How To Practice Radical Self-Care During the Holidays: Queer Edition
How To Practice Radical Self-Care During the Holidays: Queer Edition
Tis’ the season to be jolly! And gay! And merry and bright!
Ah yes, the holidays. They always have a tendency to just sneak up on us. And after such a hectic year, it only seems natural to feel intimidated by the potential stress one experiences when returning home for the holidays. Especially if you’re queer. I mean, let’s face it: If we could compare ourselves in holiday terms (not that comparison is the healthiest outlet, but alas!) it would be easy to describe the LGBTQIA+ community as joyous and bright. I mean we are GAY, so we’re essentially naturally cheery! Whereas our not so accepting and highly critical family members or caretakers would be compared more so as our classic Scrooge archetype, we shall say. We acknowledge not all family members are like this, and for those MVPs who aren’t, we salute you this holiday season. However, not everyone has a supportive queer cousin or guncle (gay uncle, for clarification). Sometimes being the only queer family member can be burdensom and a mighty responsibility to carry.
According to Forbes, this year saw the highest increase in violence against the Transgender community with over 375 deaths, 96% of those murdered globally being transgender women. So, we know coming home as a queer person can cause extreme feelings of discomfort, fear, and anxiety.
It’s difficult to mask, and if your family is still unaccepting, masking may even be a way to protect and preserve your livelihood. We don’t judge or blame you. Sometimes masking can be helpful. Whether or not you are able to mask, radical self-care is an act of love and compassion for yourself, especially if you are visiting family this holiday season who doesn’t necessarily accept you. It’s never within our best interest to change ourselves for those who do not accept us. We can be at peace with ourselves this holiday season and not compromise who we truly are. Whether that means you’ll be visiting family members who don’t understand or fully accept you for who you love or how you choose to represent yourself.
With that being said, here are 4 tips to help you practice authenticity and radical self-care this holiday season. This guide is especially made to be oriented towards the queer and LGBTQIA+ community or those who may face discrimination during the holiday season by family members or caretakers, however, if you are straight, cishet, or heteronormative, feel free to share this resource with those who may find this resource useful. Sharing is caring, and trust me baby, it can be fun!
TIP 1: Repeat after me, BOUNDARIES!
It’s a word we all throw around with our friends or our therapists whenever we’re speaking on the topic of self-care. It seems overrated, but I assure you, this one tip is the key to everything you need to know about practicing radical self-care during the holidays this season, or any season for that matter!
Setting boundaries takes patience, a knowledge of one’s limits and triggers, and a commitment to advocating for oneself. We know setting boundaries can be intimidating and may even seem virtually impossible with certain individuals in our lives, so we recommend to start small and work your way up with the intensity and effort required with boundaries.
Setting boundaries during the holidays can look like:
- Taking a small breather and going into another room whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Ending a conversation whenever someone makes an inappropriate comment or asks an intrusive question.
- Saying no. And meaning it.
- Leaving when you want to or when you feel uncomfortable/at your emotional limit.
In hindsight, boundaries are simply gestures and actions we take to maintain the level of integrity and respect within our personal relationships. They don’t assume hatefulness or annoyance against the individual we are practicing boundaries with, however, we know it is easy for individuals to take it that way. Remember you are not responsible for the emotions of others, simply your own. You deserve to prioritize yourself and it is not wrong if you do so.
TIP 2: Represent Yourself However the F*ck You Want
This is a tip we encourage for those who are sure it is safe not to mask this holiday season. As mentioned previously, if it is safer for you to mask vs. not masking, by all means do whatever makes you feel safe. This is perfectly valid and we are here to support you.
Representing yourself however you like means dressing, talking, acting, laughing, and doing whatever the f*ck you want that makes you feel authentically you. We are aware this tip probably takes a lot of courage and even some level of mild acceptance from your family or caretakers. Representing yourself means sticking up for yourself and not allowing others to deny or dismiss your existence as a queer person.
We also find that representing your queerness openly can be an amazing way to educate your loved ones about the queer community. We know educating straight-cis people can be labor intensive, so we advise you only do this if you know you will be engaging in an open dialogue – we do not recommend you trying to convince your conservative grandma Esther who questions the gay agenda why drag queens and drag kings are artists and not just weird people impersonating the opposite gender.
If you want to show off your new haircut, or wear makeup, a certain piece of clothing, maybe even visible gender affirming gear, by all means go for it! This remains one of the most uplifting and empowering ways we can still maintain our authenticity. Remember this: queer people deserve to take up space!
TIP #3: Become aware of your triggers and find a way to respond to them in a healthy way
Practicing radical self-care requires awareness of oneself. This means knowing your triggers – what quickly escalates your mood or makes you tick – and ways to respond to them in a productive and healthy way is essential. Being triggered is basically when our nervous system becomes dysregulated, signaling to our brain a sense of danger, essentially prepping our body and mind for the worst. Being triggered causes a psychosomatic response for most individuals. This can be a freeze, fight, flight, or fawn response and learning how to manage these responses in our bodies can allow mitigation of our emotions and thought patterns. Hey, I’m not here to give you therapy! But I can’t emphasize how much this has personally helped me whenever I’m around triggering family members that just know how to push my buttons.
Writing a list of your triggers is the first step to this type of self-awareness. Maybe you don’t like it when someone misgenders you, or comments on your clothes or makeup. Perhaps it insanely pisses you off when someone questions your orientation as a phase or non-valid. These are all great examples and once you become aware of them, it becomes easier to manage them. So, how do you manage your triggers? By creating a space and finding ways you can cope in the moment when the trigger comes up.
This can be done by:
- Becoming aware of how we feel and how our body reacts when we are triggered.
- A fastening heartbeat, feeling hot, getting a weird feeling in your stomach, maybe feeling like you can’t think clearly – these are all signs of a dysregulated nervous system, which signals to us that we are triggered.
- Finding a physical safe space you can go to when you do feel triggered.
- This can be a specific room, your car, or even going outside for a walk. Find a place to relax and bring yourself back to center.
- Creating a list of activities or actions you can take when you do feel triggered.
- In therapy, this is usually called a safety plan. I find that creating queer friendly safety plans can help you immensely.
- This can be as simple as removing yourself from a conversation, finding a show or music that helps you cope, or even speaking with a supportive friend when things get intense.
Coping mechanisms are meant to be personalized, so feel free to get creative with whatever helps you when you’re triggered!
TIP #4: Create a support system!
By far, I believe this has to be one of the most important factors all queer people should have if they’re going home this holiday season. Creating a support system can include:
- A friend or group of friends who are also queer and/or support your decisions and lifestyle.
- A therapist who helps you create actions and plans to cope in a healthy way.
- A family member who supports who you are.
- A support group or organization that supports the LGBTQIA+ community.
- A mentor, such as a drag mother or father, or an older person in the queer community.
Meeting with them, talking to them on the phone, or even video calling them during the holidays can make coping with not-so accepting people in your life a lot easier. These individuals can be helpful in affirming us, reminding us who we are, and allowing a safe space for us to express ourselves and process our emotions.
Remember that practicing radical self-care requires practice. If you feel you’re not doing it right or even not doing enough self-care, set an affirmation for yourself knowing you’re doing your absolute best. You deserve to feel supported this holiday season and I hope this guide can help provide that for you.