Why Are the Holidays Hard for LGBTQ+ People?

Growing up, the holidays were always a happy time where things felt a little more special. The warmth of delicious holiday drinks, the sparkle of twinkling lights, and the anticipation of seeing extended family and exchanging gifts stays with me until this day. Now, the idea of the holidays still makes my grinch heart grow three sizes bigger even though I know that the holidays represent a lot of problematic concepts where LGBTQ+ people don’t necessary fit.

The holiday season is often portrayed as a time of joy, unity, and celebration. Families come together to share in the warmth of traditions, and communities are illuminated with festive decorations. However, for members of the LGBTQ+ community, this seemingly joyous time can be fraught with unique challenges that are not always readily apparent. Despite progress in societal attitudes and global legal advancements, many LGBTQ+ folks find the holidays to be a difficult period marked by emotional, social, and familial challenges.

Pexels – Uriel Mont

As far back as I can remember, the holidays had an underlying darkness that was always covered with the celebratory facade of pine trees, snowmen,  and poinsettias. There were always arguments, the lack of gifts, the misunderstanding of what it meant to be truly grateful, that I understand even more now as an adult. Now, as a person of queer experience, the holidays have grown into an amalgamation of concepts, a blend of traditional ideas of a secular Christmas, with the borrowing or substituting of new traditions that fit into my life. For non-LGBTQ+ people, I can imagine that a deviation from tradition of the holidays is difficult because they have rarely experienced what it is like to be not accepted by society as a whole.

Still, for LGBTQ+ folks around the world, the holidays are a sore subject. One that brings subtle disdain for different reasons. The challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community during the holidays are real. They perpetuate the persecution that we feel on a daily basis and many struggle to find their place at the holiday table.

Social Expectations and Heteronormativity:

The holiday season tends to reinforce traditional social norms, particularly those rooted in heteronormativity. The pressure to conform to societal expectations can be overwhelming for LGBTQ+ individuals, as these expectations often center around heteronormative narratives of family, love, and celebration. The pervasive portrayal of idealized, nuclear families in media and holiday advertising can lead to feelings of isolation for those whose own experiences do not align with these images.


LGBTQ+ folks have a unique opportunity to reinvent the holidays for themselves. Call it the Holigays or Queersmas or whatever makes sense to you, but finding a space where you belong and where you feel safe is part of demolishing social expectations and the heteronormativity that is associated with the holidays.

Instead, consider what it would be like to travel with close friends, your partner, or even alone during the holidays. It’s a good opportunity to experience beautiful places, off-season, around the world. Instead of stuffy Christmas dinners, meet chosen family for drinks or a meal at a local or nearby queer space. Many locations are open during the holidays to serve as a gathering place for people who want an alternative place to celebrate (or not celebrate).

Pexels – Katia Miasoed

Family Dynamics and Acceptance:


For many LGBTQ+ individuals, the holidays may bring the challenge of navigating family dynamics that are not always accepting or supportive. Coming out or expressing one’s authentic self can be a source of tension during family gatherings, potentially leading to strained relationships or outright rejection. The fear of judgment or disapproval can cast a shadow over what should be a time of togetherness, making it difficult for LGBTQ+ individuals to fully embrace the spirit of the season.

During the holidays it is important to create your own traditions that fall in line with your own lived experience and surroundings. For LGBTQ+ folks, the reality of a chosen family is a lifeline that extends beyond the holidays. Having friends, colleagues, peers, that one chooses to share space with is a representation of respect. It’s as if saying “I welcome you into my life” without being bound by a bloodline or generational relationships. At the holidays, creating traditions that support your life is paramount and this is a challenge many LGBTQ+ individuals face because of the prominence of the “ideal” holiday all around.

Pexels – Polina Tankilevitch

Isolation and Loneliness:


Despite the emphasis on togetherness, the holidays can intensify feelings of isolation for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly those who may not have supportive family or friends. The emphasis on romantic relationships and family ties during this season can amplify a sense of loneliness for those who may not have a traditional support system. This isolation can be further exacerbated by the lack of representation and understanding in many holiday narratives.

