With many students leaving their University housing and moving back home for the holidays, it can be challenging for many LGBT+ students who have gotten used to the newfound freedom of the university lifestyle.
Going back home can bring about feelings of uneasiness for folks who may not feel completely safe around their family members or people they will be surrounded by.
This small guide aims to provide several ways to reduce the anxieties based around this time; making the most out of your time to celebrate and relax without having to sacrifice your happiness and holiday festivities.
Setting Boundaries can bring many benefits for stopping any unwanted stresses or experiences. It is important to remember that your comfort will be one of your most integral aspects to establish, and boundaries can help accomplish this. If you can do so, bring up some staple boundaries ahead of time with people you will be spending time with. Examples of these can be, but are not limited to:
- Explaining that you will not be attending any religious services during your time at home.
- Making a list of topics that you are not willing to discuss.
- The need to spend some time alone, without distractions.
- Asking individuals (if you are comfortable) to use your proffered pronouns.
- Not being left alone in rooms with solely people who negatively impact you.
- Dietary requirements, including any foods you no longer wish to consume.
- Explaining that you will not stay around people who use derogative language towards the LGBT+ community or any other minority group.
- Removing politics from the dinner table.
- Asking others around you if they have any boundaries they wish to add.
It must be noted that boundaries can take time to establish, and it may take you repeating them a few times for individuals to take them in.
An excellent article on this which explains boundaries further
Going home for Christmas isn’t just about spending time with your legal family. Spending time with people who actively show compassion and help you enjoy your experiences during this holiday can be much more beneficial for some and can be just as important. This can manifest itself by having a Christmas meal with friends or binge-watching cringy Christmas movies with your chosen family or just your pets.
While the spirit of Christmas has been entrenched by the narrative of spending it with relatives, a family can be found in friends and relationships who make you feel appreciated and safe to be who you are, just as much as relatives.
There are no ‘right’ people to spend Christmas with. It is yours to choose who you spend this time with.
Journaling can be a great way to express and visualise any emotions you are feeling or any thoughts you contemplate. This could be utilised if you feel like you have no one to talk to about specific topics or are still not ‘out’ to the individuals you are sharing Christmas with.
Reflecting on the day can help put concepts into perspective and help you unpack any next steps on how to act on them. Some ideas that you can Journal about are:
- Write a love letter to yourself
- Keep a day-to-day diary on what events happened
- Describe an outfit that makes you feel comfortable, go into as much detail as to ‘why’ as possible
- Write a letter to a person who has positively impacted you this holiday
- Being in the LGBT+ community is ____
- Recall a dream you have had. What made it a good dream?
- Review the last book you read
- Just one sentence
- A list of places you would like to visit
- Record your small wins
- Next steps in making you, you.
This website offers 59 different ideas
Create a mantra of self-acceptance
Creating yourself a mantra to repeat when things get hard, or simply just to repeat in the morning, helps remind you of who you are if you have to stop expressing yourself as openly around some individuals at home. It can be as short or long as you wish, encapsulating phrases such as ‘I am exactly who I am supposed to be’ and ‘I have the right to be me’.
Don’t feel you can’t be open about your identity in case you ‘spoil’ Christmas; this predicament is forced upon us, not brought on ourselves. If you know you are safe enough to be yourself, fully embrace being you. Just get ready for the multiple rainbow-themed presents that may come your way!
However, it must be stressed that if you are not safe enough to do so, this does not make you any less valid of an individual within the LGBT+ community. Not being ‘out’ to everybody in your life does not mean that you are suddenly unwelcome. Also, refer to the ‘create an exit strategy’ point if any altercations arise.
Distractions // Decompressing
The holidays can be very mentally and physically exhausting for LGBT+ individuals when constantly navigating whether a space is safe or not. Thus, it is essential to remember to take some time away without any distractions around you. This can come in the form of doing a solo hobby, napping, reading a book, going for a walk etc. Doing this helps ground and balance out the stress that you might have faced during the day/week/holiday.
You can also use this time to set up some time with people who provide a safe place. This support can be a refresher that you are not alone. These conversations can be utilised to talk through something that has happened over the holiday in which you need a second perspective. It can feel affirming to talk to someone who might be going through the same process or someone who has the energy to contribute positively to the discussion.
Create an exit strategy
Suppose you are in a situation where you do not have a support system or fall into a line of discussion that will result in negative responses. In that case, it may be important to have a plan of action when you feel this trapping sensation. This can be minor exit strategies such as leaving the room or something more major, such as staying somewhere else for a couple of nights. Some examples of things that could be implemented are:
- Having a friend call you and make up an excuse to get you out of the situation
- Find a support system whereby you would be able to crash on their sofa for a couple of nights if needed
- Have savings put aside on the off-chance that you need to come back to university quicker than you planned and thus need to make public travel arrangements
- Plan a route that you can walk (day and night-time) if you need to clear your head and get some breathing room before coming back
- Have a comfort playlist of music that you can put on
- Pre-arrange with an individual in your household, if possible, a ‘safe word’ in which they need to try and change the subject if it is said.
Extra Helplines and Contacts
Confronting the holidays can be overwhelming, here are some helplines and contacts
LGBT Foundation: Call 03453 303030 or contact by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline: Call 03003 300630, available from 10:00-22:00.
Shout 85258: Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, anonymous mental health text support service you access 24/7. To start a conversation, simply text the word ‘SHOUT’ to 85258.
Albert Kennedy Trust: Supports LGBT+ people aged 16-25 who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.
Galop.org.uk: provides helplines and other support for LGBT+ adults and young people who have experienced hate crime, sexual violence, or domestic abuse
Student wellbeing services are also offered through contacting: email@example.com or online, where there are multiple self-help guides and resources available.