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A Queer Guide To Surviving Family Christmas

Attending a family Christmas as a queer person can be tough. You might not be out to your family yet, or if you are, perhaps they weren’t as accepting as you’d hoped. It might even be that despite having a TERF repellent sticker on your laptop, your Uncle will still praise Rishi Sunak for ‘saying it how it is!’ 

Whatever the reason you find the festive season with your family difficult, there are a few tricks to get through it so you can still enjoy a great Christmas with your loved ones. Because let’s be honest, at this point, you’re mainly going just to see the family dog…

Young boy and teenage sister stroking the family dog who is wearing reindeer antlers, as is the girl. The boy wears a santa hat.
eclipse_images from Getty Images Signature

Prioritise self-care

Taking steps to look after yourself before your trip, during, and after you return will mentally prepare you to properly deal with anything that happens. Whether it’s bringing your Kindle, chatting to your queer support network, or even checking out how little has really changed in your childhood town by going for a wander, prioritising self-care is an important part of any upcoming trip to visit family.

Create your own queer Christmas traditions

An easy way to curb any apprehension you feel towards Christmas with family is to create your own (far more queer!) Christmas traditions; before you make the trip, you can use these traditions to get yourself into a better headspace where you feel a little more relaxed about celebrating the 25th. 

  • Decorate your tree with a sickening amount of LGBTQIA+ Christmas decorations
  • Host a Christmas karaoke night and/or Christmas lip-sync battle
  • Make your way through at least five of Netflix’s cringiest Hallmark movies
  • Host an annual queer games night and invite your chosen family over. Games could include: life experience bingo, a queer quiz where everyone designs a round, the campest murder mystery you can find, a PowerPoint night of niche topics and/or your 2023 dating roundup.

Spend time with your chosen family

Speaking of chosen family, carving out time to get your fix of those who love and support you unconditionally will help you feel more optimistic about returning for Christmas - especially since your chosen family is your family too. You could get everyone together for a big family Christmas dinner (provided there’s someone who actually can cook) or even throw on some LGBTQIA+ crimbo films and discuss why Kristen Stewart definitely should have instead got with Aubrey Plaza in The Happiest Season or why the best part of Single All The Way is definitely Jennifer Coolidge.

Michael Urie and Jennifer Coolidge in Netflix
Michael Urie and Jennifer Coolidge in Netflix' Single All The Way | Rotten Tomatoes

Prepare for awkward questions…

It’s not a family Christmas unless someone takes Monopoly a little too seriously - and a family member you haven’t seen all year thinks they can ask you invasive questions about your personal life. Having to deal with a flurry of probing questions can be difficult enough in front of family, but if you haven't come out yet or don’t feel they offered you enough support when you did, these questions can also be triggering. By preparing for anything that might come your way, you can plan just how much information you want to divulge and will hopefully help you feel less anxious when your mum brings up how another one of her friend’s kids just got engaged.

…and set boundaries when they come up

Deciding on your boundaries (and sticking to them!) will help you avoid any triggers that might make you anxious, angry or uneasy. You should never have to tolerate any queerphobia or homophobic quips just to keep the family peace. While this might be easier said than done, establishing your boundaries beforehand can help you identify when a topic you don’t want to talk about might arise. If you ever feel like things are getting too much, you can always take a step outside or offer to pick up something from the shops nearby - this should give you enough time to quickly call your support network back home.

Set your limits

You don’t have to visit for the whole of Christmas. Even if you’re making a slightly longer journey this year, you shouldn’t feel obliged to stay for days on end just because your parents have asked you to - especially if Christmas with your family is particularly difficult. Before you go, let everyone know how long they can expect to see you for, and set limits that prioritise your mental health. It’s easier to extend your visit than cut it short. 

Family having a Christmas dinner together
Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Reach out for support

Keeping in regular contact with supportive friends who understand this time might be tricky for you will help you keep your head above water. Just knowing there’s support at the end of the line will give you something to look forward coming back to. You should never feel like you’re burdening your friends with problems, however, you can also get support from other places if you need it, too:

  • The Samaritans have a confidential helpline that’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, which is free to phone on 116 123. Relationship and family problems are a common reason many call The Samaritans.
  • For mental health support, Mind has a helpline on 0300 123 3393 that’s open from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day) 

Just don’t go.

If the thought of a family Christmas seems way too stressful to be worth it, there’s also the option to not go at all. It’s important to prioritise your mental health - especially around the holidays - so if celebrating the 25th with your family will likely be extremely draining or challenging, you’re well within your rights to decline the invitation. Christmas should be about all the ways you can get yourself into a food coma, picking apart the Coronation Street Christmas special, and subtly asking someone if they did in fact get a gift receipt for your present; if you can’t do that comfortably in your parents’ home, then what’s the point?

Image of Tilly, a smiling woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Tilly Brogan

Tilly is a queer Freelance Copywriter based in Manchester. She balances her time between working  with LGBTQ+ organisations and women’s rights charities - and people watching in various Manchester cafes. She is also a proud lesbian. You can read more of her work here.

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