Guides + Resources

A Christmas Guide For The Queer Soul

Christmas is a time when we all get to see our loved ones, have some freshly baked cakes, and exchange gifts of joy and togetherness. But, as a queer individual, Christmas can get overwhelming very easily.

Green coniferous trees adorned with jingling bells and little trinkets can be seen stationed around every corner of the street; Christmas is here.

I may not be a Christian but I do celebrate Christmas with my Christian and non-Christian friends, just like almost everyone in my city. Christmas is a time when we all get to see our loved ones, have some freshly baked cakes, and exchange gifts of joy and togetherness. But, as a queer individual, Christmas can get overwhelming very easily. As this is the time when you are in close quarters with bothersome relatives and nosy neighbours, making it difficult to navigate conversations. A lot of my friends have confided in me about how this festival, where they wish to feel a sense of community, can easily become alienating and triggering. I also find myself dreading Christmas a little, now that I am more open and out to my family. Here is a list of things I recommend to ground ourselves, while keepin’ up with the festivities in our own ways.

Practising affirmations and grounding exercises:

An affirmation is just what it sounds like: it’s a thought that affirms and reassures you. Affirmations and grounding exercises can be your secret superpower while navigating the social settings of Christmas. Amidst all the traditions and holiday buzz, affirmations act like your personal cheerleaders.

Grounding exercises can provide moments of relief and help when dissociation hits. I have written 10 affirmations that you can use in situations that make you feel queasy. You can make your own affirmations and practise them however you like.

Here they are:

1) My life has meaning beyond what others think of me.

2) The people love me will be excited to accept the real me.

3) I deserve love without conditions.

4) I will give myself love unconditionally.

5) I am queer enough.

6) Others’ discomfort with who I am says more about them than it does about me.

7) I am deserving of happiness, regardless of societal expectations

8) I deserve to take up space.

9) I deserve to be listened to. 

10) I choose love, both for myself and for those who may not yet understand.

Grounding exercises help reconnect with the present moment and alleviate feelings of stress or anxiety. Here are some techniques you can try. Experiment with these grounding exercises to discover which ones work best for you. You can also combine them or modify them according to your preferences::

1.  Mindful Observation:

   – Find an object around you and focus on it intently.

   – Notice its colours, textures, and any unique details.

   – Describe the object in your mind or out loud.

2. Grounding through the Senses:

   – Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

3. Body Scan:

   – Close your eyes and bring your attention to different parts of your body, starting from your toes and moving up slowly toward your head.

   – Notice any tension or sensations and consciously relax each area.

4. Box Breathing:

   – Inhale for a count of four.

   – Hold your breath for a count of four.

   – Exhale for a count of four.

   – Pause for a count of four.

   – Repeat the sequence.

5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

    – Tense and then slowly release each muscle group in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up.

Set Boundaries:

Embrace your limits. It’s fine to put your well-being first. You’re allowed to prioritize self-care. And yes, one more time just to be clear—you’re allowed to prioritize self-care! Being part of the LGBTQ+ community sometimes comes with this unwritten rule that we should always be advocating for the community, behaving in a politically correct way, and trying to maintain peace. But here’s the thing: you have every right to set boundaries that keep you safe, happy, and healthy. You absolutely don’t have to endure uncomfortable situations, like attending a Christmas service at a church from your not-so-gay-friendly past or explaining your gender identity to your aunt during a car ride. Feel free to share your boundaries with your family in advance, or if that’s not your style, set them and stick to them as needed. Your well-being matters!

Celebrate the holidays with your chosen family too:

Celebrate the holidays with your chosen family! Society often insists that the “right” way to spend holidays is with our biological families. In places like Mumbai, which I call home, there’s a cool thing called “Orphan Christmas.” It’s when friends who aren’t heading home, gather to celebrate it together instead. But why should hanging out with friends need a special label? It can just as well be Christmas, Diwali, Eid or Navroz. Many of my close friends are like family to me; we’re there for each other through thick and thin. We’ve shared living spaces, food, belongings, and even chipped in for each other’s expenses. From doctor visits to helping out with surgeries, we’ve got each other’s backs. So, remember to celebrate holidays with those supportive folks in your life, even if it means a virtual hangout for those who are not nearby!

