opinion

'Christmas can be hard for LGBTQ people - let's try to be more selfless and less selfish'

Those of us lucky enough to have homes to return to must look out for our friends and neighbours who don't, writes Amrou Al-Kadhi.

2019-12-19

This article first appeared in Attitude issue 304, January 2019

I loathe Christmas. The whole charade is designed to stir our anxieties the way that social media can, reminding us of the things we don’t have, while encouraging us to dream of things we want but might never have.

Streets become a Twitter stream of benchmarks to compare yourself with others: adverts of cohesive family units, collectively bathing in the generosity of loved ones, putting in focus the failures of our own family dynamics and the gift of acceptance we might never receive.

The advertising season that assaults our senses is rooted in imaginings of nuclear family units.

My family are Muslim and live in the Middle East so, living in London, it’s hard not to feel excluded, especially as a queer person of colour having suffered familial rejections.

But what I hate most about Christmas is the feeling of invisibility it provokes: the rhetoric that it’s the season “to switch off and be with the people that matter” makes me feel I don’t actually matter.

Most friends enjoy going “home to be with the people who love them” and I’m left feeling I’m not a real person in most people’s lives.

Christmas is also good at savaging self-worth. The more gifts you get, the more proof you have that you are worthy of love.

So, when you wake up on Christmas Day and the only stocking you have is the smelly ripped one from last week’s drag show, it’s hard not to feel devoid of value.

Christmas is designed to satisfy privileged normative social constructs, the idea that you have a stable home to return to, that your family are accepting of you.

I worry that it detracts our attention from the millions of immigrants and refugees who have no firm sense of home in Europe.

In an increasingly xenophobic Britain, Christmas risks amplifying feelings of cultural otherness. And many people in the LGBTQ community, myself included, don’t have an accepting family to go home to.

So, as surroundings compel you to focus on yourself and family first — basically Darwinism with tinsel — try to do at least one thing to help someone struggling to belong this festive season.

I’m now lucky to have a drag family, one of whom is inviting me to their home in Lancashire this Christmas.

Is there someone who you can invite over for Christmas Day?

Trust me, the invitation means everything. And when splashing out on those gifts, perhaps give some money to charities that help LGBTQ migrants, young homeless people or an organisation aiding the displaced.

If Christmas really ‘tis the season to be jolly, let’s make a collective effort to help somebody else feel that way.