Ho Ho Ho, Merry… Ehhh… Not so fast. For so many of us, the holidays can be a super stressful and challenging time. On top of the regular challenges we face during the holidays (what presents to buy, how many treats to indulge in, which ugly sweater to wear), LGBTQ young people often face many other obstacles to having wonderful holiday cheer.
At The Trevor Project, we hear from young people from all kinds of backgrounds about their experiences with the holidays. This might include traveling home for the holidays, spending more time than normal with family while being on break from school, or not going home at all. Of course, some young people return to supportive or welcoming homes and loved ones. However, this doesn’t necessarily protect them from potentially triggering or traumatic situations. All of these different situations might bring up experiences like:
Having family members who may be openly hostile towards your LGBTQ identity;
Being around family and having to go back into the closet, even if you’re out in other environments; this can be especially difficult for trans*, genderqueer or gender non-conforming youth who may have to revert to unwanted gender expressions, names, or pronouns;
Not feeling safe or supported enough to go home or visit family;
Watching friends and loved ones visit their families when you have faced rejection or hostility from your own;
Being homeless due to family rejection or hostility – something that really impacts our community.
While we can’t possibly cover every “what if”, we do know that every young person deserves the chance to thrive, regardless of their identities. So, we had the ENTIRE staff at The Trevor Project come together and brainstorm Holiday Self Care Ideas for YOU. Here is what we came up with:
Budget personal time to decompress. You don’t have to be around people all the time, despite what it may seem like.
Take walks: Try making playlists to match your mood.
Create a self-care corner: Place happy reminders or notes in mirrors, on your dresser, or in a bag to brighten your day along the way.
Brainstorm “safe” conversation topics for family. Try to find neutral topics that decrease the likelihood for offense or pain.
Plan game time for family/friends: This takes away the pressure to create conversation!
Try to keep in touch with your chosen family/friends while you’re away from them. Schedule phone or chat dates regularly or for times when you think you might need them.
Try to acknowledge the things in your life you’re grateful for, or things you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of (big or small). Write them down. If you keep this list in your phone, you can pull it up whenever/wherever.
Don’t overextend yourself financially if you don’t want to. You can give gifts and appreciation cheaply or free!
Give away items you don’t need to charities or shelters.
Identify safe places if you’re traveling somewhere. Are there Community Centers, or LGBTQ-inclusive spaces in the area in case you need a place to go? Sometimes the best place to go is to an online community. YouTube has a bunch of awesome people and videos to lend support and a giggle or two (I dare you to not smile at this video) Also, TrevorSpace is an online community for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 from all over the world, and it’s a great place to find support.
It is especially important for those of us who aren’t going home for the holidays to reach out for support. Whether that be the family/friends you have chosen, or through an online community. If you need a place to stay, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY or us here at The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.
Create your own traditions with a person or people that are meaningful to you. This can be laying in bed all watching movies, having your own party or dinner with friends, or signing up to volunteer at your local soup kitchen.
Anticipate challenges and healthy responses that keep you safe above all else, and come prepared with those. There is a chance that you might encounter homophobic, transphobic or biphobic remarks. Before standing up to these, some things to think about are; is it safe for me to stand up to this remark? What is the best case scenario? (Can I change their viewpoint? Can I help them understand why that is hurtful and/or offensive? Will they apologize?) What is the worst case scenario? (Will I be outed? Will they say even more hurtful things? Will I get in trouble? Will I be upset for the rest of the trip?) Do you have an alternative place to stay if things get too intense?
Safety Plan! Do you need help making an individual safety plan? Call The Trevor Project anytime at 1-866-488-7286 and we can make a master plan together.
Accept sadness. Sometimes we stress ourselves out with feelings we “should” feel. Sadness is okay to feel, especially at the holidays.
Finally, remember that Trevor is here 24/7 at 1-866-7386, including every single holiday. Our trained counselors are here to listen to whatever it is that you are going through and work with you to create your very own safety plan and Holiday Self Care List.
This time of year is an awesome time for reflection and gratitude. Sometimes, it can feel almost impossible to find things to be grateful for. At Trevor, we feel tremendously grateful for your trust in us in helping you through those dark times.
We’ll be here every single day and night if you need us. You are never alone.