How to Survive the Holidays with Family
Thanksgiving may be over, but December means holidays for some faiths and vacations for some professions, and many people have been agonizing about the trip home to see family, particularly if they have yet to come out to family as trans* or haven’t seen certain people since they began physically transitioning. Never fear! We have some tips to help get you through the season:
1. Remind yourself that things may not be as bad as you think. Expect the best but also prepare for the worst (by having an exit strategy, for instance). People can surprise you with how unexpectedly accepting they can be (if people are just now finding out, or haven’t seen you since you came out). Furthermore, a lot of people are just simply too polite to say anything negative about you to your face (one would hope!). Of course, things can still be negative, but try not to automatically assume they will be.
2. If you can, bring a friend, significant other, or other ally that you know you can lean on back home with you (or to your family celebration). Even if the person you bring doesn’t do or say much of anything the whole time, it can sometimes help you feel less anxious, give you someone to cling to so you don’t have to talk as much to other people, and give you someone to commiserate with after you leave (e.g. “did you see how aunt Jessica looked at me?! ugh, how awkward.”).
3. If you’re going to be somewhere for an extended period of time, give yourself time to occasionally step away from things. If you can drive and have a car, take your own car so you can go out and get away, even if only for a little while. Prepare an excuse to let yourself go for a long walk, hide out in the backyard, or just go into another room and give yourself some alone time. In a particularly stressful environment, sometimes you just need to get away from things and remind yourself that the outside world/everyday life isn’t always so bad. Even an online escape can be helpful, particularly venting to other trans* people in similar situations.
4. Forgive people for what they don’t know/can’t help. If no one knows you are transgender, and they constantly refer to you with female pronouns or your birth name, they aren’t doing it purposefully to upset you…they simply don’t know any better. Of course, this doesn’t make it any less frustrating or uncomfortable, but try not to hold it against your relatives. However, if people DO know and don’t seem to be willing to make an effort, you should feel free to gently correct them or take them aside and explain to them the importance of using your preferred name and pronouns.
5. Dress in a way that is comfortable to you, avoid dressing in a certain way just to please family members unless you are okay with it. Being comfortable is huge, particularly in a situation in which you will otherwise be completely uncomfortable. Sometimes even something as simple as a tie can make you feel armed and ready to face the world.
Of course these tips will not work for everyone (it’s difficult because all families and situations are unique), but hopefully they should work for some of you out there : )