As the 2022 holiday season sets in, warm gatherings bring time for reflection, families reuniting,
and setting intentions for the year ahead. For many of us, however, the ‘most wonderful time of
the year’ is anything but. It’s no secret that the holidays bring up uncomfortable, and often
triggering feelings for some. From dealing with the heartbreak of lost loved ones, to even more
common frustrations surrounding financial stress, travel, and inclement weather, the days
between November and January can pack a punch. The holiday strain can be even more taxing
on members of the LGBTQ community. How can we mitigate these stresses and triggers, and
with solidarity, support ourselves and one another through emotionally sensitive times?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are three times more
likely to experience mental health struggles — regardless of the season. Stigma, outright
homophobic attacks, and more common micro-agressions are all contributing factors to this
statistic. Compound this with the already-stressful, expectation-laden holiday climate, and many
of us find ourselves feeling less than merry.
One of the most difficult realities for so many queer people is the prospect of returning ‘home’ for
the holidays. For some, their families may simply be ‘out of touch’ and ignorant to the reality of
living life as a queer person in 2022. Whether or not the family is willing to be educated, bearing
the burden of explanation can be anxiety producing, bringing more dread than excitement when
it comes time to gather around the holiday feast. Dr. Logan Jones, who is a psychologist and
head of NYC Therapy and Wellness, suggests creating an internal mantra of self-acceptance;
something like: “I have the right to be me, I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, I
have the right to distance myself from people and places that feel toxic.” I know that personally,
developing these types of grounding techniques can be so helpful in weathering external
triggers that are out of my control. Follow Dr. Jones on Instagram @drloganjones for more helpful
strategies and inspiration.
In more extreme but far too common cases, LGBTQ folks may be completely estranged from
their families, and returning home is simply not an option. As painful as that reality is, many of us
find healing through creating a chosen family. Creating new traditions with people who love and
support you is vital. Those of us in the community who have the capacity, it’s important to actively
create these spaces and invite others to share.
If you find yourself struggling this holiday season, remember to put yourself first, and know that
it’s okay to take breaks or distance yourself from toxic people and situations. Keep a strong
support circle, and know who you can reach out to if you need help. Additionally, it can be tough
to keep moving this time of year, but staying active is important. It may sound cliche, but exercise
can really boost good brain chemistry and help reduce stress. Locally, organizations like LGBT
Asylum Taskforce, AIDS Project Worcester, Love Your Labels, and Safe Homes all have active
social media accounts and various programming to help our Queer community.
Giuliano D’Orazio (he/him pronouns) is a Worcester native, musician, music educator, active
member of the local LGBTQ+ community, and a board member of Love Your Labels. Follow
him on Instagram at @musicbygiuliano.