Updated: Feb 11
It’s that time of year again! The holidays are fast approaching and as the weather gets cooler, it brings with it a mixed bag of emotions.
For many, this time of year means a time for celebration, sharing, and spending time with loved ones. While the holidays can bring feelings of joy, gratitude, and excitement, it can also come with feelings of sadness, isolation and increased stress.
Holiday stress is not uncommon for many people, however, for LGBTQ+ individuals it can increase significantly this time of year. Although not everybody who identifies under the LGBTQ+ umbrella experiences significant distress during the holidays, it is important to remember that it can be quite triggering for some. There may be many reasons why one might feel heightened stress while attending holiday activities. These reasons may include:
Not being ready to come out.
Fear of receiving negative reactions for being out, including homophobic comments, micro-aggressions, or even physical aggression.
Anxiety surrounding how family will react to their partner.
Wondering how you can provide a supportive and safe space for your LGBTQ+ friends and family this holiday season? Below are some suggestions on how to be a better ally for the holidays and beyond.
1. Flex your empathy
It is very common, when you care for someone who is hurting, to want to “fix” things or make them feel better, however, many individuals just need a safe space to express their feelings or worries surrounding the holiday. Don’t assume anything and listen first before talking. Do not push someone to open up more than they are ready to. Certain topics may feel too painful or uncomfortable to discuss so allow them to lead the conversation. Avoid hollow expressions such as, “there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel” or “look for the silver lining” as these can minimize their experiences.
2. Do your research
There’s a broad spectrum of sexual and gender identities that fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Spend some time getting to know the proper verbiage. There are quite a few resources online that provide additional information such as: https://www.glaad.org/ and https://pflag.org/. If they have come out to you and you are unsure about how they identify, make sure to have that discussion privately. You never want to put someone on the spot in front of others.
3. Check on your LGBTQ+ friends and family
As stated previously, this time may be very difficult for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. Increased stress, sadness, loneliness, and depression are not uncommon and it can be easy to fall behind on everyday tasks when you’re not feeling yourself. Make sure to stay in touch frequently during this time and let them know that you are available. Whether you’re providing an ear to listen, a warm meal, or just some quality time, letting them know you’re thinking of them may help with feelings of isolation and lets them know they can ask for help.
4. Provide an inclusive space
Make sure to keep in mind that although someone may have come out to you, this does not mean they have with everyone. If you are unsure, make sure to discuss with them, privately, what they are comfortable with and who they have come out to. If they have brought their partner, make sure to include them in all family activities and traditions just as you would for anyone’s partner. For any LGBTQ+ friends and family who cannot go home for the holidays, consider inviting them to your holiday activities. Let them know that they can always call and that your doors are always open.
5. Be sensitive
This time of year brings many different people together, sometimes people we normally would not spend time with. This suggestion might be difficult to do if you aren’t hosting. However, if you are, and you are aware of homophobic beliefs held by any individuals who may be attending, make sure to have a private conversation with them about what is and is not appropriate to do and say. Be mindful of who your LGBTQ+ friend or family member has come out to and who they are comfortable with knowing. If they are not openly out to that individual, you will want to be careful about what you say, as not to out that person.
6. Don’t take things too personally
If someone is not comfortable coming to family events for any reason, try not to take it personally. Understand that these events may be mentally taxing, or have negative lasting impacts on one’s mental health if things go poorly. You don’t want to push anyone, but it may be helpful to have a discussion with them, privately, about how you can provide a more inclusive and comfortable space for them in the future.
7. Don’t put anyone on the spot
As mentioned in earlier suggestions, keep in mind who your LGBTQ+ friends and family have come out to. If you are unsure, make sure to ask them privately and discuss with them what they are comfortable with. Remember, it is not your job to come out for them, as that can put someone in not only an uncomfortable position, but even a dangerous one.
While this time of year is typically a time for joy, celebration, and family, please be mindful that it can also be a very triggering and isolating time for some. Using these skills regularly can help to make this time, and beyond, a little more comfortable for those in your life who identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
We at Mindsight want to be able to support you in your journey through life. Every situation is unique and sometimes it can be lonely to navigate. If you feel like you want to talk about things like this or any other mental health concern please give us a call at 606-401-2966!
Cailin McKinney is a new clinician based in Louisville. She is a proud cat mom of two and will make sure you know it. For fun, she enjoys trying TikTok soup recipes, flexing her green thumb, and starting (but most likely not finishing) new art projects. On a typical day off, she’s most likely doing something outdoors, watching reality television, or looking for a place to get a great cup of coffee.
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