B is for Boundaries this Holiday Season

Guest Blog by: Luna Malbroux, Storytelling Project Manager at Family Equality Council

Every year, as November comes around the corner, my muscles start to tighten and ache from literally bracing myself for the holiday season. Every year brings a different stressor, but whatever it is, it always takes some mental preparation to face — or actively choose to not face — the end of the year. I left the Bible Belt South years ago for more affirming cities, so the end of the year always brings up a will I/won’t I sort of question about returning home for Christmas. That leads to additional questions around how I will be accepted when I return to my nuclear and extended family. Will they accept me? My partner? Our growing family? To question your acceptance sometimes feels like questioning your self-worth, so often, I’d rather just avoid that completely and go where I know where I’m wanted and fully accepted — with the family of my choosing.

This flood of questions begins with the first sound of “Jingle Bells” in a grocery store, so it’s no surprise that there have been many years where the approaching holiday season has made me want to say, “Bah Humbug.” And I know I’m not the only one.

Now it is a widely recognized understanding that the holidays aren’t happy for many people. I think at the core of it is that the very idea that this time of year should be a time of celebration, joy, love, merriment and ‘peace on earth’ can amplify anything that is the opposite of those things. My partner, a trauma consultant, always says “expectations are premeditated resentments,” and I can think of no bigger cultural expectation than the idea that the holidays are supposed to be a great time. Facing complex health issues, grief, financial struggle, loneliness, or more, often feels like too much to bear during this time. As a reminder, if you find yourself feeling a little low this season (or any season) it’s always a good time to reach out for help.

For folks in the LGBTQ+ community, end of year holidays can bring additional challenges in navigating family relationships and dynamics that may not be affirming or safe. Familial obligations can sometimes be the only reason to traverse grounds that may feel like a minefield. For many, opting out of family holiday celebrations altogether can be the best bet. I personally have found the holidays to be a great time to take that vacation, or even have the staycation of my dreams, taking advantage of the downtime as much as possible.

Whatever the case, this year I’m reflecting on how important is to put your boundaries first. I’m on my own journey with boundaries, but one key realization I’ve had is that I owe nothing to people who don’t accept or love me for who I am. Prioritizing my safety and peace is number one. That may mean setting time limits on interactions or choosing not to disclose information. It may also mean coming up with a game plan with friends and loved ones for what to do when someone says something triggering — often it’s things like not calling me by my preferred name.

One of my favorite holiday memories as a kid was watching The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews’ impenetrable optimism as Maria was always a source of comfort and an inspiration for me. Even now, when things get rocky, I can still hear her belting out “When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!”. I think the practice of having a list of ‘favorite things’ to turn to in times of trouble is the epitome of self-care. So in the spirit of self-care, I want to share my list of favorite things helping me get through these holidays:

  1. Diving into the fiction world of Nnedi Okorafor
  2. Swimming in a heated pool in winter
  3. A Netflix binge (definitely Queer Eye for the Straight Guy)
  4. A movie day (the best movies come out end of December)
  5. 5-minute meditations
  6. Queer Appalachia– online zine focusing on LGBTQ+ folks in rural areas

Hope you have a full list to keep you full this holiday season as well! ❤️