Make an exit strategy:

If things get too intense, a pre-planned exit strategy will save you time and energy. You could discuss and dial up a friend during an emergency or say that you have to leave at a certain time. Give yourself permission to leave if things get overwhelming. You don’t have to stay super late. You can stay in a hotel or a friend’s place instead of sleeping on your parents’ couch. Do what you need to do to give yourself the out you need.

I am also writing a list of things you can do with your chosen family or by yourself to keep up with the spirit of Christmas when things get a little overwhelming with your biological family:

1) Cooking and Baking (and Eating):

Dive into the Christmas spirit by whipping up delicious treats! From Plum cakes to Wine cakes, let the kitchen be your holiday haven. Share the love by gifting these goodies to your chosen and biological family—or, if you’re feeling a bit selfish, keep the cake all to yourself. Who says a little dessert binge isn’t allowed?

2) Making Art:

Get crafty and add your personal touch to the holidays! Knit those ugly sweaters, design quirky gift cards, or create your own Christmas decorations. It’s a festive DIY extravaganza, and your artistic flair is the star.

3) Buying Gifts and Secret Santa:

Spread some festive joy by picking out thoughtful gifts for your chosen family. Personally, I love buying gifts. I love thinking about what the person likes and what will make them smile as they unwrap it. You could also do a Secret Santa exchange – it’s all about adding that extra sparkle to the holiday magic.

4) Queer Christmas Movies Marathon:     

Grab some popcorn and indulge in a movie marathon! There are plenty queer movies with the backdrop of Christmas. (One of my favs is “Carol”!) . Xmas is the perfect time to cozy up and feel the warmth of inclusive stories.

(You could also watch sad lesbian movies and cry like I do. Crying is healthy cmon!)

Also read: Queer Christmas: For the love of Classics, Sapphics, and Genre-Benders

5) Drag-themed X-mas House Parties with Chosen Family:

Light up your holiday celebrations with some fabulousness! Host a drag-themed Christmas house party with your chosen family, where self-expression meets glam. I don’t know about you, but the idea of dressing up as a sexy Reindeer gives me a lot of gender euphoria.

6) Xmas Workout??:

Keep the endorphins coming! Whether it’s a Christmas-themed exercise routine or a brisk winter walk, stay active and jolly throughout the season. PS: It also helps you deal with disordered eating, if you’re like me.

7) Blasting Out the Christmas Carols (a.k.a. Christmas Karaoke):

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart” Cue in the George Micheal and Mariah Carrey! Turn up the volume and bring out your inner popstar! Host a Christmas Karaoke session with your chosen family, and belt out your favourite carols for a night of pure, harmonious joy.

8) Write Letters to Santa:

SANTA EXISTS (Lemme hold onto my childhood please)! Write letters to Santa, sharing your desires, dreams, and quirkiest wishes. After all, ’tis the season for unfiltered joy and hope.

9) Go Church-hopping:

Make the holiday season memorable by exploring different churches with your chosen family. It’s kinda unconventional but nevertheless, a heartwarming way to bond, share experiences, and celebrate the faith. Do make sure that your safety isn’t compromised though, as homophobia can be an issue at religious places like churches.

10) Plan a Christmas Photoshoot or Make a Christmas Vlog:

Capture the holiday magic in style! Plan a Christmas photoshoot or create a vlog showcasing how we slay the festive season. It’s a unique way of sharing the joy with the world. There might be someone who needs to see queer joy during traditional festivities.

‘Tis the season for festive fun, so let the celebrations begin!

Editor’s Note: Last but not least, don’t forget the Palestinian socialist man whose birthday you’re celebrating and whose land is being colonialised and whose descendants are being terminated in a Zionist-led genocidal campaign.

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Kashish Sharma (she/they) is a Physics grad, who writes, sings, and writes the songs she sings. She is the author of "Haiku from the Heart" and has recieved the "Reader-Leader" award at Katha Utsav for her short stories. When she is not nerding out on string theory or strumming her guitar at unholy hours, she can be found having an existential crisis at your local beach.
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