Thank you to Michael for sharing his story about his experience in coping with the holidays. Since this blog is appearing on Christmas Eve, I want to share a bit more about the struggles that many LGBTQ+ people face at this time of year — there are probably millions of stories “out there,” all with important and interesting individual details, but with a common theme that brings us all together in learning how to be healthy and happy at this time of year.
My own story is like Michael’s in that my parents never exactly disowned me, but they made it clear in a myriad of ways that they never approved of much of my life, even my educational achievements, which to them signaled that I would not follow their religious preferences. Having a discussion with them about this was impossible, probably as much from my own fear and intimidations in the face of their disapproval as from their disapproval itself.
One brief exchange from my mother illustrates the nature of our interactions. I was caring for her after a surgical procedure, and shortly after she began to regain consciousness she says to me, out of the blue: “Peggy Lois, I don’t know why you hate men. You had such a sweet Daddy!” After I more or less recovered from the shock of this comment that was totally without context, I replied “I don’t hate men – I just love women!” She immediately went back into her post-operative daze and we never spoke of the interaction again.
The fact is that the holidays, for me, long ago lost any significance related to my family of origin – I grew up far away from any extended family, and once I finished college in Honolulu, I moved to the mainland and only shared the holidays with them again once or twice in my adult life. Indeed I did not follow my parent’s religious preferences, and for me the holidays have no particular religious significance, but even so, these holidays bring about a shift that is palpable — people everywhere ask about what you are going to be doing or if you “ready” for christmas.
In my experience, as the holiday period approaches, suddenly friends who ordinarily can be called on to share a meal or a social event just aren’t available. To make things more difficult, it is awkward to even ask about the possibility of doing something together, knowing that many people do have a family or close friends they are probably spending time with. And people who do have plans typically do not think about reaching out to someone who might be alone, and who might really appreciate being included.
Fortunately this year I have several friends who have put out messages on Facebook or on group emails, indicating that they are alone for one or more of the holiday days, and asking to connect with others who might be doing something that they could join in. In our social network, people have readily stepped up and provided not just one, but several options for those who are alone.
But all too few LGBTQ+ people have this kind of network. If you are alone, but recognize that having some kind of social interaction over this time is something you want or need, I encourage you to find a way to reach out to someone and fill in the void, even it if is not ideal. Share your experience here in the “comments” below — even writing about your experience could be a way to begin the process of finding solace and comfort — and will help others who read this blog to reach out. Hey, if you want to Zoom (video chat) over the next few days, use our “contact” form on this web site to let us know, and I will be in touch to set up a chat! Our virtual connections do not at all replace the meaningful personal connections that are significant at this time of year, but they do provide a bridge to help us all build a more meaningful and significant connection network.