How to be an LGBTQIA+ Ally This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time for joy, togetherness, and celebration. It’s a period where families and friends gather to share love and create lasting memories. However, amid the merry ambiance, it’s important to recognize that not everyone experiences the holidays in the same way. The holidays can prove to be a stressful and challenging time for many people for various reasons.

For LGBTQIA+ individuals in particular, this time of year can sometimes bring unique challenges. In one report of over 1,200 LGBTQIA+ youth, 67% reported hearing their family members make negative comments about their community, and less than ¼ of them felt like they could fully be their authentic self around their family members. Understanding and offering support to ensure an inclusive and affirming environment can make a world of difference and go a long way toward making the holiday season less stressful and more joyful for everyone. Here are some ways to be an LGBTQIA+ ally this holiday season:

Offer Support and Validation

The holidays bring people together who may not otherwise see each other often, providing a unique opportunity to foster understanding. A simple message that demonstrates care and acceptance can make a significant difference. In a recent literature review, Ryan and co-authors explained that individuals are more likely to feel comfortable expressing their authentic selves and identities in contexts where they believe they will be supported by others and, further, that this social support is integral for their wellbeing [1].

If someone feels comfortable expressing their identity to you, offer support and validation. Your willingness to listen and support might make them feel more comfortable being themselves this holiday season. You can also signal your support by displaying LGBTQIA+ friendly decorations, symbols, and by using gender neutral language in your invitations or holiday cards to create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

Respect Boundaries and Identities

Understand that not everyone may be “out” or comfortable discussing their identity openly. Respect their privacy and allow individuals to share what they feel comfortable sharing, without pressure or assumptions. If possible, you may want to reach out prior to gathering to see what ways you can make an LGBTQIA+ guest feel supported and accepted. For example, correcting someone else for using the wrong pronouns may seem like you are being a good ally, but you may unintentionally out the person if they are not fully “out.” Protect their privacy and respect that different individuals may have varying levels of comfort discussing their identity with others.

An article in Out Maine also highlighted the importance of letting people decide what type and level of participation they would like to have during holiday events. For instance, if they are hesitant about attending specific gatherings or have developed new traditions that make them feel more comfortable, don’t pressure them to put themselves in situations that make them uncomfortable. Everyone is different and it is important to not to make assumptions. Be supportive while granting them the agency to speak for themselves.

Embrace Inclusivity in Traditions

One way to support LGBTQIA+ individuals during the holidays is by embracing inclusive traditions and being open to making changes in your own holiday customs. For example, the director of research science at The Trevor Project, Dr. Price, wrote that it might be worth skipping traditional holiday parties that may be uncomfortable for LGBTQIA+ individuals and opting for gatherings with supportive others or “chosen families” instead [2]. The holidays are meant to be a time of togetherness and celebration, so what better way to foster this than to create new traditions that bring folks together!

Use Gender-Neutral Language and Gifts

Being mindful of the language used during holiday gatherings is important. Think about using inclusive terms that encompass everyone present. Instead of assuming someone’s gender identity, use neutral language or ask for individuals’ preferred pronouns. You can provide your own pronouns when introducing yourself to new people. This simple act of respect can go a long way in creating a welcoming atmosphere. It can also be extremely uncomfortable for people to receive gendered gifts that are not gender-affirming. If you are unsure, it might be better to gift something gender neutral or to ask the person whether there is anything they would really enjoy receiving during the holiday season.

Support LGBTQIA+ Organizations

Consider supporting LGBTQIA+ organizations during the holidays. Whether through donations, volunteering, or participating in their events, contributing to these organizations can help create a more inclusive society year-round. There are many wonderful LGBTQIA+ organizations that you can support, and you may find that there are local organizations that are making a difference for LGBTQIA+ people in your community.

Educate Yourself and Others

Take the initiative to educate yourself and others about LGBTQIA+ issues. There are numerous resources available, from books and documentaries to online articles and workshops. In fact, our website includes some great sources to get you started! Check out our blogs about current research about LGBTQIA+ individuals and common myths about sexual orientation. Share knowledge with others to foster a more understanding and inclusive environment.

Spread Love and Acceptance

Above all, the holiday season is about spreading love and acceptance. Embrace the diversity within your circle and celebrate the unique identities and experiences of each individual. By fostering an atmosphere of love and acceptance, you can create a space where everyone can feel accepted. Let’s remember to extend warmth and support to all, including our LGBTQIA+ friends, family, and community members. By fostering inclusivity, respecting identities, and creating a welcoming environment, we can ensure that everyone feels valued and celebrated during this joyous time of year.

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References:

[1] Ryan, W. S., & Ryan, R. M. (2019). Toward a social psychology of authenticity: Exploring within-person variation in autonomy, congruence, and genuineness using Self-Determination Theory. Review of General Psychology, 23(1), 99–112.

[2] Myeshia Price, Ph. D. (2023, January 29). How to support our LGBTQIA+ youth this holiday season. Parents. https://www.parents.com/how-to-support-our-lgbtqia-youth-this-holiday-season-6944835

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