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The KWIR Holiday Survival Guide!

The KWIR Holiday Survival Guide!

Greetings Local-FM & KWIR Radio Friends!

This year on Local-FM’s “KWIR” program, I offered a Holiday Survival Guide for queer-identified individuals. As you likely know, the Holiday season can be particularly challenging for people of the LGBTQ+ community. Many people are not “out” to their families, many are “sort of” accepted by their families, and still others are completely rejected by their families. In this post I will give you a basic survival guide for making it through the Holidays with your families (or on your own!). This list is a compilation of ideas I’ve learned through the years for myself plus some that were suggested to me by friends. I hope you find this list helpful and if you have any queer-identified people in your life and you know they are struggling please feel free to share this list with them!

Happy Holidays from KWIR Radio! xo Stephanie Tierney

THE LIST

1. Start with some self-care!

In the time leading up to your Holiday visit (whether that’s a day or a week or more), do a bunch of stuff that you love and brings you emotional comfort. Exercise, read some books, write in a journal, meditate. Recharge your social batteries by hanging out with your best friend(s), or alternately take some quiet solitude or even take a nap (always good for recharging!). Treat yourself to a new haircut, get your nails done, buy a new article of clothing. If you have a partner get in some extra cuddles and quality time together beforehand. The better you feel emotionally before the Holidays the better chance you will weather the Holidays with family and come out happy-ish on the other end!

2. Prepare yourself!

If you know there are family members who don’t accept you for you obviously it’s best to minimize your time with them.
– Mentally prepare some answers for some of the dreaded questions you may be asked. Having some witty retorts to some of the potentially invasive questions is a solid plan. You don’t have to have cue cards clearly, but being ready for what’s potentially coming will do wonders for your confidence and will allow you to set the tone during your visit.

3. Form alliances!

If you are feeling overwhelmed or don’t have another queer-identified person in your family, having at least one friend or family member that you know “has your back” can make a huge difference between feeling overwhelmed or feeling content. Connecting with these family allies beforehand can also be a solid idea.

4. Set boundaries!

Just because you have “come out” to your family doesn’t mean any aspect of your queer life is up for discussion. You may have an overly curious cousin who insists on knowing how you get dates or what you do in the privacy of your own space. You are free to divulge as much or as little as you like. If things get weird just state that you are not interested in discussing the things being asked and move on (or excuse yourself for a breather!). Communicating boundaries beforehand is not a bad idea as well. It may help keep everyone on the same page.

5. Find Your Escape Hatch!

– Sometimes getting a little space away from everyone calm help calm the nerves. Take some time to breathe. If things escalate it’s never a bad idea to excuse yourself and catch your breath. The bathroom is always a place to escape! A short walk around the block is great as well. Offer to go get needed supplies from the corner store for the gathering. Smokers have an easy out, but KWIR Radio does not endorse the taking up of smoking for Holiday relief.

6. Pre-arrange with friends if you need a “text buddy” (or “call buddy”)

Having a few friends at your fingertips can make you feel happier. Knowing that if your family becomes overwhelming you have a friend to reach out to can give you a great deal of confidence. Taking that walk around the block and being able to hear a trusted friend’s voice can be very soothing.

7. Bring A Buddy!

If you are in a relationship you can bring your significant other or if you are single bring a special friend who will have your back. Bringing another queer-identified friend is always a cool thing to do – not only will they “get” you but they may actually be alone at the Holidays and looking for a place to go! Plus, as an added bonus oftentimes family are less likely to start trouble when there are outsiders present! Your guest may ensure everyone is on their best behavior.

8. Know When to Get Out When You’ve Had Enough!

Showing up is a huge step, but know that you only have to stay as long as you want to. If you’ve hit your wall and need out, never feel bad making the decision to leave. There are always reasons to leave, though you don’t have to make excuses if you’ve honestly just had enough.

9. You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself! (for trans folks)

Similar to not having to discussions about how queer people get dates, etc – you don’t have to explain your gender identity or expression if you are not comfortable with that. This is a concept that is common in trans lives in that you don’t have to divulge your HRT regimen, why you chose to wear what you wore to Christmas dinner, or if you plan on having gender affirmation surgery. It’s not up for discussion unless you feel comfortable with it and with the person asking!

