LGBTQIA+ Holiday Survival Guide: How to Handle the Holidays as a Queer Person

By Gina Henschen — MA, LPCC

The holidays can be a painful time for LGBTQIA+ folx who are estranged from their families.

LGBTQ+ Tips for Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can be a very trying time for those with strained familial relationships, especially members of the LGBTQIA+ community. What’s supposed to be a joyful season can actually bring up feelings of sadness and loneliness for many individuals.

The LGBTQ+ community experiences higher rates of issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidality as a result of discrimination and prejudice. These issues can become amplified around the holidays, especially for those who face rejection and disapproval from family members. And since family get-togethers are a big component of the holiday season, it’s no wonder why this time of year can be so triggering for so many LGBTQ+ folks.

Even for those who choose not to spend Hanukkah or Christmas with their families, the holidays can still stir up some pretty painful emotions. If the upcoming season is getting you down, here are some ways to cope.

Spend time with your chosen family

Chosen family is exactly what it sounds like: a community of loved ones that supports and cares about you unconditionally, just as a family should. Chosen family can be especially valuable during the holidays, particularly for those who have a poor relationship with their biological families. Planning special occasions like gift exchanges or holiday bake-offs can help you feel more connected and loved during this time of year. Or if you’d prefer to stay away from traditional holiday activities, spending any sort of quality time with your people can do wonders for your emotional and mental well-being.

Spending time with your chosen family can help increase feelings of love, connection, and belonging.

Set boundaries

Ah, the “B” word. What feelings come up for you when you hear the word “boundaries?” Maybe you’ve been taught that boundaries are bad or mean. But the reality is, boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships — with others and ourselves.
The holidays can be stressful and downright exhausting. Ask yourself where you need to say “no” in order to say “yes” to yourself (and to others down the road!). Maybe you need more alone time to recharge, or perhaps you need space from draining family members. A boundary can be as simple as, “I’m going to need to get back to you on that one,” or, “I’d love to get together but I’m not feeling up to it tonight – can we rain check?” Checking in with yourself first before agreeing to any commitments can help you stay on top of holiday stress and anxiety.

Be mindful of alcohol

Do you usually imbibe over the holidays? While the occasional boozy beverage isn’t cause for concern, it’s wise to be conscious of your alcohol consumption during this time of year.

Although our society perpetuates the idea that alcohol = a good time, drinking too much can result in some not-so-fun things like hangovers or damaged relationships. And while it may be tempting to reach for a glass of bubbly when you’re stressed, remember that alcohol is a depressant and can actually lead to more anxiety in the long run. If you’re in need of stress relief, try exploring some healthier coping skills.

Excessive alcohol consumption during the holidays can lead to increased anxiety and other mental health issues.

Give back

Giving to those in need can be a great way to foster a sense of connection with your greater community. Whether it’s volunteering with a local food bank, homeless shelter, or LGBTQIA+ organization, engaging in philanthropic work can serve as a reminder of what the season is really about and give you a sense of purpose. And who knows — you may even make some new friends in the process! Some local Denver LGBTQ+ organizations include The Center on Colfax, Queer Asterisk, and One Colorado.

Remember – you deserve love and respect!

Whether the holidays stir up feelings of joy or dread, know that your experiences and emotions are valid. It may be helpful to recite what Dr. Logan Jones, head of Clarity Therapy NYC, calls “The Bill of Rights as an LGBTQ Person:”

“I have the right to be me, I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, I have the right to distance myself from people and places that feel toxic.”

Wishing you a peaceful and healthy holiday season!

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