The LGBTQ 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 more mistle-woe and ginger-dread than mistletoe and gingerbread, remember, this too shall pass.

Overexposure to unrealistic expectations of seasonal joy and happiness can be rough. TV, billboards and social media bombard us with saccharine visions of happy couples, beach barbecues and functional families. Yet, for some, the holiday season can be challenging or lonely, whether we’re spending it alone 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/transphobic quips; oh, do tell us another, Damo!

Whether we’re out to our families or not, this time of year can put extra strain on each of us. Especially when all Mum wants for Christmas is a large helping of civility over lunch. And it seems she expects you to bring it while Uncle Damo cracks more than another tinny!

So, before you deliver that cutting clap-back, 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 get to prioritise yourself and your needs — it’s your holiday, too. You don’t have to call out/call in or school others if your internal supports aren’t there for it… or if it might burst the bubble at the core of your biological/chosen family’s harmony.

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

“This festive season, you come first and get to prioritise yourself and your needs — it’s your holiday, too.”

It’s OK 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 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 (both Nintendo Switch and Grindr are good for this), check out a movie, check in with friends, catch up on queer podcasts, or have a little lie-in. Because you know what? You’re so worth it.

On that note, if you need to get up to date with COVID vaccinations, treat yourself to a booster. COVID-19 vaccines provide protection against severe disease. A booster dose will ensure your protection is even stronger and longer lasting and helps prevent the virus from spreading — worth thinking about before those summer parties kick off in the New Year! 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

Cheers!

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

You’re adult enough to swallow the “enjoy responsibly” message on your terms. But… after the last few hectic years, it may be tempting to let loose — keep your (non-alcoholic) fluids up and slip, slop, slap on that sunscreen. With Jnuary just around the corner, don’t underestimate the value of a tipple time out, too; here’s what happened when one guy tried a month off the booze.

If it’s more than a few bevvies you’re bargaining on, check out Touchbase for no-nonsense info on alcohol, drugs and potential interactions with HIV meds or gender-affirming hormones.

Hi friend

Yes — the holiday season is a time to focus on yourself. But you also don’t have to do it alone. LGBTQ people are no strangers to 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 LGBTQ people feel connected and supported at 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 hangouts… 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 web chat for LGBTQ peer support. This service is for people wanting to talk through various 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.