Holidays can be tough for gay teens. Here's what you need to know about surviving (and even enjoying) holiday get-togethers with your family.
Spending time with your family over the holidays is supposed to be something we all look forward to. But unfortunately, a lot of GLBT teens dread doing so. In fact, contrary to what you might think, depression levels actually tend to get higher during holidays than at other times of the year!
Here are a few reasons why events that are supposed to be festive can end up being really challenging:
- If you aren't out to most of your family, people might tease you about a boyfriend or girlfriend who will never exist.
- A homophobic joke might get a big laugh as grandpa carves the turkey.
- If you do have a significant other, he or she might not be welcome to join you even if your siblings are allowed to bring dates.
- You might be cut off from your regular support systems.
"All of the holidays are terrible for me. My girlfriend and I have been separated by our homophobic parents and we’re both hated in our families for loving each other. Any talk of being gay or anything sends my parents into a rage. Every time I have to listen to a gay joke I just want to scream across the table at them. It makes me so sad."
Betty isn't the only one who feels like this. But even if the holidays are hard, they don't have to be horrible! Below are some suggestions for handling holiday stress.
Maintain Existing Support Systems
One way to feel better is to try to stay in touch with friends and partners, even if you aren't physically with them. Get on the phone, go online, even write an old fashioned letter. You might be amazed at how comforting it can be just to touch base with the people you feel connected to.
Find Allies Within Your Family
Ideally, you'd be able to talk to your parents if you are having a tough time. But if you can't, try to find someone in your family who can be your ally. Keep in mind, it might not be a person you are particularly close to, or even someone that you see regularly.
You should also know where you can get outside support if you need it. One great resource is the GLBT Youth Helpline. You can reach them at 1-800-246-PRIDE, Monday through Friday from 5pm to 9pm, Pacific Time. Their counselors are trained to help with a variety of teen issues from depression, to coming out, getting along with your parents, and problems at school.
Additionally, you should know about the Trevor Project, a GLBT teen suicide prevention hotline. Hopefully, you never feel suicidal, but if you ever do, please know that they are there to help 24/7.
Your Role in All of This
You can also think about how what you do (or don't do) can affect the situation. For example, it might be tempting to come out when your whole family is gathered. But is now really the best time to do so? Will it make the situation better or worse? Though you might feel like you aren't being honest by not coming out, only do so when you truly feel like the time is right.
ANother thing to keep in mind is that while it can be tempting to hide out in your room, or in front of the TV, the more you hang out with your family, the more positively they will respond to you. Take that after dinner walk or offer to help with dishes. These little things can go a long way in reminding the people that you are related to that you are a great person to have around whatever your sexual orientation.
The holidays can be hard to handle for gay teens. But take a deep breath, and remember, you'll make it through them. Really.