[I wrote this last year, but we thought it might be helpful to folks again this year.]
Last year, it seemed like every discussion about surviving the holidays focused on how to interact with the Trump voter at your family table. This remains disturbingly relevant, though my advice for that lands pretty solidly in the “just don’t” category. But this year, I want to direct my energy to you (and me), rather than them.
The holidays are hard, kittens. While some of us in the sex-positive community were raised by equally sex-positive parents, most of us were not. We have often had to wade through the dark waters of religious dogma, abuse, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and shame to get to these shores. And since many of our families are still down in the muck, the holidays can be a painful reminder of the past. Maybe you have family members who misgender you or criticize your appearance. Maybe you can’t tell your parents that you’re queer. Maybe your family believes that your D/s dynamic is abusive, your polyamory is just cheating, or your sex work is degrading. Maybe they are so deeply unhappy that your very existence, with all its joy and freedom, is a threat.
This is the first year I wasn’t invited to my given family’s Christmas celebrations. I started to say that it’s because I’m queer, because my partner is trans… but this isn’t on me. I wasn’t invited because my family is toxic.
You know that scene in Home Alone where Kevin discovers, first with fear and then with elation, that he has made his family disappear? I am trying to find that joy myself. There is no emptiness in not spending the holidays with my family. There is just space. And I intend to fill that space with friends and chosen family, with music and food, with old traditions that feel relevant and new ones that feel meaningful.
Four years ago, when I told my parents I was getting a divorce, my mom said, “It seemed to me that you weren’t kind to each other. That always made me sad.” It was a rare criticism that I agreed with. There were reasons my ex and I weren’t kind to each other. There always are. But the fact that we didn’t know how to be kind to each other – that we had forgotten how, or never really learned – that’s why he’s not my family anymore. And when I think of the things I would say to my mom if I could really tell her how I felt, that’s what I keep coming back to: kindness. In all my relationships, be they romantic or familial, long-term or fleeting, kindness is non-negotiable. My mother loves me. But she is not kind to me. And I am worthy of kindness.
Lovelies, we are all worthy of kindness. I hope this holiday season, no matter how or if you celebrate, you surround yourself with folks who are kind. You don’t owe your time or your emotional energy to people who refuse to see you as you deserve to be seen. You have a right to where what you want to wear, eat what you want to eat, and love who (and how) you want to love. May the end of this tumultuous year be a space for expansion, not regression.
I like to create mantras out of the quotes that raise the little hairs on my arm, especially when I know things are going to be emotionally challenging. Kurt Vonnegut was my first favorite author, so I’ll leave you with this: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’”