The shadow lingering over so many LGBTQ+ people’s Christmas

With the festive season approaching, guest writer Hadley ponders on what this means for many LGBTQ+ people.

December is finally upon us. This month is usually a time when people are celebrating, be it for a religious celebration or to mark the end of the year. It’s easy to be distracted by the beautiful display of light bulbs that have been arranged in an artistic fashion and plugged in to high streets across the country. Sia’s Christmas album provides a welcome distraction from the fear and loneliness that lurks within the LGBTQ+ community.

I hadn’t given Christmas much thought this year. The usual routine of forgetting to buy plane tickets in advance swung into action one morning, which was quickly followed by another dreaded commute into central London. This morning was different, however; the fact I managed to get a seat was as close to a Christmas miracle I was going to get this year. I found myself sitting next to two friends who were chatting away about their plans for Christmas. As the train pulled out of the station, the guy turned to his female friend and came out to her. The reaction was positive and they hugged. Despite the initial smiles, the look of relief on his face turned when his friend asked if he’d told his parents.

For many people, December is a time when family come together, but this very much depends upon the relationship you have with your family. For some, this month will be an exciting time to catch-up with relatives you haven’t seen in a while, whereas others will be filled with dread about going back, or simply isolated from festivities altogether.

The notion of LGBTQ+ people migrating to larger cities like Birmingham, Manchester and London is nothing new. Many of us go looking for a more accepting environment to explore our sexual orientation or gender identity, away from our hometown. I remember my friend during our first year at university talking about how he was going home for Christmas and he was yet to come out to his parents. He’d been having a rather exciting time in London and talked about how he felt going back to a home where he hadn’t felt able to be himself. Was he betraying his true self? What if he didn’t tell them this year? Is Christmas the right time to do it? These questions have all been asked by LGBTQ+ people who have come before him, but that doesn’t always make it any easier to take the leap into the unknown.

Nobody can tell you what to do – as with any coming out, it should be up to you to decide when you’re ready to do it. That being said, as Christmas is a fixed date in our calendars and we can’t really put it off, the pressure does seem to build up as the pages of our diaries turn closer to the end of the month. You may decide to feed off this pressure and use it to push the words off the end of your tongue, some may think this isn’t the right time for them, and that’s ok too.

Others reading this may have already come out about their sexual orientation or gender identity, but are dreading the idea of sitting at a table of offensive relatives – it would be naïve to assume that everyone’s family waves a rainbow flag for them. In this instance, it can feel as though we have to act as an educator, spreading the word of what it means to be LGBTQ+ in front of an audience that may have little knowledge on the matter.

As a result, certain LGBTQ+ people are simply isolated from their families at a time when everyone else is coming together to celebrate. It can be a particularly challenging time and with members of our community disproportionately affected by depression, self-harm and suicide, it is important to acknowledge this and support those who don’t have a seat at the dining room table this year.

So, as we all go about our business preparing for the most wonderful time of the year, let’s also spare a thought for LGBTQ+ people who may be struggling with the idea of going home for the holidays. Whilst Christmas is a time for celebrating, it can also trigger feelings of loneliness and isolation. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give anyone this Christmas is the reassurance that we are thinking about them as we reach the end of the year.

Follow Hadley on Twitter (@wordsbyhadley)