10. Having A Different Kind of Christmas!

The common idea of the Holidays is that we spend time with our biological families, but that’s not the only way to enjoy this time of year. If you know that some of your other queer-identified friends are alone for the Holidays plan some activities that create a different kind of family – a family of friends! This can be getting together for food and social time or it can be a series of activities that bring you together over the Holiday time. Movie theaters never close too – so a double-bill with your buddies can be fun too. Your friends who support you are your family too – they’ve been with you through hard times and you’ve likely helped them out in times of need. Honor that bond, and feel happy knowing you may be helping them from being alone over the Holidays as well.

11. Music/Movies/Books That Make You Feel Happy (for extended stays at your family’s house)

Making a nice long playlist of songs that make you feel happy and having it available is awesome! I like 80s pop hits, Motown, and stuff that just makes me feel happy. Close the door and do a little dance. I know it may sound silly but it can do wonders for your mood. After the party is over and you’re tucked away in your own space (or on that pull-out couch), put on a movie that makes you happy and will take your mind off of things. Stand-up comedy is also a good release. Laughing rules! Alternately, bring along a good book to keep you company.

12. Remind Yourself That You’re Fabulous (Often)!

DO IT!

13. If It’s Your First Time Home….!

The reality is that you may have come out to your family before the Holiday season has rolled around. You may be going home for the first time in a sense, as your real self. This can be a really challenging time. Especially if the news of your coming out hasn’t trickled down to all of your extended family (and they decide to visit!). There is no easy way around this one. Be yourself, brace for some awkwardness and do your best. Who knows, you may end up finding allies in your family as a result of coming out. Make yourself the most comfortable you can be is the key here. Oftentimes if your family sees you sticking to your guns and being happy in your new path it will help them to see how important your happiness is to them. For me, I was out for a year without seeing my parents. When I finally gave them the ultimatum that it was acceptance or me walking away they made efforts to really see me. Once they saw me in person they were calling me by my new name and using my correct pronouns. I’m not saying this will happen instantly for all, but remaining true to yourself and showing your happiness can really change the way your family sees you. It won’t always be easy, but it can get better! (Also, I gave my grandmother a pass on the misgendering for many instances, but eventually she got to using the correct pronouns). Sometimes patience and perseverance can be powerful tools.

14. You Are Not Alone!

Know that you are not the only one going through this stuff. In fact, if you live in a larger centre there are likely LGBTQ+ community centres with gatherings happening over the Holidays. Do some research and see if there is something happening in your area and if there’s not don’t be afraid to create something! There may be local bars or clubs in the area you are visiting. If you are staying with family or visiting family and your parents/relatives are cool, you can also invite your queer-identified friend over for dinner. I had a friend do this for me two Thanksgivings ago and it meant the world to me. There may even be queer drop-in centres looking for volunteers – reach out to local LGBTQ+ community groups for more info! On a side note – if you are away and things get too intense renting a hotel room to get a night away is also an option.

15. Remind Yourself That This Is Temporary!

Keep your visit in perspective. This is not a forever kind of arrangement. It may be a day or a week but in the grand scheme of things it’s very minor. Find things you can enjoy while you’re in this space. Again, a 20 minute walk can change your whole perspective – it’s a reality! If it is an extended visit take some time for yourself and go explore.

16. Wine!

I’m not condoning the consumption of alcohol, but every now and then a glass of red wine can just take that edge off. If you are driving obviously drink responsibly. KWIR wants you to be safe!

17. You Don’t Have To Go Home For Christmas!

If you know your experiences at home and with family are guaranteed to be awful don’t be afraid to go it alone (or with friends). This goes back to self-care and ensuring that you are happy. If you are going to be alone by choice please prepare yourself – it can be very lonely. Having ideas for keeping yourself occupied is really not a bad idea. (My experiences here). This can go back to having happy music, binge watching Stranger Things one more time, taking naps, hot baths, walks, visiting the cinema, calling a friend, reading, creating music or art, or any thing that makes you have butterflies in your belly. Take care of yourself. If things go South and you are not coping please reach out to the resources I am about to give to you. Be well and know that you are truly not alone.

Be well & Happy Holidays!

Stephanie Tierney

December 21st, 2016

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