Christmas is here and I’m feeling especially queer. My tree is trimmed with pink tinsel (I’m not joking) and I’m already planning how I’m going to get through all that awkward small talk with my boyfriend’s family (and my own for that matter).
And if you’re a fan of ancient history, you’ll know that Christmas itself has a very queer backstory. The ancient Roman holiday Saturnalia – the forerunner to our Christmas – was a time of feasting, cross-dressing and orgies, according to GQ.
And as we celebrate this most wonderful time of the year, here are all the things that you might not realise about being LGBT+ at Christmas:
1. There’s a reason partying is an important part of LGBT+ culture (especially at Christmas)
When you grow up queer so much of your formative years are spent hiding your real identity and suppressing your real feelings. The Closet keeps you from being yourself and you can sometimes miss out on things people your own age go through like teen romances and going out clubbing. So when you do finally come out as a LGBT+ person - and what a wonderful feeling it is to come out - it can be like you’re trying to make up for lost time. This was perfectly captured in a viral tweet by @introvertgay from earlier this year:
Gay culture is being a teenager when you're 30 because your teenage years were not yours to live.— Introvert Gay (@introvertgay) September 2, 2017
And this is especially true of big celebrations like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Halloween. It’s a chance to dress up, go out dancing and be undeniably ourselves. So if you want to try a new queer Christmas tradition this year, why not head out to a drag show and revel in the naughty, festive fun?
2. Anyone can be Mrs Claus!
One of the great things about being LGBT+ is that we’re much freer from gender roles of what men and women should be and how we should act. And when it comes to Christmas it means anyone can wear make-up or slip into a nifty little cocktail dress. Try doing something different this year: paint your nails and have a gay old time!
3. Going to church is a strange experience
While going to church might be a ho-hum sort of activity for many, for LGBT+ people heading to a carol service can be an unnerving experience. Who knows if the vicar is going to launch into a diatribe about the importance of ‘traditional’ marriage? I remember going to a nativity service for my little cousin when I was younger and briefly wondering whether God would smite me down for my gayness…
4. Christmas is for mostly straight people
Straight people might not realise this, but lots of Christmas culture excludes LGBT+ people. If you’re queer you won’t find many Christmas cards that feature two men, two women or a transgender couple kissing under the mistletoe (and by the way, this is also true for birthdays, anniversaries, Easter – you name it.) And the same goes for Christmas movies and TV shows – pretty much everything about Christmas is heteronormative.
5. When I’m with my boyfriend, please don’t introduce him as my ‘partner’
One of my least favourite things about Christmas is all the god-damned MINGLING. And when I’m at a party, what makes my skin crawl more than anything else is when someone introduces my boyfriend as my ‘partner’. I’m not entirely sure why, but this rubs me the wrong way. I know people mean well, but I think it subtly undermines our relationship. Just use boyfriend or girlfriend – and if you’re not sure, feel free to ask!
6. Sometimes you have to make your own family
Many LGBT+ people still face rejection from their families, so for them, going home at Christmas isn’t really an option. Because of this, there’s a tradition of forming much stronger friendship bonds in the LGBT+ community; in effect, you’re making your own family. This tweet from @nigeltpatel really summed this up for me:
Gay culture is learning how to make a family out of friends.— Decolonially Queer (@decolonialqueer) September 3, 2017
7. For LGBT+ youth kicked out of their homes, Christmas can be the worst time of the year
As discussed above, for many young queer people, Christmas isn’t a time for celebration at all. Around 25% of young people who are homeless identify as LGBT+ and of those young people, more than three-quarters said parental abuse or rejection led to their homelessness.
Earlier this week, I spoke to 25-year-old Charlie* - who was homeless for more than a year in south London after being kicked out of his family home for being gay - about life without a home, especially at Christmas.
Charlie told me: “I was made homeless once my family found out about my sexuality and identity. They told me to leave. It made me feel anxious and depressed, and it made me feel like I didn’t know what the future would hold for me. I felt like I didn’t have any control of my life.”
When asked about any abuse he suffered while homeless, he told me: “Yes, I suffered emotional abuse while homeless. People in some places are still really homophobic and transphobic, and say really hateful things.”
He added: “It was really difficult and uncomfortable being homeless over the Christmas period. It’s a time for friends or family but being homeless is lonely a lot of the time.”
And when I asked what the biggest misconception is about homeless young people, he said: “That people think we are all trouble makers, that we all do drugs, have no ambition, or deserve to be homeless.”
But, thankfully, there is hope. Charlie was able to find the services of LGBT+ homelessness charity the Albert Kennedy Trust. Charlie said: “They were amazing, consistent and genuine. They were also really patient, helpful and honest.”
To other young people in his situation, he said: “Make use of the resources offered, get in touch with organisations that may be able to help change your situation. Be proactive about doing things. Know that there are organisations out there to help you.”
*Identity changed to protect anonymity
If you want to help young LGBT+ people like Charlie, you can donate to the Albert Kennedy Trust’s Winter Appeal here.
And if you’re a homeless LGBT+ person who needs help, you can access the charity’s inter-AKT service by visiting their website.
Now you’ve found out a little about LGBT+ Christmases, try this fun quiz to see which new tradition you should try this year: