Coping with Christmas
Thank you to St Luke’s Community Centre for hosting December’s Open Minds (Khula Mana) LGBTQ+ Support Group. The group was facilitated by Dr Kuljit Bhogal on behalf of Sarbat and Taraki. This is a summary of some of what was discussed.
The Christmas period is a time when many people willingly or unwillingly spend more time with family and friends. Most people grow up with an awareness that this is the time to mark the end of the year and social media and traditional media are filled with images of what a happy celebration should look like.
For some people in the group, this is very much a positive time when they can switch off from their usual commitments and spend time with people that they would not usually get the time to see. For others in the group the Christmas period is a harder time when they feel forced to spend long periods of time with family who do not accept or acknowledge their sexuality or queerness. One member of the group talked about how they have managed to create new family and friends to avoid being in toxic or abusive social situations but acknowledged that this takes time to achieve.
Not everyone wanted to be around other people at Christmas or New Years, but they felt that people who judge them if they told them this.
The discussion developed into us talking about how we can negotiate spaces that are asking us to conform to ‘heterosexual norms’. We talked about how it can be very draining to be in these environments long-term especially if we feel guilty or shame just for who we are. It can drive some people to drink excessive amounts of alcohol or use drugs.
At the end of the session we talked about tips for coping with these kinds of situations, These included staying in contact with good friends, knowing when to walk away from conversations or to mentally disengage with them, knowing what makes you feel good about yourself and reminding yourself of these facts often.
We talked about the fact that you can’t have a solution that fits all situations, but that it is important to plan for situations that you know are very likely to be draining or challenging. Self-preservation is important and tactfully opting out of situations is sometimes what is needed. Sometimes our family will not be willing or able to give us what we need to feel safe or accepted and in the short or long term, we may need to rely on other friends or our chosen family to do this.
Our January Open Minds event will be held at City Hall in London . Please note the later starting time of 18:30. The topic will be Success and Praise in Punjabi Culture.
We hope to be back at St Luke’s Centre in February 2020.
OpenMinds visits Birmingham in February 2020 – Details here.
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