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Leading with respect this holiday season

12 December 2022 at 4:07 pm
Nevena Spirovska
There are some small, but meaningful, ways you can make your LGBTIQA+ friends and family feel more comfortable at the end-of-year parties, writes Nevena Spirovska.

Nevena Spirovska | 12 December 2022 at 4:07 pm


Leading with respect this holiday season
12 December 2022 at 4:07 pm

There are some small, but meaningful, ways you can make your LGBTIQA+ friends and family feel more comfortable at the end-of-year parties, writes Nevena Spirovska.

We all know that the holiday season is a time of year when our emotions are heightened, and the pressure to be happy can be overwhelming. It may also bring mixed feelings for many in the LGBTIQA+ community. As tinsel is strewn unceremoniously across everything from a sunburnt pine tree to a wonky neighbourhood letterbox, this time of year can amplify feelings of distance, disappointment, and anxiety.

When it comes to the holiday season, there can be an avalanche of emotions associated with whether or not we’re still in contact with our biological families, how much they know or don’t know about our lives, and whether or not we get to spend time with our loved ones and chosen families. 

Even just the everyday stress that comes with trying to do the grocery shopping with panicked buyers clutching enormous shopping lists rushing through the aisles all while Mariah Carey’s once-cherished tune plays in your head on endless repeat can be exhausting. The simple fact is that Christmas isn’t for everyone and doesn’t have to be for cultural, personal, or religious reasons. Even for no reason at all. Its over-amplification to the point of saturation means that it can feel nauseating to see so much red and green together. 

The celebration of Christmas, or lack thereof, how you engage with gifts and kringles, and even the well wishes you share, have become embroiled in a mindless, unnecessary and seemingly never ending culture war. More fringe elements of the media take advantage of the slower season to insist that we must be merry or else we will be placed on Santa’s notorious naughty list. All of this adds to the growing unease at a time when we desperately need some peace on earth.

Setting boundaries can be important in the workplace and beyond as functions and gatherings begin to pile up. If being around your biological relatives or your colleagues causes stress and despair, creating a sense of kinship and comfort with your chosen family can be a welcome way to enjoy the holidays more comfortably. A chosen family are the people in your life who love, support, respect, and accept you. They can be close friends, neighbours, or coworkers, and most importantly, they can support you to celebrate the holidays in a way that makes sense to you.

Being a strong ally can be just as important. During the holidays, showing your respect and support for a person’s pronouns, gender and gender identity, partner/s, and expression of self can provide important feelings of reassurance. This is especially true for younger people who are still on their journey of self and discovery. Visible displays of solidarity, such as wearing a Pride flag or a sign of allyship on your clothing like a pronoun badge, can also help. Don’t underestimate the simple act of asking for someone’s pronouns rather than assuming them. In not making the assumption a person’s sexuality based on their current or past relationships. Or in simply creating the trust and space for others to freely share whatever information they want with you.

These seemingly small gestures can all contribute to creating a holiday season that is more respectful, and more comfortable, for more people. If you make a mistake, which is inevitable given that we are all human, sincerely apologise for it and then move on.

Despite the fact that the cost of living is rising at an ever-increasing rate, showing respect for the people around you does not cost anything at all. It may even help you reclaim some of your own peace to slow down, take a moment to connect, and discover new things about colleagues and community members alike. 

Nevena Spirovska  |  @ProBonoNews

Nevena Spirovska is an LGBTIQA+ activist, campaigner and proud community volunteer. She has dedicated herself to the for-purpose sector and has been highly engaged with grassroots movements and campaigns supporting LGBTIQA+ equality, human rights, and addressing the drivers of structural disadvantage. Twitter: @NevenaSpirovska


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