Do you have to go back in the closet for Christmas?
The festive period can be a particularly difficult time for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.
For some, going home or taking their partner home just isn’t an option.
They may be open about their lives to some close family but feel forced back into the closet around those they haven’t yet come out to.
Or they might not be out at all yet and currently dreading the annual dodging of questions about their dating life.
Jon*, 29, said: ‘My family have generally been incredibly accepting and supportive of me but I know when I was younger and before I came out Christmas did feel incredibly isolating – like I was holding back this secret.
‘I would find it totally understandable if people struggled. Sometimes you feel like you have to “tone it down” or “keep quiet” about being gay in a way that straight people don’t.’
Tasha*, 24, said: ‘The first Christmas after coming out was quite an interesting one. There were a lot of questions alluding to my sexuality but never actually about it – which I think I would have preferred actually.
‘My advice to families would be that if you’re struggling to understand just be honest – ask the questions even if you think it might be uncomfortable.
‘There were a lot of awkward silences – particularly with older members of the family. But actually when it comes down to it – everyone just enjoys being together and stuffing their faces with turkey.
‘And I think being honest has actually brought us all a lot closer.’
Stonewall Chief Executive Ruth Hunt told Metro.co.uk: ‘I was once asked my top tips for surviving Christmas “as a lesbian”.
‘I had barely started writing when it became clear to me that everyone has a different experience of our festive holiday.
‘To write tips that would ring true for all lesbians is an impossible – and not to say ridiculous – task.
‘What is true is that there’s no one or ‘right’ way to come out. It can take time to get to a point where you feel comfortable and confident enough to have those conversations with people.’
Annual family gatherings or Christmas parties might make people think seriously about coming out to those around them.
With that in mind, Ruth has come up with some handy advice to make getting through Christmas just that little bit more bearable.
Coming out at Christmas
Tried and tested advice put together by Ruth Hunt at Stonewall:
• A support system always helps – whether that’s a supportive friend willing to lend an ear or a trusted family member you can outline your fears or concerns to. Think about asking them to support you when you tell other people.
• Take the time to think about what you want to say: Some people prefer a face-to-face sit-down, while others prefer to write a letter or send an email. Both have their benefits, either allowing you to answer any questions people may have at the time, or giving the person time to process what you’re telling them before they respond.
• If you’re unsure of where to start, try joining an LGBT group or forum near you. Head to the What’s In my area? section of the Stonewall website to find out what’s running in your local community.
• If you have an LGBT loved one who is dreading navigating the festive season, make sure they know you are their ally. Be present, listen and lend your support when it’s needed. You really could be the difference that makes someone’s Christmas genuinely merry.
For more information, check out the Stonewall website here.
*names have been changed.
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