Family is the most important thing, especially at Christmas. Or at least that’s what we’re told. Even this year, when our Christmas celebrations will – and should – be limited by coronavirus, all we seem to be talking about is how vital it is that families can be together.
No one seems to acknowledge that not everyone actually wants to see their families. Every year there are people guilt-tripped into visiting family who don’t accept them. Like me, they’ll be hoping that they won’t be able to go home at all.
Let me explain. I’m a student in my early twenties, who has spent the last year exploring my gender. I’m trans, and describe my gender as shifting between ‘agender trans guy’ and ‘genderfluid butch’ and I’ve recently started using he/him pronouns.
I’ve never felt more like myself since embracing my trans identity, but I’m too scared to come out to my parents, who expect me to go home for Christmas and be their perfect little daughter.
“My parents were okay, mostly, with the fact that I’m queer. However, their acceptance seems to hinge on me not doing or wearing anything to suggest I’m not straight.”
My parents were okay, mostly, with the fact that I’m queer. However, their acceptance seems to hinge on me not doing or wearing anything to suggest I’m not straight. They’re supporting me financially through my studies, and while I’m privileged to not have to worry about money, their support comes with a price.
Usually the price is having to take off any queer pin badges or “outrageous” feminist t-shirts, or toning myself down around my parents – let alone grandparents or younger cousins – because apparently my queerness isn’t appropriate for a family Christmas. This year, that price is being misgendered and having to hear my deadname (the term trans and non-binary people use to describe their birth name) every day, because I don’t feel safe to tell my parents that it’s not my name anymore.
Family holidays like Christmas can really emphasise how cisheteronormative our culture is. Whether by well-meaning family members or parents who stubbornly don’t accept us, we’re asked why we don’t have partners yet or when we’re planning to have children. We’re pressured into “playing nice” with people who don’t think that we deserve human rights. We get deadnamed during Christmas dinner.
And that’s the experience of the ‘lucky’ ones. It doesn’t account for those who have been kicked out or disowned for being queer. At a time when universities are making sure students can travel home to spend Christmas with their parents, we should remember that a quarter of homeless young people in the UK are LGBTQ. For many LGBTQ+ folks, university is the first place they feel safe to be themselves, and I know I’m not alone in dreading the expectation to go home. Can you imagine how awful it is to feel nauseated at the idea of seeing your parents, because they will neither see nor acknowledge the person you really are?
While lots of queer and trans people do have families who accept and support them, for the rest of us it’s our communities and found family who step in. Also described as a chosen family, these are groups of friends and supportive people who really provide unconditional support.
My found family are the ones who have shown up for me through eight months of social distancing and gender dysphoria. They’re the people who I wasn’t scared to come out to, and the friends who asked me about my pronouns and encouraged me to try “men’s” underwear. My found family are the people who are there for me when a phone call with my parents triggers my suicidal ideation. And they have never made me feel ashamed to be myself.
“It’s my found family who I wish I could see this Christmas.”
It’s my found family who I wish I could see this Christmas. At the very least, isolated as I feel right now, I’d choose Christmas by myself – with Zoom calls from my found family and silly selfies exchanged with my friends – over going home where I’ll have to pretend to be someone I’m not.
There will of course be people who have to spend this Christmas entirely alone and isolated, Just as there will be people who don’t get a Christmas at all because they’re essential workers on zero-hour contracts who still have to be there to serve you with a smile. There are people who will be spending Christmas with a tube down their throat, fighting Covid in hospitals. There will be doctors who can’t see their families because they’re trying to keep their patients safe, and there will be families who cannot gather to say goodbye to their loved ones.
I don’t want to diminish their pain or their grief. I don’t want to imply that I’m grateful for the pandemic or the heartbreak it has brought. But to every queer and trans person out there, wondering if you’re a terrible person because you don’t care that you can’t get home for Christmas, I want to assure you that you’re not.
If you’re feeling relief at the thought of escaping the charade of a cis-het, family-friendly Christmas, you’re not alone. You’re not alone and you are loved, and I hope you have your found family around you.
Quinn Rhodes is a queer, trans, disabled sex blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @onqueerstreet
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Useful websites and helplines:
- The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
- Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
- LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
- Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
- Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK