would be selfish. You tell yourself that you can just get through it, that maybe it won’t be so bad, that there are some traditions that are nostalgic and you enjoy, that it’ll be harder to tell them you’re not going, and that they’ll hold it over your head all the way until next winter when your guilt becomes as pervasive again.
But then that other part of you counters, “Wait. What about me? Where am I in all this? Why is pleasing my family my responsibility?” At what cost is the illusion of the cishet status quo being maintained?
Of course, if you do spend the holidays with family of origin, then there’s the layered, minute-by-minute factor of how to show up. Interrupting rampant sexism, fatphobia, homophobia, and racism may be your motivation for being there, even though it also takes a heavy toll on your mental health.
There are no easy answers to the many complex decisions that we must make this time of year. You may still be figuring out your own options, and they may change annually. If you relate to the scenario I’m describing, that your family has expectations that weigh on you heavily despite being toxic, just know that it’s a nearly impossible one to solve. Someone will always lose, so let go of pleasing everyone and that warm, cheery family holidays are realistic.
Let go, too, of that you have to be the one that loses.
Let yourself explore how you would like to spend the holidays. With friends? Chosen family? By yourself? At home? Outdoors? On a trip? I’m calling this month’s theme Chosen Holidays, a play on the concept chosen family, as a way to queer the holidays. Chosen Holidays are about remembering that you have the choice not to spend the holidays with family of origin, developing your own queer family values, and celebrating queer rituals.
I sincerely hope that anything here or on Instagram helps make your season a little more navigable.