By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT ColumnistAs the song goes “Soon it will be Christmas day” so does the time go! Before you know it, summer is gone, autumn flies by and it is here. Yes, the holiday season is upon us and tis the season to be jolly and to be with the family and celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the like. For some LGBT folks it is not a very nice time of year. Sometimes we are excluded from family gatherings because of who we are. I know that some LGB people have a very difficult time but in this column I want to explore what may happen during the holidays if you are transgender, especially if you are a transwoman.
Some transgender people are completely shunned from their family’s celebration. There is no way that a family invite will come. Lines have been crossed and bridges have been seemingly burned. There is no room for compromise here. It’s all or nothing and the transperson gets nothing. No invite, no gift, no card, no call, no love, nothing.
Then there are those who will be invited to family functions but they are invited only as their previous gender, not their real gender. For transwomen that means no skirts, no dresses, no blouses, and no make-up. The “acceptable uniform” is androgynous at best. Transwomen who have children and/or grandchildren are some who may fall into this category. “Dad,” “grandpa” or “uncle” are the greetings for these transwomen and their former name is used continually throughout the day. Hearing their old name continually may feel like bullets hitting you all day long. By the end of the day you are psychologically beaten down. Yes, it is wonderful to see your family, but what a price to pay!
Still some others may attend family functions as who they are but they may not do so on the actual holiday. They get to see their family usually in the weekend before the holidays or maybe a day or two afterward. It is at that time that they can see their children or their mom, dad, sibling and other family members. On the day of these “off date” functions things may go well and it appears to be normal. Could it be that progress is being made? Maybe, but come the actual holiday there may be no invite. The progress stops at that point.
At the top of the list are those who are accepted into their families as who they are and the family members will invite them to celebrate on the actual date with all the rest of the other relatives. This is total acceptance and I say “Thank you and I love you!!” to all of those family members who will invite you as you for the holidays. These folks are Angels! If you are transgender and you have such people in your family please hug them and love them. You are fortunate to have such wonderful support.
To the family members who aren’t quite 100% behind us but they are doing their best to process it, I say “Thank you and please continue trying!” To those who are 50-50 I say “Please choose love.” To those who are less than 50% I say please try to understand.” Finally, to those who are 100% against us I say “Please listen to our story before you decide.” When you hear someone’s personal story, you just might understand them better. How can you hate someone when you’ve heard their story?
For those who have members of their family wrestling with us being transgender the best we can do is to try to enjoy the holidays. Wherever you are with respects to your family please try to enjoy. Smile! Laugh! Love! Hug! These kinds of things will only help. If you do get into a gender conversation, please keep it respectful even if it isn’t respectful towards you. We must take the high road on this one. To slink down to the low road may mean shouting matches, saying things that you might regret later on and overall bad feelings afterward.
To those of us who will be alone on the holidays I suggest planning something ahead of time, which will fill those holiday hours. Hook up with a friend who is in the same boat as you and do something together. Go over to your friend’s house and watch a movie. Maybe go out to a theater? The movie houses are busy on those days and it might be nice to get out. Afterward you might be lucky and find a Chinese restaurant that is open.
Last year I was fortunate enough to spend the day with my old boyfriend who does not celebrate the holidays. There are surprisingly many people who do not celebrate the holidays so ask around and see what your friends are doing.
If you cannot connect with someone else you could always plan to stay home alone. Get something that you like to eat and enjoy being at home. Maybe work on a project, create, paint or redecorate a little that day. Find something that is good for your soul and enjoy it! Listen to your favorite songs! Read one of your favorite books! Surround yourself with things that you love and the holiday hours will quickly pass.
Of course you can always go on line and social network. You can see what others are doing, feeling sharing etc. Oh, and don’t forget that Trans FM will be broadcasting every day all though the holiday season stating on the evening of December 13 and running straight through to December 25 at midnight. You can catch this broadcast on the internet. Search for Trans FM and hook into Ethan St. Pierre as he airs his annual “Hellidaze” broadcast. Ethiee will get you through the rough spots and he will brighten up your holidays or “hellidaze” as he calls it.
Realizing where you are with respects to your family, successfully dealing with it and planning ahead to fill the holiday hours, may bring you some Peace this holiday season!
* Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has 3 grown children and works at a local Fortune 500 company. She can be contacted at [email protected].