The traditional portrayal of holidays often centers around heterosexual couples and family structures, which may inadvertently marginalize those with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. This pervasive heteronormativity can lead to feelings of exclusion, isolation, and invisibility, particularly when societal expectations highlight the stereotypical image of a “perfect” holiday that revolves around romantic partnerships. This emphasis on romantic relationships may inadvertently overshadow the diverse and meaningful connections within the LGBTQ+ community. Consequently, some individuals may grapple with a sense of alienation during a time that should be marked by warmth and inclusivity. To address this, fostering more inclusive narratives and representations in holiday media and festivities can contribute to creating a more welcoming atmosphere for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Pexels – Khoa Võ

It’s important to note that the inclusion of LGBTQ+ narratives in holiday films has been a positive step toward representation and inclusivity. Films such as The Family Stone (2005), Carol (2015), Happiest Season (2020), The Christmas House (2020), Dashing in December (2020), Single All the Way (2021), The Holiday Sitter (2022) have merely scratched the surface of exploring LGBTQ+ storylines and far less provided varied representations on the queer experience during the holidays.


Religious Intolerance:

Religious celebrations often accompany the holiday season, and for LGBTQ+ individuals, this may bring additional challenges, especially if their sexual orientation or gender identity conflicts with the doctrines of their faith community. Experiencing religious intolerance can create a painful dichotomy, forcing individuals to choose between their authentic selves and their religious beliefs, contributing to internal conflicts and a sense of alienation.

For many in the LGBTQ+ community, separation of the holidays and religion is impossible and the judgment or rejection associated with those religious beliefs can create a divide in the ability to enjoy the holidays. It is why so many, even outside of the LGBTQ+ community, chose to celebrate a secular holiday season that is not associated with a religious observance. They chose to make the season about giving, togetherness, and gratitude rather than traditional observances focused on religious practices.

Pexels – RDNE Stock Project


Building Inclusive Traditions:

Despite the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community during the holidays, there is an opportunity for society to foster greater inclusivity and understanding. Families, communities, and businesses can actively work to create environments that celebrate diversity and welcome individuals of all backgrounds. Representation in media and advertising can be expanded to reflect the diversity of experiences within the LGBTQ+ community, helping to challenge and reshape societal norms.

Embracing a spirit of acceptance and understanding, members of the LGBTQ+ community can establish rituals that honor their unique identities and experiences. This may involve incorporating inclusive decorations, such as pride flags or symbols, into the festive decor, or preparing a diverse array of traditional dishes that reflect the varied backgrounds of those celebrating. LGBTQ+ folks can also initiate open conversations with family and friends about the importance of acceptance, sharing personal stories and experiences to cultivate empathy and support. Engaging in activities that promote inclusivity, such as participating in community events or supporting LGBTQ+ charities, can also be a meaningful way to build new, inclusive holiday traditions. By creating a space that respects and celebrates individual differences, LGBTQ+ individuals can contribute to a more open-minded and accepting holiday environment for all.

Pexels – RDNE Stock Project


While the holidays are often depicted as a time of joy and celebration, it is crucial to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community during this season. By fostering inclusivity, understanding, and acceptance, society can work towards creating a holiday season that truly embraces the diversity of human experiences and allows everyone to feel a sense of belonging and celebration. During the holiday season more than ever, bring your LGBTQ+ family closer. Reach out, touch base, and make them feel seen. It’s not an easy time of year and it is very layered for many people. 

Whether it involves creating inclusive traditions or finding solace in quiet moments of reflection, LGBTQ+ individuals should prioritize their mental and emotional well-being during the holiday season, allowing themselves the space to authentically be who they are and cherish the love and acceptance that surround them.

And if you’re struggling during the holidays, like many of us are, prioritize your self-care and embrace the opportunity to celebrate your identity in a supportive environment. Connecting with chosen family and friends who affirm and understand their experiences can bring joy and comfort. Engaging in activities that promote self-expression, such as attending LGBTQ+ events or participating in community gatherings, can foster a sense of belonging. It’s essential to set boundaries and communicate openly with loved ones to ensure a positive and affirming holiday experience. 

Pexels – RDNE Stock Project

2 thoughts on “Why Are the Holidays Hard for LGBTQ+ People?”

  1. I think that such feelings are shared widely throughout society and people of good will throughout the world.

    Holidays are good things, if nothing else, for days off from the usual routines. We have biological families and “families we’ve created”–no matter what we call them.

    If we want to observe the old fashioned customs, we can choose who will be at our side. If we want to sing Christmas carols, we can attend an inclusive house of worship.

    Freedom allows us to choose how we will observe or make the best of the annual festivities. Sometimes it will prioritize my happiness; other times it will prioritize others.

    ‘Tis the season!
    Happy new year.

  2. Due to my progressive sociopolitical views and to a limited extent, my sexuality, I have been mostly estranged and excommunicated from my siblings and cousins and most of my old friends have turned on me. I have learned to find things to do during the holidays and not let the loneliness get to me since I suffer from anxiety issues and mild depression.


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