The holidays can be a difficult time for the queer community, especially when spent with family. Daz Skubich explores the joys of spending Christmas with friends, and making new traditions.
Let’s not sugar coat it – December has been a rough one for British queers. With the looming reality of another five years of Tory nonsense in Parliament, and the disappointing but not surprising revelation that JK Rowling is a TERF, 2019’s holiday season may be the worst some of us have seen in a while. This is saying a lot, considering the holiday season is often one of the hardest times for queer people worldwide, not just in the UK. We often face returning to bigoted and unaccepting families, in towns and villages that reflect their views. We are misgendered, teased, and even forced back into the closet for the sake of a ‘drama-free Christmas’. My situation is no exception. This is why 2019 was the year of my first Queer Christmas.
After three wonderful years of living in Manchester for university, this was my first Christmas as a ‘young professional’ rather than a student. I live in a lovely apartment with my two wonderful flatmates, and my cat, Cornflake. Moving into this flat in July felt like it marked the beginning of my adult life. Sure, I’d been fending for myself for the better part of three years, but this was the first time I was staying in Manchester just because I like it here, not because I have a degree to finish. So, as this was my first Christmas as a Real Adult, I wanted to start building my own holiday traditions.
Back home, we’ve had a box full of Christmas decorations from the last twenty or so years for as long as I can remember. My dad has been decorating our tree in only slightly varying metallic themes for ten years. Those of you who follow me elsewhere will know that I don’t exactly vibe with muted colours. My flatmates and I settled on a five foot white tree with rainbow fibre optics in it (so we didn’t have to worry about lights), and aimed to fill it with colour. I got myself three beautifully quirky ‘statement’ baubles and my parents bought me a singing Lilo and Stitch decoration that I adore. With Disney plushies as gap fillers, and leftover Pride bunting as tinsel, the Queermas tree was born! Sadly, I didn’t take Cornflake’s desire for destruction into account when buying glass baubles, and he has since smashed two of them. Bastard.
Cooking a nut free, vegan Christmas dinner for seven people in my small kitchen was one of the most stressful things I have ever done in my life – and I didn’t even do much of the cooking! But the stress was completely worth it. We had such a wholesome day doing the shopping, prepping the veg, and cooking everything together as a family. Unlike most work parties or dinners with distant family, we managed to cover everyone’s dietary requirements whilst still making the full spread. Some of the things we made will definitely become staples of future Queermas celebrations, such as the non-alcoholic mulled wine, cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheeze’, and my flatmate’s incredible vegan Yorkshire puddings.
We also managed to put another twist on one of my family’s Christmas traditions: board games. My family tends to play team games due to the sheer number of us and we almost always get divided into teams of ‘girls vs boys’. As a very loud and proud nonbinary person, this really grinds my gears. Our game sessions also often end in arguments due to inappropriate comments, cheating or general drunken buffoonery. Queermas made playing party games so much better, and further solidified that the people surrounding me that day care about me and what matters to me. We played a few rounds of Quiplash and the number of quips with the same energy was astounding. I’m so glad that I can be as political or wildly gay as I like in my answers without being judged or shut down. This seems like a simple desire, but many of us don’t receive it.
We had such a wholesome day doing the shopping, prepping the veg, and cooking everything together as a family.
I was lucky enough to be invited to a second Christmas meal with a different group of friends later in the week, and although the majority of the group are straight and cis, I still want to include this in my experience of queer holiday solidarity. This group of friends are my ‘lad’ friends – we mostly hang out to go clubbing, play video games or just chill. I originally met them through my ex-boyfriend and we are all still great friends to this day. I cannot quite explain why, but being treated like ‘one of the guys’ with these people, and getting to experience this friendship, means so much to me. Every single one of them uses my correct pronouns and preferred name. They accept me for who I am and take an interest in my life and my experience, despite the fact it is so different to theirs. This is what allyship should look like. Having a laugh over Christmas lunch with these lads on a Sunday morning reminded me that they would protect me no matter what if someone attacked me for my gender identity or sexuality. They back me up when family members or colleagues are being disrespectful or mean. They are part of my chosen family too.
Queermas made playing party games so much better, and further solidified that the people surrounding me that day care about me and what matters to me.
The love and solidarity I felt spending the holidays with my chosen family embodies the energy that I want to bring into the next decade. As cliche as it sounds, this decade has been all about discovering who I am, and learning to love myself. I came out as bisexual and nonbinary this decade, changed my name, got into queer activism and attended my first Pride events. Moving forward, I want to take everything I’ve learned and use it to help others who may be figuring themselves out. Queer solidarity is more important than ever in today’s political climate. We are stronger together. We can overcome the challenges that will be thrown our way. Look after one another, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We can do this.
Follow Daz on Twitter (@paleghosty)