The holidays can be a time that evokes fond memories and visions of sugarplums for some, but for many it’s a reminder of what they don’t celebrate, or don’t have, or feel left out of. This can be especially true for members of the queer community.
With homosexuality still only at 63% acceptance among the general population, many of us have experienced traumatic discrimination and rejection from our family and our friends. This can make the holidays especially difficult. Having allies who show up for us can help us feel more connected. In some cases, it can even save a life.
If you’re an ally, thank you for showing up. I know you’re trying to deepen your understanding, and I’m grateful for you. Here are some solid ways for you to show up for your LGBTQIA+ friends and our community this holiday season.
HOW TO SHOW UP FOR THE COMMUNITY
These are not performative gestures. These are not all easy things you can just flip a switch and do. Making a real difference isn’t easy, but it is important.
1. Call Out Real Life Homophobia or Transphobia When You See It
The holidays often find us in the midst of conversations we might not otherwise have. Sometimes homophobia comes out in these conversations. How you respond matters.
Provided you’re physically safe and able to do so, make a habit of calling out real world homophobia when you see it. This might mean having an uncomfortable conversation with a coworker, friend, or family member. This might just be a short statement you make that tells them their phobia is not OK. Setting boundaries helps people understand that casual dismissal, hate, or jests against LGBTQIA+ people are not acceptable.
You may learn that some people aren’t actually as accepting as you thought. Or you may be able to help them grow and see how their choices are hurting others. Or you may decide to distance yourself. Either way, you’ll learn more about who they really are.
If someone you’re close to is regularly homophobic, you might decide to cut them out of your life, and that’s OK. Who you choose to spend your time with tells others what kind of values you have. If you’re always hanging out with, helping, or standing up for your homophobic uncle because “he’s family” or “he needs you,” please know that you don’t have to do that. There are other people who need your help that aren’t homophoobic. You are allowed to set boundaries with phobic people and cut them out of your life. Imagine if everyone cut out the homophobes. Most homophobes would soon realize they’re wrong, or at least not be invited to all the fun parties. Don’t waste your glitter on haters. Life is too short.
2. When It Comes to Online Hate, Report and Block It. Don’t Engage It.
Don’t engage the online trolls; that just makes social media companies rich and emboldens the trolls. This is true year-round, but especially during the holidays when more people tune in to social media.
When you see a hurtful or hateful homophobic or transphobic comment on social media, click the “report” button, report the commentor and block them. This sends a clear message to social media channels that you are not here for hate.
If you want to go the extra mile, leave positive comments for the LGBTQIA+ people you follow. Your support might make their day. Like and share their content often. It might seem small but it makes a big difference.
3. Stop Supporting and Letting Your Money Go to Anti-LGBTQ Companies and Nonprofits
The holidays are a time when we often spend extra money, or make charitable donations. How you spend your money matters. Hobby Lobby, Chick-Fil-A, and The Salvation Army, are some of the brands that are very anti-LGBTQ. You may love them or you may not have heard about what they do, and that’s on you. So Google it. Educate yourself. These brands and some others are actively hurting the LGBTQ+ community. Don’t let them have your money or time. Especially nonprofits and charities that claim to help people while being homophobic.
4. Volunteer for a Local LGBTQIA+ Charity or Organization
Find a local Queer-friendly organization and find ways to volunteer for them. Maybe it’s helping a Queer food pantry, or bringing meals to Queer people in need. Maybe it’s getting your quilt guild to donate quilts to a local Queer charity. If you want to help Queer youth, get involved with your local PFLAG, or start one. Whatever it is, do it during the holidays and after. You’ll be making a real difference in Queer people’s lives.
5. Support National LGBTQIA+ Organizations with End-of-Year Giving
Even if you can only donate $20, sign up to donate annually to an LGBTQIA+ organization. Check out Trans Lifeline, a free phone line that helps trans people in need. There is also Trans Santa, The Trevor Project, GLAAD, and more. Donate what you can and start making a difference this year. Invite your friends and your workplace to do the same and increase your impact.
