Forward: I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude to the Hollis Brookline High School GSA for their overwhelming support for this article. This article isn’t about my opinion- it’s intended as a showcase of LGBTQ+ voices on their experiences with acceptance. To everyone who may not feel accepted at home, please know that through this holiday season, and all throughout the year, you are loved and do belong. If you are struggling, the school counselors, teachers, and students at Hollis Brookline High School are here for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You are worth it.
The holidays are all about family. As Al Stillman so eloquently put it in his 1954 song, Home for the Holidays: “there’s no place like home for the holidays / ‘Cause no matter how far away you roam / If you wanna to be happy in a million ways / For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home!”. Yet, across the world, many LQBTQ+ people aren’t welcome at home, even during such a traditionally joyous time of year.
While the issue may seem a bit detached to some, family rejection affects LGBTQ+ all around the world. Here at HBHS,for Miles ‘21, November and December can be particularly difficult emotionally. “The holidays can be an especially tough time for LGBTQ+ people, especially those like myself, that are either not out to their families or have very non-accepting families, because the holidays are generally a time when you are around your family… if you are a minor…That’s usually a low point for myself and for a lot of us, just having having to be around all that negativity and knowing that people there… might not accept you… is a lot more difficult than it is in day to day life.”
Fellow sophomore and Gay-Straight Alliance member, Katie Ferdinand ‘year, echoed Miles’ sentiment, describing the season as “uncomfortable” for those who don’t receive unconditional love and acceptance from family members. Inherently, large get-togethers with extended family are bound to be awkward, but knowing your identity isn’t validated by the “people who you are told are supposed to love you” can be devastating. “The holidays are about being open, giving, and putting aside differences… [yet when] you see other families love [their children], it’s just that extra level of hurt that not even your family will accept you,” said Ferdinand.
For those readers who are fortunate enough to have loving, accepting families- take a moment and imagine coming home after school, and knowing that your parents disregard one of your defining qualities. As many LGBTQ+ youth and adults alike are aware, the effects are often crushing.
“Accepting your LGBTQ family members and including them in holiday celebrations is a really important thing, a very caring thing to do… I do have some friends who have had difficulties with that. I have some friends who are homeless and can’t go home to their parents, who have to spend their holidays looking for another meal, [and] the only thing they have is access to social media,” said Jess Putney ‘20.
According to the Trevor Project, a leading LGBTQ+ crisis intervention center, “LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.” Psychologically, the staggering statistic isn’t all that surprising. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, a scale for determining the succession of human necessities, suggests that the first psychological need, and the third tier on the pyramid, is a sense of love and belonging. Especially in a young person’s life, family tends to play a large role in individual development. However, family plays an even more basic role in the hierarchy of needs: safety and stability. Though the path of someone’s needs is far more intricate than the pyramid can describe, without a sense of belonging at home, focusing other aspects of life is quite challenging.
In response to the suffering of rejected LGBTQ+ youth, Your Holiday Mom has been fighting to make children feel accepted regardless of their familial status. Started by the mother of a transgender son, Robin Rice, the “online space [is a place] where supportive moms gather to post a holiday message to all LGBTQ children, teens and adults who are without family support and who would like a ‘stand-in’ holiday family.”
Any mom can submit a loving, and positive letter to the LGBTQ+ people who don’t receive acceptance from their own families. “We know that not every mom is ready to accept her own LGBTQ child exactly as-is (as hard as this is for us moms here to imagine), so we have written to extend our love beyond that of our own family.”
For peers and allies alike, helping LGBTQ+ youth is even simpler than writing a letter. “For allies, especially if you have LGBTQ+ friends, just reach out to them if they want to talk. Be someone that they can talk to… that they know will accept them. Let them know that you are there for them and that you support them,” said Miles.
Sometimes, especially for relatives of LGBTQ+ people, just being there is enough, according to Rowan Gingras ‘20. “I was at a family gathering and I had just come out to my extended family over Facebook… and my cousins had all individually approached me telling me that they were accepting and that they’d try their best to get my name and pronouns right. My trans cousin Christin stayed by me the whole night, and that was really great. But then a family member dead-named me — dead-naming is using the wrong name — publicly, while giving a toast, and that really hurt. I guess, Christin… must have known how much that hurt, because she went through it before, so she stayed by me the rest of the night, and that made it better.”
These stories are solely a small sampling of experiences by LGBTQ+ people, but they are indicative of a greater trend- a feeling of love and understanding is especially important around the holidays. As we head into winter break, please remember to be especially accepting of your LGBTQ+ family members, friends, and peers. Reach out to your LGBTQ+ friends, offer to talk, or maybe choose to support an LGBTQ+ related charity this holiday season. Now, like always, is a time for respect and love. Happy holidays and enjoy the winter break!
*Please Note- some surnames were excluded for privacy purposes.