Four Tips for Surviving the Holidays with Your Family

surviving the holidays

Queerphobia. Racism. Misogyny.  

No, I’m not talking about the Trump administration. I’m talking about…


Alright, excuse the cynicism. I know that for a lot of us, the holidays are a totally magical time. To be honest, they are for me, too. Seriously, what is better for the soul than the glow of freshly lit candles and twinkling fairy lights? (In my home, we celebrate Hanukah and Christmas.) Oh, and gift wrap! The many, many colored and textured variations of gift wrap.

And, of course, not all of us have misogynistic, queerphobic, and/or racist family members that we are forced to spend time with during the winter festivities. 

But let’s be real. ‘Tis the season for cramming lots of people who have almost nothing in common other than a shared bloodline together under one sweltering roof, right?  

That means my fellow queers mingling with aunt Millie who recently attended a Don’t Say Gay Rally in Florida (queerphobia). It means your cousin casually using a horrible racial slur at the dinner table (racism). It means women slaving away in the kitchen while men watch football (or something) and call for more beer (my personal favorite example of ingrained cultural misogyny: women’s free labor intended to coddle and serve consumerist men). In other words, for those of us who believe in equality and human rights, the holidays can prove to be something of an oy rather than a joy.  

But fear not, Fellow Feminists. Here is a quick guide to getting you through those excruciatingly awkward holiday moments. I’m talking about those “do I or don’t I say something here?” and those “do I even belong at this family gathering?” moments. Then, you can get back to focusing on what really matters: Cookies. Or pie. Or turkey. Or eggnog. Or latkes. Or couscous. Or whatever. I think you get my drift.

And, love. Lots and lots of love. 

But I’ll get to that in Tip 4. 

Without further ado, here are… 


Tip 1: Pick an ally. 

I know the word “ally” has come to mean a cisgender or heterosexual person who is in support of the queer community. What I mean here, though, is the war definition. AKA pick someone you can trust who you know is on your team and stick to them. 

This can be someone who you know is going to be at that awkward holiday gathering, like your favorite cousin. Any time things get weird, just squeeze each other’s hand, exchange a look that says “I got you,” or put on your parkas and head outside for some fresh, non-trigger-scented air.  

Or, it can be someone who won’t be present at all, like your best friend. If your ally is going to be far away, then make a texting pact. They can text you when they are feeling uneasy, and you can do the same. Knowing that you are not alone when the going gets rough can make all the difference.  

Tip 2: Take 5. 

Do you know that childhood tip of counting to 10 when you are angry? The one that says don’t say anything until you’ve calmed down? That really, really works in adult life too. 

If something/someone triggers you during the holidays, give yourself permission not to react. Not at first, anyway. Take a second to breathe and collect your thoughts. 

My other personal favorite piece of conflict advice is that, with the exception of emergencies, there are no conversations that can’t wait ’til tomorrow. This is not to be confused with pacifism. Any and all issues should eventually be addressed in due time.

It’s the due time part that helps avoid explosive conflict and emotional shitshows. Take five. De-stress. Then act. 

Tip 3: Establish boundaries. 

This one is probably the hardest one. With all the nuances of family dynamics, not to mention the deep, ingrained history, it can be hard to stand up for yourself. 

But I’m telling you that setting boundaries is not only okay to do so. It is a must! It is perfectly acceptable to calmly and rationally explain that certain behaviors are not appreciated and will not be tolerated. Period.

Tip 4: Find the love and hold on tight. 

This is by far the most important one. Even with all of our differences, the one reason we come together during the holiday season is love. So, make a mental list of everyone you love in the room and remind yourself that you are there for them and that they are there for you.

Then embrace that feeling and never let it go. 

Simha Haddad is an American writer based in Southern California. She is a reporter for The Los Angeles Blade (one of America's oldest LGBT newspapers) and the author of the queer fiction novel, Somewhere on This Rainbow. Simha is also the lead writer for The Georgia Hollywood Review's LGBTQIA+ section as well as a contributor to Feminist Book Club. Her short stories and other articles have appeared in various publications.

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