HOW TO SHOW UP FOR YOUR QUEER FRIENDS
This part of the list applies to your mutual friendships, and new friendships, where you have established mutual trust. This does not include casual aquantiences or that one gay guy at the office you’ve only talked to once. If you don’t have an LGBTQIA+ friend, ask yourself why that is. This alone might help you discover some internalized homophobia that you can work on.
6. Check In On Us
For a lot of Queer people, the holidays reminds us of the happy families we didn’t grow up with. They can trigger memories, or a keen awareness of what we don’t have now. Seeing endless happy posts of our friends on social media might make us feel incredibly alone.
Check in on your Queer friends more than once. Let us know you’re around to hang out and have tea, or just talk. You don’t have to mention the holidays, just offer to spend time with us. Take us to lunch. Find a fun activity and bring us along. Even if we look like we have it all together. Even if we don’t always return your texts. Even if we sometimes say we’re busy. Respect our boundaries of course, but also, don’t assume we’re OK. A lot of times we aren’t. You showing up for us and showing you care is important.
7. Include Us In Your Seasonal Sphere (or offer to)
As a queer man, I’m often left out of typical holiday traditions like the exchanging of cards and gifts. Maybe it’s assumed that I won’t be interested because I’m queer? This kind of automatic exclusion can be off putting at best, and deeply hurtful at worst. I’m a crafter, of course I like cards and gifts!
Ask your Queer friend if you can send them a holiday card. Ask if they’d mind if you sent them a holiday or seasonal gift. Ask if they’d like to come over to your holiday meal. Going to drive around and look at seasonal lights? Invite your Queer friend. Make it clear they’re not imposing, and that you’d love to have them. And if they say yes, if they’re into it, fully include them. Make them your chosen family.
If they’re not at all into the holidays, that’s ok too. But still offer to hang out with them during this time of year, because Winter is long and it can get lonely.
8. Show Up For Your Queer Family Members
Do you have a Queer family member? If it’s been a while, reach out and reconnect. Let them know you want to chat or hang out or be in their life. If they’re already in your life, make sure you include them regularly.
• Leave Your Religion at the Door
Holidays are often infused with religion. Unless your Queer friend specifically asks for it, do not bring your religion into your interactions. A lot of Queer people have been turned away by families under religious pretences. A lot of churches still believe being Queer is a sin or a “lifestyle choice.” This is homophobic and queerphobic and deeply hurtful to us. If your goal in helping us is to show us “Christ’s love” keep it to yourself and check your privilege.
• You Don’t Need to Save or Fix Us
Yes, Queer people often have difficulties. But unless they ask for it, your Queer friend does not need you to try and save them or fix them. It’s not your job to be their liferaft. What you can be is a consistently kind and supportive friend to them.
• Don’t “Try To Relate” If You Actually Can’t
You don’t have to have shared traumatic experiences to connect. If your Queer friend opens up to you about their trauma or life experiences, your job is to listen first. Don’t try and relate their experience of being homeless at 13 to your experience of getting lost in the mall once. If you were homeless at 13, sure relate, but otherwise, don’t try. Your experiences aren’t comparable and they don’t have to be. You showing up and listening is enough.
• Progress is More Important Than Perfection
Sometimes allies make honest mistakes. You may say or do something without realizing it is a problem. If you do, acknowledge what you did wrong, and apologize for it. Do your best to make it right. Then move on. Don’t make a bigger deal about it than it is. It’s more important that you learn and grow and do your best not to make the same mistake in the future. No one is perfect 100% of the time.
If you’ve read this, I want to thank you for showing up for the Queer community. You’re a helper and that’s fantastic. You care deeply and we need more people in the world like you. You’re making a difference. Keep learning. Keep listening. Keep holding space for us. Keep going.