6 Tips for Navigating the Holidays When Your Family Is Bigoted
In my Facebook feed lately there has been talk of a national mourning; how do we deal when half the country seems to go against the rights of the other half? Families say that they have been split apart, that they are no longer welcome at each others’ houses; cities like New York City have been declaring themselves sanctuaries.
The fact that Election Day is right up against the winter holidays, such as Thanksgiving and even onward into the December holidays (whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, St Lucia’s Day, etc.) that are often family-oriented, means that plans have also been disrupted and a sense of despair overshadows normally festive days. How can we hope for comfort and peace–or hope at all?
Preserve your safety first. If it’s still all too raw, or you feel unsafe, just don’t go to the family Thanksgiving. If you feel like your uncle is going to lambast and out you in the middle of dinner, shaking a turkey leg at you while shouting about “the gays”, or you have a family member or friend that might feel empowered to grab you inappropriately or to threaten you, it might be best to not be there and do something with your own friends, or the part of the family that supports you. In the wake of the election, there has been an outpouring of support on Facebook groups and on meetup.com, especially for people who need support over the holidays.
If you need them, here are some useful hotlines:
Trevor Project: Lifeline is 866-488-7386; a chat service is also available
Crisis Text Line: text START to 741741 from anywhere in the USA
Trans Lifeline: US line is 877-565-8860
Some of us are safe, but have been disowned by their families of origin. Some of us are spending time away from family for other reasons. If you desire company to make the winter days a bit brighter, and to not feel as isolated, try hosting or joining in on a Friendsgiving. It can be as formal or as casual as you want. Have Friendsgiving in your PJs if you want to! Just do you, and make your winter brighter.
If you do deal with family, those conversations can be difficult, especially when you don’t want to be known as the person who ruined the holiday meal. Change the subject if possible. This may not be an option in all cases, but if even something like “Hey, so how’s Pokemon Sun/Moon going for you / your children / are you tired of Pokemon yet” can help you get out of talking politics on either side of the aisle, try it. Also, yay Pokemon.
Humanize the “Other”, whoever that might be. I’m not saying be hippy-dippy universal love and light here. This is more along the lines of the saying “do no harm but take no shit”; if a family member wants to rant about the Other–immigrants, for example–try talking about how your coworker is a hard worker, and just as American as you. Remind your family that LGBT people and Muslim people and people who immigrate to the United States are all just people, with their own families, their hopes and dreams and little kindnesses. Remind family that when they speak of women being grabbed–or anyone being grabbed without their consent–they are talking about neighbors, cousins, friends.
If you want to go into Advanced Mode, remind your family that they taught you to love and respect people when you were growing up, and so you will continue to live with that in mind. Do no harm, so try not to insult who just spoke, but don’t accept racism, sexism, transphobia or homophobia either.
Take time for yourself. The holidays can be difficult and depressing even in good years. And it might be tempting to think the world is burning, that it’s useless to celebrate holidays of hope when everything is so bad. But that is when hope is needed the most. Depending on the holiday, there might already be messages of hope; for Christmas, for example, the story of Mary’s visitation by the angel Gabriel can speak of a teenager consenting and committing to making a great change in the world. I like the tradition of St. Lucia’s Day in Sweden myself, where their traditions mark light returning to the world in the darkness of the longest night of the year.
Find ways to take care of yourself–be it going to your faith community, lighting candles in your own living room or taking lots of bubble baths and binging on Netflix. Do what you need to do to survive and keep your own light shining.
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Katriel Paige is a writer, software tester, and aspiring game developer. They like studying mythology and drinking coffee. If you like what they write, support them via Patreon.
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