Christmas in my house used to be a veritable sea of unspecified but nonetheless compulsory expectations that would bite us whatever we tried to do. “We don’t mind when you come, as long as you come,” would be the trap, only later to be sprung: “I can’t believe you didn’t love us enough to come during this previously unspecified and very narrow window!”
For me as a teenager, Christmas was a collection of guilt-ridden traumas where I had stepped in a trap that no-one knew was there. It was only decades later that I realised that the fault was not mine. That those traps were sometimes only set after I had stepped. That I was doomed to be the cause of conflict regardless of how carefully I aligned my footprints.
It’s not easy to appreciate Christmas when you have been meticulously trained to know that thermonuclear detonations are moments away at any given time. The detonations may be in my past, but the scars are very present.
But I know that, for some, the detonations are not in the past. They are ever present dangers. For some, Christmas is a time of unavoidable contact with racism, with homophobia, with transphobia, with unacknowledged privilege. A time when you have to swallow or muffle your identity merely to survive.
I know it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s for the sake of Grandma, who is a sweetheart and would be devastated if we didn’t all get together… or for the kids, who love Christmas and their cousins and don’t hear the subtext…
But I want you to know one thing, and hold it tightly. You don’t owe anyone so much that you should ever have to hide yourself.
If you have to pretend to be someone else. To hide yourself away just to keep the peace. To bury your gender, your sexuality, your background, your politics, or anything else you care about, just to try to get through the day?
Maybe it’s time to create another day. They say you can’t choose your family, but you absolutely can. My family loves me unconditionally. They don’t hesitate to wield the frying pan of enlightenment when I’m being dumb, but they do it with love, and they catch me when I stumble. Some of them are related to me by blood, but many are not. I have chosen my family. They are local, interstate, and overseas, and I can trust them with my heart. Always.
It has taken me a long time to learn this, but nobody has the right to make you feel less than you are. To make you feel smaller. To deny your identity. To ask you to be someone you’re not.
You have the right – the NEED – to move on from those people, and to choose your own family. And if that means changing Christmas day, then change away, my friends.
Choose your own family, carve your own space, and be true to yourself. Life is too short for anything else.