Supposed to love Christmas: S01E20

Supposed to love Christmas

Well… it’s Christmas Eve and we can finally see the finish line for 2020. What a strange year… did any of our futurists or experts predict this one?

As we head into this break I wanted to put together a quick episode to share Holiday survival tips for LGBTQ2S+ Christians or for anyone who might have all the happy joyous feelings that we’re ‘supposed to’ have at this time of year.

S01E20 supposed to love Christmas
I’ll be home for Christmas this year and I want to acknowledge how hard that’s going to be for me.
To be honest, the break between Christmas and New Years is usually one of the loneliest and lowest times of the year for me.
I know that I’m not alone, and that for many Queer people of faith, the holiday season can be really hard and really dark. That cheery exterior that we are expected to portray in pictures, at parties and on social media…. that’s not the reality for many of us.
Growing up we would constantly be reminded that ‘Jesus is the reason for the Season’… which when you look into it that ‘Virgin birth’ wouldn’t have even happened at this time of year… but that’s for another time.

Hallmark Christmas

Traditionally Christmas is supposed to be a time of warmth, happiness, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, singing carols at a Christmas Eve service and joyous family celebrations where you lovingly exchange gifts, spend time relaxing and connecting and breaking bread with close family relatives… all those fuzzy warm images and picture perfect endings we see on the Hallmark Channel… and for some… that’s their reality.
But for others, people like me, that’s a fantasy and it’s a painful reminder of what I’m told I wasn’t allowed to be.

Supposed Tos

For Queer Christians, Christmas can be a time full of ‘supposed tos’.
  • supposed to prioritize and want to spend time with your family of origin
  • supposed to be excited with your friends and colleagues at work about the break
  • supposed to visit your family’s church or take part in religious traditions
  • supposed to ‘tone things down’ or told not to ‘rock the boat’ so that more ‘conservative’, older family members or children don’t feel out of place
  • supposed to dress a certain way, be a certain way and smile ‘like a normal person’ so that we can take the perfect picture as one big happy family.

For some of us, we’re told:

  • we would love you to come… but… I need you to leave your partner at home
  • I need you be ‘straight’ (or you can come, if you come as the gender that I want you to be) so that you don’t upset your Great Grandmother… cause it might be her last Christmas you know.
  • you can be the ‘fun gay uncle’ but watch out for the many unwritten and unspoken rules of what you’re allowed to say

And others are told:

  • we need you not to come because you being there and showing up authentically would cause too much tension for others in the family.
  • you can show up but we’re not going to acknowledge, affirm or ask any questions about the ‘other parts of your life’ that we might not agree with
And when we don’t follow the list of ‘supposed tos’, rules, regulations and traditions a couple of things can happen:
  • You’re pressured by other families members… “come on… do it for mom. Why would you want to ruin Christmas just to ‘make a point’? It’s Christmas”
  • You’re pressured and beat up by YOURSELF! You go inside, chastise yourself for making such a big deal. You hate yourself for not being able to be thankful or to appreciate everything that you do have. “You need to be thankful for the family you’ve got”

Does any of this sound familiar?

If any of this is resonating for you, I want to validate and affirm all of the many different feelings that might be going on inside of you for the next couple of weeks.
All of your feelings are real. All of our feelings are allowed. And yes, many of these feelings can be quite painful.
For most of my adult like I would go along with all of the ‘supposed tos’, follow the rules and go along with the act. I’d attend my family Christmas celebrations and as I would drive home after, I would sob uncontrollably in my car.

Beating myself up

I’d beat myself up wondering why I couldn’t just be ‘normal’, ‘loving’ and ‘fit in’ like everyone else… why did I always have to make such a big deal and act like such an outsider?
As I would let these thoughts spin and spin inside my head I would affirm the well worn narrative that ‘I didn’t belong’, ‘something was wrong with me’, and that I felt this way because of my ‘brokenness’.

Seeing the light

At 43 I’m thankfully starting to know that those thoughts that can spin around in my head aren’t me AND they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Many of the fun, warm and loving family holiday traditions are trauma triggers for LGBTQ2S+ humans who grew up in religious homes.
These family holiday traditions can be a reminder and a celebration of everything that the church said that we are NOT allowed to be.

Grief and loss

For Queer Christians, many churches continue to teach and reinforce that because of who God created us to be that we are not allowed to love… and by extension… that we’re not ever allowed to have the type of family that we were born into.
So when I show up as the fun Gay Uncle, smile for the family pictures, exchange gifts with my nieces and nephews and listen to the stories of their family lives… I’m also experiencing deep loss, grief and anger.
Yes, anger. Anger for the manmade rules, beliefs and traditions that my church and my family held over my life as I was growing up.

7 Holiday Survival Tips for LGBTQ2S+ humans

So for those of us who might look upon the next two weeks without visions of sugar plums dancing in your heads I want to offer seven holiday survival tips for LGBTQ2S+
  1. Your number one priority is personal physical and emotional safety. Your number one job is taking care and loving yourself. It’s not your job to manage the feelings of other members of your family.
  2. The holidays can be one of the biggest trigger times for Religious Trauma Syndrome… and if you haven’t heard of that… it’s a thing. Know that any of the trauma responses that you may be experiencing, they are very real. And they are happening to you because of what may have been done TO you and NOT because you are broken or a bad person.
  3. Feel all of your feelings and try to be as gentle and as non-judgemental with each feeling. When you deny, shame or try to suppress your natural feelings you’re continuing the cycle of abuse and you’re wounding yourself. It’s okay to be angry while watching others open gifts on Christmas morning. All of your feelings are valid AND your feelings do not define who you are. Not feeling full of gratitude and joy doesn’t mean you’re broken or a horrible person… it means you’re human and having a natural response to something that may have been abusive and/or traumatic. You’re even allowed to have feelings that you may define as negative towards family members or others in your religious community. For some of us, these people were and continue to be our abusers… even if they say they love us and care deeply for us.
  4. Listen to your body, go inside and ask yourself what you need to feel safe and loved. Many of the body sensations, thoughts and feelings you have are signs and signals to help protect you.
  5. You are allowed to define your own boundaries and limits. You don’t have to follow any rules, traditions or expectations that don’t make you feel safe. You are allowed to have a voice. You’re allowed to make your own rules. You can show up for an hour, you can go but not attend church service, you don’t have to spend the night… heck, you don’t have to go at all… if that isn’t what YOU want to do.
  6. Know that YOU and who you are as a human isn’t the problem. Hate, fear and homophobia is the problem.
  7. Finally take some time to ask yourself, ‘what would make this holiday break special and fun for me?’. What would fill you with joy and surround you with the love and support you deserve?

For the last several years I’ve had a wonderful Christmas Day tradition with my best friend Brent; we’d sleep in, meet up at the gym for a good workout, head to a dinner reservation at a great restaurant we wanted to try and then we would go out to a movie… it was a perfect Christmas FOR ME

I get how hard this time of the year can be. I know how desperately hard so many of us want that perfect Hallmark Christmas fantasy to be our reality. It’s not easy NOT being part of what is ‘generally accepted’ and what ‘everyone else may be doing’… but that doesn’t make you wrong.
No matter what your reality is this holiday season I want you to know something with absolute certainty.

You are loved

You are loved unconditionally by God who made you exactly as you are.
You, your heart, your mind, your body, your spirit, your gender expression, your sexuality and the way you love, are created perfectly in God’s image.
You were created on purpose and your purpose is to fully love yourself, connect deeply with others and share your love with the rest of the world.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays… however you choose to celebrate.
You are loved.
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