By Kristen McCallum
Somewhere someone is dreading the days others are gleefully anticipating. The anxiety that’s building isn’t for gift-wrapped surprises or long-awaited reunions; it’s for acceptance, support and visibility. Somewhere that someone is you.
Every year I go into the holiday season acknowledging that you and many might be preparing to sit at a dinner table and intentionally leave out your stories for the sake of safety or well-being. I can empathize with your feelings of discomfort, the shame, and pressure because that was once me.
It’s stifling if you’re gathering with close family and/or friends who share very opposite and often times derogatory viewpoints about non-heteronormative or non-cisnormative identities – one of which is proudly yours. And yes, I said proudly. I find it problematic that some believe the inability or unwillingness to “come out” to your loved ones right away is due to a lack of pride. The factors involved in a process as revealing and sometimes traumatic as “coming out” can’t possibly be boiled down to whether or not you’re proud of who you are. Sometimes you just don’t know enough to explain, or you’re just not ready…which is okay. Whatever your reasons are or aren’t, don’t take away from how hard it is to feel like you have to put them away on special occasions.
As an adult, I always remember how many times I opted for the “single and too busy” response to questions about dating, instead of getting into the complications of the last “two-week honeymoon.” I didn’t know exactly how they would have responded to the alternative answers had I attempted them, but it was always easier for me to just joke about getting back with my ex-boyfriend because that never set off alarms.
It was easier since I’m feminine-presenting. I never really had anyone question my orientation, so I became complacent in that for a while. I’m sympathetic to you Trans and/or gender non-conforming individuals who are subjected to disrespect regarding your appearance. So much so, that you might feel pressured into presenting in a manner that is “non-threatening” to the ideals and ideas of your loved ones by silencing your own personal expression. And, in a moment when self-care in this society is so undervalued and so under-practiced, I just want to remind you that you are important. Your identity and thoughts are important. Your struggle is important and you are not invisible.
So as you’re thinking about it all, just keep in mind that somewhere I, along with your fierce family of queer and trans sisters and brothers, am raising a glass in celebration of you and your strength this holiday season.
Kristen McCallum is a writer living in Washington Heights, NYC. Growing up in a Jamaican family has made coming out quite the journey. Determined to finally find her place in the QWOC community, Kristen feels new to all of this but it still feels like home. To see more of her work, including her original poetry, visit her website at www.kristen-mccallum.com.