The holidays can be full of joy and excitement, but they can also be a time of anxiety and loneliness. For trans and nonbinary folks, the difficulties of going home for the holidays — or the often-fraught decision to not go home — can be immense. But there are ways to cope with the holidays when you’re trans, because no matter what it might feel like, you are not alone.
Oftentimes, the overwhelming emphasis on "traditional" families and romantic love during the holidays can trigger feelings of depression, especially for LGBTQ people. In a recent article, The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, acknowledged how difficult the holidays can be.
“Family time tends to be magnified during the holidays, and self-care can be an important step in identifying ways to support ourselves,” said Dr. Tia Dole, chief clinical operations officer for The Trevor Project.
Self-care can look like any number of things — your favorite stim toy, journaling, taking any medications, setting firm boundaries for yourself, etc. — and it often includes reaching out when you need community.
“I try my best to surround my self with the family I have found throughout the years,” says Tobias, 26. “I know that even if my blood relatives don't accept me and the loneliness feels almost too much to deal with I have my friends, even when we can't be together in person.” Making sure you stay in touch with your found family can be so helpful in keeping you afloat during the season — I know that’s how I’m going to get through it as a trans human, even when I know I’ll feel alone and depressed in a too-crowded, too-happy room.
Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness told The Trevor Project that carving out time for yourself — even and especially if you’re home for the holidays — can be just as vital. “Taking time to try something new that you’re really excited about, can be really helpful when dealing with social anxiety during the holidays because it gives you something to look forward to and to get to know yourself better.” Especially when you might be feeling alone and hopeless, creating space for yourself and only yourself can sometimes be the greatest way to show yourself the love you deserve.
Singer Sam Smith acknowledged recently on their Instagram that the holidays can be an especially difficult time to love yourself and your body. But, they said, "Let’s make sure we remind our bodies during this time that no matter what weight we are, we are deserving of love and acceptance. Let’s love our fluctuating bodies. Look in that mirror and shower that reflection with Christmas kindness. [...] You aren’t alone."
Even when you try to practice that self-love, though, sometimes it feels like nothing will help. As a trans person with multiple mental illnesses, I know that every day can be a huge struggle, especially when people around you are in a holiday cheer mode that you just can’t seem to access. But you can get through that struggle.
If you need to, you can reach out and receive free support 24/7 from The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline or TrevorText services by calling (866) 488-7386 or texting START to 678678. You can also go online to access TrevorChat for confidential online instant messaging with a Trevor counselor. You can also access a 24/7 hotline run by and for trans people called the Trans Lifeline by calling (877) 565-8860 from the U.S. or (877) 330-6366 from Canada.
From one trans person to another, I know even when things seem to be at their most difficult, you can handle the holiday season.
“Keep pushing,” Tobias tells Bustle. “The holidays will pass soon enough.” Because, they say, “No matter how awful it feels, no matter how alone you feel, someone cares about you.”