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Why queer people choose to celebrate Christmas with their chosen families

By Michael Roy Brosas Published Nov 26, 2022 8:48 pm

Ahh, Christmas!

There's always something so exciting about the Christmas season. It may be everyone's collective enthusiasm for the festivities around us or the colorful decorations that deck our halls, but whatever it is, the season remains to be one of the most wonderful times of the year.

For some people, however, this season is a tough time for varied reasons. It can be difficult for people who are in a financial bind or for those who lost their loved ones within the year. It is also particularly hard for queer individuals who cannot be themselves in their own homes or whose biological families have outright rejected them.

Chosen families

It's unfortunate that to this day, there are still countless stories of queer people who find their homes unsafe or at the very least unaccepting. In a stubbornly heteronormative society, a lot of them are facing various forms of abuse and violence at the hands of their own relatives because of their sexuality. As a result, queer people search for love elsewhere by building their chosen families.

In a New York Times article, social worker Trevor Gates Crandall defines chosen families as "non-biological kinship bonds that many people choose because they need to have mutual support and love." They may be our partners, best friends, or anyone who gives us comfort and affection that our biological families are withholding. In a chosen family, there is love and respect regardless of blood or marriage.

So, while most people are looking forward to spending the holidays with their biological families, some queer individuals opt to spend it with people who embrace and celebrate them for who they are.

Move freely

Ree, 24, a banker, will be with her girlfriend this Christmas season, and it’ll be the first time she’ll be spending the holidays with someone special. According to her, part of the reason why she and her girlfriend decided to celebrate Christmas together is that they can “move freely” and be themselves—things they can't be if they spend the holidays with their respective biological families.

For queer people, being in the closet, especially around their own relatives is extremely isolating but oftentimes necessary. They have to hide an important part of themselves from the people they love out of fear of being judged or rejected because even with the recent developments in our society in terms of acceptance of the queer community, there's still so much stigma surrounding a person's sexuality.

While most people are looking forward to spending the holidays with their biological families, some queer individuals opt to spend it with people who embrace and celebrate them for who they are.

That's why Angel, 17, a student, has to be "careful" on family occasions like Christmas because being queer is an issue in their conservative household. She shares that her family often judges her for her gender expression and clothing preferences. Sadly, being underaged and having no source of income, she has “no choice” but to spend the holidays with her biological family.

Better and safer

Celebrating the holidays with their chosen families is a queer person's way of choosing to be in a space where they feel the safest and most loved. It is choosing to prioritize their own well-being rather than trying to fit in a place where they don't feel at home.

Ryan, 46, a grocery store worker, is in a "much better and safer place now" that he's spending the holidays with his gym family. Before this, he used to spend it with his ex-husband’s family, who gradually pushed him out after he started to medically transition as a trans man. In multiple instances, he recalls being deadnamed by his ex-mother-in-law and even hearing transphobic comments from them even before his transition. Luckily, he was able to meet very supportive people whom he’ll be celebrating the upcoming Christmas with.

Having a supportive community is very important for a queer person, especially during a largely family-oriented time. That's why even if her relationship with her biological family is okay, Gwen, 21, a working student, chooses to celebrate the holidays with her chosen family. According to her, she doesn't want anyone she loves to feel sad and alone during these times. "Being with them during the holidays can already make a huge impact," she added.

Stronger together

By being each other's families during this time, the queer community gets to build a world where love is at its core. Creating chosen families is a testament to their strength and resilience because even if the world has made them feel undeserving of love, they chose to nurture each other and give one another something the world cruelly refuses to share with them.

It's no wonder that in a chosen family's celebration, love is at its center. No amount of extravagant celebration can top one that welcomes everyone no matter who they are. Just like how Ryan spent his Friendsgiving with his gym family by getting together and having a potluck dinner.

After all, at the core of Christmas, whether you're religious or not, is a promise of unconditional and undiscriminating love for every single one.

Meanwhile, Gwen spent the previous holiday with her chosen family by "preparing the best dishes they could cook" and "talking about their plans like they’re in a coming-of-age movie." For her, it was "the best year-ender experience." She shares that they got to become the most vulnerable versions of themselves, which made their familial bond even stronger. By the time the celebration finished, they were all recharged and ready to face brand-new challenges.

A compassionate world

No matter how wonderful chosen families are, I wish to be in a world where it's no longer necessary. I hope to live in a society where queer people no longer have to look for love because it's freely given in our own homes. I dream of a compassionate world where we no longer have to hide our authentic selves during Christmas celebrations because we can be who we are without the fear of judgment and rejection.

However, I do recognize that this dream is still far from being fully realized, especially in a country where queer rights are still heavily debated. There is still a lot of work to do, and it starts with scrutinizing the current system which makes us believe that a person is less deserving of love because they are different. It is time that we look into a world that somehow made the most wonderful time of the year difficult and challenging for other people.

After all, at the core of Christmas, whether you're religious or not, is a promise of unconditional and undiscriminating love for every single one.