While the holidays are a happy time for most, many people in the queer community are apprehensive to spend time with extended family, who may share different beliefs than them. Since we live in a liberal area, we do not often face people who are close to us that may not support the LGBTQ community. Relatives from more conservative regions, or with orthodox religious beliefs, may not have been exposed to the same level of education on queer issues that people in the Bay Area have.
Here are some tips to handle and educate those people close to you who need to learn to accept people in the LGBTQ community.
These tips are, of course, most effective if your family will actually listen to you. One of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season is tolerating ignorant or hateful comments from loved ones who refuse to validate your opinion; this type of speech creates an unsafe atmosphere even in one’s own home, which is hurtful and very difficult to deal with.
The best strategy regarding this issue is to think about the mental energy that a certain family member merits. Explaining and defending your identity over and over is enervating and, often, pointless. If someone is not open to accepting a different perspective, hearing it will not help them in this process.
Constantly educating people who are ignorant of LGBTQ issues is not worth the effort; instead, your energy should be directed toward the people who are most valuable to you in your life.
Additionally, family members who are more supportive can share the burden of educating others and alleviate some of the pressure on you personally. Ultimately, the most important thing is your health and safety, so do what is best for you and make sure to take care of yourself above all else.
It is also important to remember that you are not alone this winter break. There are a lot of other people who are experiencing or have experienced the same thing and want to support you. Navigating through the emotional stress that may accompany the holiday season can be difficult alone, so we recommend that you have a buddy you can contact if you find yourself feeling isolated or distressed. Having a support system and a sense of community outside of your family is crucial to maintaining your own emotional health.
Outside of personal friends, there are also formal support groups for LGBTQ youth that are wonderful resources for self-care and community building. Locally, the Outlet program provides free safe spaces, counseling, and resources for queer youth, in Redwood City, Mountain View, and San Mateo.
Above all, we encourage you to never be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. The LGBTQ community is strongest when we all stand together and provide each other with the love and support we often can not find anywhere else.