Ah, the Holidays™. That special time of year that we spend way too much money on, eat far more food than we should, and remember why we don’t visit our families that much. Everyone has a Holiday tradition; watch certain shows, open presents at a certain time, gather at someones house, drink yourself into oblivion, you know, the things that make this time of year the most fun.
Many of us don’t celebrate the way we used to, especially when it comes to family. Being a member of the LGBTQ community, especially someplace like Oklahoma, means that you probably have more than a few relatives who despise your very existence. Okay, to be fair, everyone has a relative they hate, isn’t that right Aunt Grace…you hypocritical religious loon. However, many of us have lost our families through coming out. We aren’t allowed home, we can’t visit the relatives who still love and care for us, and we aren’t missed at the dinner table.
The holidays can be incredibly brutal for all people, not just LGBTQ. It’s a season of family. We want to eat together, tell stories, laugh, get each other gifts, catch up on old times, welcome new people into our lives. All too often, there are people who have the Holidays mean nothing more than a broken heart and a quiet home. People have moved away, passed on, or in those terrible instances, disowned each other. The time of the year you should be with people you love, you spend it alone, or with a bottle, maybe even some of the other lonely people at the bar.
I have a recommendation to help you out with that.
Get a new family.
No seriously, change what family means to you. We all want to hug our mom’s and dad’s, but that can’t always happen. My parents passed away a long time ago, even before I came out. Many of us have been separated from our parents and found new ones. What? You think “Drag Mom’s” were just people who helped you chisel off the fourteen pounds of MAC eyeshadow? No, they’ve become a caretaker for you. They ask how you are, make sure you’re staying out of trouble, give out helpful life advice. People go out and find surrogate parents to give them advice, the help guide them. Some have friends that are far more loyal than any family member, or even dog (A good friend doesn’t mind when you have an accident on the rug.)
There are people all around you who should count as family. Those who have held you when you cried. The ones who brought you soup when you were sick. Someone drove you home from the dentist, didn’t they? You have friends that have helped you move, given advice, held your hair when you yakked in the toilet after that horrible break up bender you went on (Thanks Larry!) These are the people in your life you should be celebrating with! They’ve stood by you through your worst behaviors, joined you in one too many bad decisions, chewed you out when you screwed up and disappointed them, and hooked you up when you were broke with no expectation of repayment.
In my life, I’ve had friends who have let me crash on their floor when I moved clear across the country to start a new life. They’ve talked me out of bad decisions about my love life. I’ve been given gifts as repayment not for one huge favor, but because of hundreds of little ones. While I still wish I could be celebrating Christmas with my family, and maybe one day I’ll have one of my own, these people have filled that role. Every year, we gather together to eat, watch each others favorite Christmas movies and cartoons. We scamper about buying or even making presents for each other. There’s lots of laughing, joking, and even new traditions born out of it that are fun! Okay, in all honesty the whole five layers of duct tape around the boxes is annoying, Kali. Stop it. If I find out you did that, I’m covering your present in epoxy and then plaster. Not kidding. Like fiberglas resin covered boxes.
Family, isn’t blood, it’s love. Family are the people who we forgive, support, and care for. We sacrifice for them, we put ourselves out for them, we sit in awkward silences with them. They’re the people who pull your current date to the side and give the “if you hurt them, I’ll hurt you,” speech, just like your mom or dad would. When my apartment got robbed last month, my friends showed up within minutes of me telling them, even getting off work early to come comfort me and calm me down. When my ex cheated on me and left me for that person, they sat up all night while I cried and raged, just to make sure I was okay. This year, just like the year before, we’ll gather together on Christmas, exchange gifts with each other, drink the hot chocolate from scratch that I make, laugh, enjoy each others company, and be thankful we have each other.
This Holiday Season, make sure that you spend it with the people who are your family, not just your relatives. That way, you don’t end up being all passive aggressive and angsty towards each other over the deviled eggs and punch. Seriously, Aunt Grace, stop it, I can smell the bourbon on you from here.
A version of this article appeared in the December edition of The Gayly