This is the time of year to gather with loved ones, sit around a fire with a frosty glass of spiked eggnog and even have large holiday dinners with tables full of delicious food, friends, and family. However, this time of year can also prove difficult for those who don’t fit into cultural norms. There are questions asked during the celebration that can put a damper on feeling any holiday cheer. This holiday season, give the gift of acceptance and completely avoid these potentially trigging questions.
When are you going to settle down and have kids?
How many times have single straight cis-gendered women been asked by family members, when are you going to get married or have children like (insert any other female-identifying relative with children)? These curious relatives don’t know that there is a myriad of reasons why female-identifying individuals with ovaries don’t have children. For starters, they may not want children, plain and simple, and that’s okay.
However, some may have tried and failed many times whether it be unsuccessful IVF treatments, miscarriages, or other illnesses that contribute to the inability to have biological children. In fact, a study by Verhaak et al. (2005), found that over 20% of the women who did not achieve pregnancy after an initial IVF treatment showed subclinical depression and/or anxiety up to 6 months after treatment termination.
Miscarriages are also common with 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies ending in a miscarriage according to the Mayo Clinic.
With these facts in mind, it’s best to keep questions about someone else’s childbirth choices to yourself, unless they’re comfortable discussing the subject with you. The point is we don’t know the private desires or struggles that individuals are facing on a regular basis and the family table is not the time or place to bring those issues to light.
When are you going to stop wasting your time?
Family expectations aren’t exclusive to cis-gendered women, cis-gendered males may also get badgered with questions about settling down with a family or why they won’t take over the family business. Perhaps they like living the life of a bachelor and want to be a musician or teacher etc… whatever the choice, it’s their decision alone to make.
If this person chooses to open up and share their life plans with friends and family around the table, it’s best to accept their plans and not try to insert negativity or judgment.
When are you going to grow out of this phase?
Unfortunately for those a part of the LGBTQ+ community, the rabbit hole only gets deeper. While some are fortunate enough to have accepting families, others are not as lucky. Some even find themselves disowned and unaccepted by family altogether. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Suicide is a leading cause of death for LGBTQIA+ people ages 10-24, and across their lifespan, LGBTQIA+ people attempt suicide at a disproportionate rate. LGBTQIA+ youth are more than five times more likely to die by suicide than their heterosexual peers.
What’s more, 46% of homeless LGBTQIA+ youth ran away because of they were disowned by their family due to their sexual orientation or gender identity; 43% were kicked out of the house by their parents; and 32% faced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home. This is the prime reason why many members of the LGBTQ+ community opt for chosen families. Without chosen families, many would find themselves unhoused and falling into dangerous and destructive habits just to get by.
Whether your relative is queer, transgender, or gender-nonconforming, the greatest gift you can offer your loved one is true acceptance and love. What does this look like? For starters, invite them home for the holidays and encourage them to bring their partner or a friend. Don’t belittle them for not fitting into gender norms or reduce their love to being insignificant in comparison to a heteronormative relationship. Understand that your LGBTQ+ loved ones matter and have a valuable space in this world just as much as every other human being in the world.
No matter what your friend or family member’s life experience is, it’s not for you to judge. As the old adage says, “when you have the choice to be kind, always be kind”. You never know what others are going through and no matter what holiday you’re celebrating from Christmas to Hanukah, give your loved ones the ultimate gift…acceptance.