Let me begin this post by stating that it is for the benefit of LGBTQ+ people to learn from and relate to – but it is just as crucial for you to carry on reading if you aren’t gay.
Christmas’ origin is within the religion of Christianity – which idealises heteronormative (heteronormativity is denoting to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the ‘normal’ or preferred sexual orientation) narratives – and so this can often be an alienating time of year for people in our community. It is important to recognise that Christmas is a large part of Western and British culture and that heteronormativity takes many forms and effects most things societally, including the festive holiday. Therefore, queer people are often left feeling uncomfortable, worried or silenced during the Christmas period.
Why Christmas is different for LGBTQ+ people…
1) Going to church is a very bizarre and potentially isolating experience. The idea of a ‘nuclear family’ is predominantly still viewed as the appropriate and ideal family structure and as LGBTQ+ rights (such as gay marriage) have only just, within the last decade, started to be recognised by the church and State, this could potentially put queer people in uncomfortable positions.
2) Christmas appears to be mostly for straight people – most Christmas cards that are designed for couples feature a man and a woman on the front, depicting heterosexuality, just as is the case for most major occasions (birthdays, Easter and anniversaries etc.). This is also the same for Christmas films and media. If queer productions are made, they tend to be low-budget and low-quality, equating to a poor representation of the LGBTQ+ community. All of this furthers the heteronormative status quo.
3) Making your own family. It’s not always possible for gay people to be open about their sexuality whilst also maintaining safety within their own home or in front of their own family. Alternatively, most queer people have to look beyond their relatives to find safety, comfort and acceptance within their lives. Your friends become your ‘chosen family’, demonstrating that LGBTQ+ communities rely more heavily on their friends and develop more intense relationships than that of heterosexual people.
4) Estrangement from your family: around 25% of homeless people identify as LGBTQ+ (according to an article published by Harvey Day in 2017) and of this percentage, more than 75% of them said they left home because of parental abuse or rejection.
Tanya Compas’ ‘Queer Black Christmas’…
Tanya Compas (she/they) is the founder of Exist Loudly which is a charity and grassroots organisation which creates spaces of joy, community and care for Black LGBTQ+ youth from London through creative intervention. Every year she organises Queer Black Christmas for people who are likely to be estranged from their parents.
“Queer Black Christmas is a festive event which takes place once a year. It provides young, queer, Black people with the chance to celebrate the Christmas season in a safe space. What makes this space ‘safe’, is not the physical room, but the likeminded people that you get the chance to share it with: other queer, black people that without having to open your mouth to utter a single word, know you. There’s this sacred kinship that binds you together. There’s no need to hide or shrink parts of yourself to fit into the space: it is infinite in volume and crafted perfectly to make room for you. Unfortunately, it is too well known to queer black folks, just how conflicting just black spaces or just queer spaces can be for your identity. You’re ‘too black’ for white-centred LGBTQ+ events and ‘too queer’ for time with kinfolk. You’re constantly swapping one hat for another like some poorly organised costume change but here you’re welcome to be all of you, all at once.”Natasha Burton, a Black and queer student from Manchester
It is paramount that heterosexual people have a good knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community and how heteronormativity effects our everyday lives as queer people. Christmas is the ‘Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ according to Andy Williams, but for some it can be a very difficult. With Christmas being the family-orientated period that it is, there is greater opportunity for toxic family members – who are more likely to be prejudice and inappropriate towards you regarding your sexual orientation or gender identity – to show their true colours. These judgements and conversations are not welcomed at any time of the year, but it is particularly alarming, worrying and inexcusable during the festive period, where people want to feel and should be allowed to feel, vulnerable, loved and protected by those around them. It is the collective responsibility of straight allies to educate yourselves and to actively create safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ people around you! Do not make being part of the LGBTQ+ community any harder than it already is.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I believe it is paramount to point out ways in which you can truly make Christmas a ‘Queermas’. Whilst there isn’t an abundance of gay Christmas films out there, it’s worth checking out the ones that do exist! My top recommendations are; Single All the Way (2021), Season of Love (2019) and Happiest Season (2020). Christmas is typically a time spent with family and most students go home from university for the holidays. Make sure to arrange and plan things with your chosen family so as to ease the negativity of being in a space that toxic family members might also occupy. This could be a gay Christmas film night or a trip to the Christmas markets.
It is also crucial to consider queer-related presents to gift to your fellow LGBTQ+ friends and family. For example, gifting someone with a binder shows your support to someone questioning their gender identity and wishing to achieve their ‘gender euphoria’, acting as more than just a physical present.
As we are still living in uncertain times regarding COVID-19, for anyone looking for accessible resources and support spaces during the Christmas period, please refer to the charities and websites listed below (all of which are online and so COVID-friendly).
How to help…
Tanya Compas’ charity requires funding to go ahead as a major brand deal stopped sponsoring her last-minute. Please donate what you can and save Queer Black Christmas!
Below is a list of LGBTQ+ friendly charities, websites and general information: