With the holiday season coming up, it can be a triggering time for the LGBTQ+ community. Many queer people experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression at this time of year. Even though LGBTQ+ people may experience adverse mental health effects year-round, but the holiday season, in particular, can make these symptoms worse.
It is important to note that some LGBTQ+ people may not return home for the holidays. However, this time of year can remain challenging and triggering.
Why It’s Essential to be a Good Ally During This Time
Many people in the LGBTQ+ community face rejection or are removed from their families due to their identity. 40% of LGBTQ+ people are homeless every year, according to the Washington Post. Many individuals in this community may feel guilt around the holidays about wanting to avoid their families so they can protect themselves from the stigma and judgment that can occur with uninformed family members at gatherings.
According to research, mental health providers have reported that the holiday season, especially going back home, can increase adverse mental health symptoms. Furthermore, the National Alliance on Mental Illness determined that LGBTQ+ individuals are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. They are also two and a half times more likely to have depression, anxiety, and substance misuse/abuse, as reported by according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
If you wonder how you can be a better ally to the LGBTQ+ community during this season, here are some tips.
Read more: How to Become an Ally to LGBTQ+ Youth
Listen to your LGBTQ+ loved ones.
It is essential to listen and not comment right away when LGBTQ+ people in your life are opening up to you. For example, if they are experiencing intense levels of anxiety about any holiday visits, you will want to center their needs. Furthermore, you must never minimize their feelings or experiences or shut down their emotions.
Set a Gentle Reminder that They Need to Prioritize Their Wellbeing.
Some LGBTQ+ people struggling during the holidays might pull away from loved ones, self-medicate, or other responses that could not benefit their wellbeing. Be sure to check in on them, ask how you’re doing, and speak up in a gentle way if you’re seeing some warning signs that they are not taking care of themselves. You could offer to be a part of their self-care plan if that makes it easier on them.
Be the Go-To Ally.
If your LGBTQ+ friend or family member is nervous about the holidays, you can tell them that you are there for them and that they can get in touch with you at any time. Being available to them can be very helpful, and letting them know that they can ask you for help is key.
Invite Them Along With You.
Some LGBTQ+ people may not have the option of being with their families of origin; however, if you are in their chosen family, you could always invite them along with you for the holidays (if your destination is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people).
If they do attend your family holiday celebration, be sure not to bring attention to their personal story. For example, mentioning why they didn’t go to their family of origin for the holidays. You can keep it simple and say it’s a good friend who is coming over to join in on the holiday festivities.
Think About How You Ask Them About Their Holiday Plans.
Instead of straight-up asking your LGBTQ+ friend if they’re heading home for the holidays, open-ended questions can be more effective. For example, you can ask, “do you have holiday plans?” That way, they get to decide what they want to share with you.
Lend Financial Support.
One essential act for being in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community is being willing to provide financial support. In addition, many worthwhile organizations are fighting for equal rights and against homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and other forms of violence against the community.
Furthermore, it is essential to do your research and support queer and trans community organizations that directly provide financial support to LGBTQ+ individuals.
LGBTQ+ Ally In Summary
To be a better ally to LGBTQ+ people during the holidays, it is essential to have compassion, empathy, acceptance, and educate yourself.
If you want to include an LGBTQ+ person in your life who doesn’t want to go home for the holidays, be sure to provide a safe space wherever you are going. Holidays can be difficult for many people for various reasons, but coming together to make things less burdensome for the LGBTQ+ community really embraces the holiday spirit.