The LGBT guide to making it through the holidays

By Chris Williams, updated 6 months ago in Health / Mental wellbeing

two men in underwear fighting over gingerbread man

The holiday season draws near, bringing with it joyous cheer… but if it’s less mistletoe and gingerbread, and more like mistle-woe and ginger-dread, remember, this too shall pass.

Overexposure to unrealistic expectations of seasonal joy and happiness isn’t always easy. TV, billboards and social media bombard us with visions of happy couples, beach barbecues and functional families. Yet for some, the holiday season can be a challenging or lonely time, whether we’re spending it by ourselves or with family.

Family matters

Of course, families are great! Until they’re not.

While some of us are blessed with caring, compassionate, woke parental units, others put on figure-skating fixed smiles for another one of Uncle Damian’s ‘ingeniously witty’ homophobic, biphobic or transphobic quips; oh, do tell us another, Damo!

Whether we’re out to our families or otherwise, this time of year can put extra strain on each of us — especially when all Mum wants for Christmas is a dash of civility with large helping of cohesion over lunch. And it seems she’s expecting you to bring it while Damo cracks more than another tinny.

So before you deliver that cutting clapback, just remember to pick your battles. We’re all under the same roof right now and have to live with the tone we set. Wanna play musical chairs Uncle Damo? Great… you can take several seats.

Who’s holiday is it anyway?

This festive season you come first and you get to prioritise you and your needs — it’s your holiday too. That doesn’t have to include calling out/calling in or schooling others if your internal supports aren’t there for it… or it’s going to escalate away from the collective harmony (aka constructive chaos) that’s the very essence of your biological/chosen family’s unity.

Setting expectations and boundaries for yourself and others is never a bad thing. It’s about defining limits. That includes having a sense of what you’ll say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to when it comes to requests or expectations from other people, as well as asserting your thoughts, feelings and needs — even if these don’t align with those around you.

It’s OK for you to take a break, or opt out of as much or as little as you decide. If you’re not digging the holiday vibes, you don’t have to subscribe to someone else’s happiness ideals — whatever you’re feeling is valid. And importantly, if someone you’re with makes uncomfortable remarks, consider calmly and clearly stating “I’d really appreciate you not commenting on that”.

Treat yourself

And… have you thought about doing something kind for yourself? Why not take some time to plan (and actually do) some things that bring you joy and inner peace.

Read a book, go to the gym, plan your next interstate trip, play Super Smash Bros (either Nintendo Switch or Grindr is fine for this), check out a movie, check in with friends, catch up on queer podcasts, or just have a little lie-in. Because you know what? You’re worth it.

On that note, if it’s been at least 5 months since your second COVID vaccination, treat yourself to a booster. Two doses of COVID-19 vaccine provide very good protection, especially against severe disease. A booster dose will make sure your protection is even stronger and longer lasting, and should help prevent spread of the virus. See information from your state/territory health advisors, or check out this booster vaccine advice from the Australian Government Department of Health.

queer LGBTI gay gingerbread person christmas cookies


If a glass or two of bubbles brings you joy and inner peace, that’s great. But ask yourself: does it scale? The law of diminishing returns decrees that at some point, the curve will tip from ‘self-care’ sauvignon blanc into Aperol annihilation. While the apex of this may indeed be ‘lit’, tomorrow might feel less so.

You’re grown up enough to swallow the “enjoy responsibly” message on your own terms. But… after the couple of wild years we’ve all had, it may tempting to let loose — keep your (non-alcoholic) fluids up and slip, slop, slap on that sun screen.

If it goes from Christmas to New Year’s Eve and it’s more than a few bevvies you’re bargaining on, check out Touchbase for down-to-earth info on alcohol, drugs, what happens when you mix them, and how they interact with HIV meds and gender affirming hormones.

Hi friend

Yes — the holiday season is a time for you to focus on you. But you also don’t have to do it alone. LGBT people are no strangers to moving away from the family home and building networks through friends and partners: our chosen families. Now is definitely the time to reach out to them. And not just for your sake… for theirs too!

Not all LGBT people are connected and supported this time of year. You could make someone’s day by picking up the phone for a quick check-in. I know we said no more Zoom… but go on — it’s Christmas!

Feeling a little overwhelmed and burnt out after the year we’ve had? Soft reboot: looking after your mental health in a world that has no chill has some practical tips for a mental health makeover.

If you or someone you know would like support over the holidays, contact QLife on 1800 184 527 or access their live webchat for LGBT peer support and referral. This service is for people wanting to talk about a range of issues such as sexuality, identity, gender, bodies, feelings or relationships. QLife and partners operate during specific times — for out of hours support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.