December packs a punch.
Majorly over-marketed holidays, limited daylight, and the insurmountable pressure to accomplish your 2022 goals before time is out can exhaust even the Energizer Bunny. For the LGBTQ+ community, the added pressures of forcing ourselves to fit into traditions that don’t “traditionally '' accept our existence can run us right off the rails.
How does one endure this season as an LGBTQ+ person? How do you as an ally support your LGBTQ+ loved one?
For me, small acts of support from my immediate family and friends have yielded my greatest success. Cozy, lowkey traditions I set for myself help me recharge in between. Want some examples? Buckle up – there may be a few surprises.
During our first Christmas together, my girlfriend Courtney and I experienced all the early relationship, first-time-meeting-your-family anxieties. What should she wear? Will everyone like her? Minor caveat, I was still in the closet. I was bringing my beautiful, talented, not-Catholic girlfriend to my very Irish Catholic family’s biggest event of the year. I was and still am the first and only queer member of our family to introduce a significant other. ANXIETY.
Major caveat, Courtney had terminal cancer. How do you navigate coming out to your ultra-catholic family twice? Hi, I have a girlfriend. Did I mention she has a rare, running-out-of-treatment-options cancer, please pass the bread pudding? ANXIETIES ABOUND.
What got us through? Small kindnesses, both intended and not. My mom called ahead and told my aunts about Courtney’s cancer. She wanted to save her any unnecessary nausea brought on by well-meaning aunties refilling her plate. My family thought I was a good, charitable Catholic girl bringing my cancer-ridden friend to have a nice Christmas. Whoops.
No questions asked and no explanations needed, my brother met us at the car when we arrived. He helped Courtney out of the car and stayed right by our side through all the nervous introductions. Introductions were saved when a cousin, likely unknowingly, asked Courtney, “Who are you here with?” rather than “whose girlfriend are you?” or “whose friend are you?” She didn’t assume our relationship nor did she force the topic when I piped up “Me!”. It allowed us the space to claim each other, while saving us the hardship of being put on the spot to out ourselves.
From that point on, things went pretty smoothly until another cousin exclaimed the gift Courtney brought for the exchange was weird. I heard the smack of my sister’s hand on my mom's shoe followed by my mother’s burst, “I think it’s beautiful. I want that one!” Phew, thanks fam!
My last example is obviously pretty universal and not LGBTQ+ exclusive, but keep in mind your LGBTQ+ loved one is processing a lot of anxiety in this situation and the typical busting of chops may not land well. Be kind. Familial ribbing can be reinstated next year.
As for my tricks to recharge through these next few daylight-light, commitment-heavy months:
This year we enter this already heavy-for-many season with extra weight on our hearts as we mourn the loss of beloved members of our community and our allies in Colorado Springs. In my family, we’ve been feeling a mix of grief, fear, and anger since hearing the news. Honor these feelings as you need to. Meditate, journal, seek therapy, whatever it takes. If you’re inspired to give in honor of Club Q this season, we invite you to consider the Colorado Healing Fund.
If I’ve learned anything over the last 7 years since that first Christmas, it’s that no one deserves to live hiding who they are to make others more comfortable, even for family at the holidays. Courtney certainly didn’t deserve it, and now I understand that I didn’t either. All of us in the LGBTQ+ community deserve to be here and celebrate our lives, our holidays, our traditions, and our community.
About the Author
Amy Lydon is a speech-language pathologist working in the public school and private sectors with children and young adults. She spends her free time writing essays about her experiences of queer young widowhood following the death of her partner Courtney in her early twenties. Her advocacy work has led to interviews with major pharmaceutical companies, university researchers, and members of Congress about the need for improved treatments for liver cancers and improved quality of life for young adults living with cancer. You can find Amy on Instagram @queeryoungwidow.