The sleigh bells are ringing, the partridge is in the pear tree and Mariah is telling us again for the 20th year in a row that ‘all I want for Christmas is you’.
For many in the LGBTIQA+ communities, the very thought of the festive season sends a shiver down our spines – not just because of the expense and the carols but also because we are queer. Christmas is sold to us as a time to reconnect with our (for want of a better term) family of origin yet for many of us this is deeply complicated. Too many LGBTIQA+ people remain unwelcome within our families of origin for reasons out of our control including: rejection of our partners and/or kids; not wanting to see our transitioned bodies; or being asked to use pronouns and/or names they don’t accept. Some of us just don’t want to go to another family shindig to sit with family who voted ‘no’ or hear discriminatory opinions voiced as casual conversation.
At Switchboard Victoria we listen to our communities tell their stories every day. We know that many people feel silenced by the recent Marriage Equality win, not empowered. They feel that they are no longer able to talk about rights or discrimination because they have ‘gotten what we wanted, we won’. Whilst marriage equality was an important piece of the puzzle in our lives we also know from listening to LGBTIQA+ people that, there remains so much more to fight for and change – in both the personal realm and in broader society.
Whether it is Christmas Day, Hanukkah or Pancha Ganapati, all these December days of observance rooted are in religion and historically, many of these religions have rejected us. Like queer weddings, many in our communities are reclaiming and ‘queering’ these festive holidays. An example of this is Melbourne’s 2018 Carols by Queerlight held at St Kilda Town Hall on Saturday December 15. However, even with these emerging events and the growth in inclusive faith-based congregations, it doesn’t mean that everything is now hunky dory. I don’t need to tell you that, dear reader.
Photography // Josephine Ki // Sydney, NSW
At Switchboard we know all about the loneliness of the holiday season. After all many of us experience these feelings ourselves. Switchboard has over 160 volunteers and a small team of staff who all identify as part of the LGBTIQA+ communities. From our own lives and the work we do, we know how important it is to talk to and connect with others who share and understand what we are going through.
This ‘festive’ season, we recommend you actively prepare for how this time of the year impacts on you.
Ask yourself: what am I going to do to look after myself? Here are some tips.
- Make a ‘festive season’ plan, whether you are staying in or going out lots.
- Create a list of people you can call and text to connect with wherever you are. Aim for five people and add Switchboard/Qlife to the list – there you go, that’s one!
- Arrange to go to a queer event just before and just after the festive season.
- If you are travelling at this time, check out what is now on offer in the city/town you grew up in – you might be surprised.
- Think of the things that make you happy and put them into your plan. Create a list of songs and dance around the house, have some long baths, go to the gym (or get a visitor pass for a local gym if you are travelling).
If you love this time of year, and I know many of you do, have fun! Perhaps between decorating the tree, going to multiple work Christmas parties and drinking egg nog, you might consider giving back to those in our LGBTIQA+ communities who find this time of year uncomfortable (at best) and at worst unbearable.