On Acceptance and Family During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a time full of joy, celebration, and family connection. For many young people, it is a period during winter break to take some time off and prepare for the upcoming school session. However, for many LGBTQ+ individuals, the holiday season can be terrifying, demanding, and exhausting. This often involves being around family for extended periods, who may or may not accept our identities. For transgender people like me, this season can be fraught with dead-naming, misgendering, and unsolicited interrogation of our identities, experiences, and struggles by our loved ones and others. Some may also experience isolation and loneliness. If you or someone you love is going through this, know that you are not alone. If you are not out to your family or are not fully accepted, remember that you deserve all the love, safety, and courage the universe has to offer.

You are under no obligation to come out to all your family members. While coming out is common among LGBTQ+ individuals, it is not mandatory and does not validate your identity or your ability to live authentically. For instance, I am not out to all my family. I don’t keep my queer identity a secret; on the contrary, I dress and strive to be as visibly queer as possible. I wear LGBTQ+ patches, pins, and buttons. I march for LGBTQ+ rights and have spoken about my identity and experiences in articles, testimonies, and on television. However, when it comes to legally defined family, there is a level of fear and hesitation that has prevented me from coming out. In an unorthodox and very "Neon"-like fashion, my parents found out I was transgender a few years ago when I spoke at the Missouri Capitol, stating, “My name is Neon, my pronouns are he/they, and I am a transgender person.” Following much explanation, discussion, and research, my parents eventually accepted my identity. Nonetheless, I never felt the need to come out to many of my relatives, nor do I view it as necessary for living as my authentic self.

Family is the people who take us in, love, nourish, and care for us unconditionally. They accept us no matter what, understand our boundaries, and support us when we need it most. Family is not limited to or defined by legal documents or biological relation. To state otherwise not only undermines the meaning of family but can also harm the accessibility to resources and opportunities, and stigmatize LGBTQ+ and other families.

Similarly, I grew up in an immediate family that transcends the cishet white normative ideals of family. I have two moms and two dads. My mom and dad were never married. At age three, two amazing people entered my life: my stepmom Lisa, and my stepdad, whom I call Abba (the Hebrew word for dad). Lisa and my mom became best friends, and though never married or genetically related to me, Lisa became a core part of my family. I spent my days after school at her house, raiding her container of chocolate bars and watching X-Men shows at her and my dad’s house. When I was seven, I met my brother and sister Genevieve and Yani and learned that I had three half-siblings as well.

Additionally, I have been welcomed and symbolically adopted into many queer families and have established a group of queer siblings that I spend almost every day with. Thus, I grew up with a large community of queer and transgender siblings, aunts, drag parents, and so forth. They were the first to know my identity and the first to accept who I was. All this to say that my family has never been defined by the white supremacist normativity of a nuclear family.

During this holiday season, I hope you find enjoyment, fulfillment, and rest. Find the people who love and accept you for all that you are. Even if your family is seen as unconventional and nontraditional, it is still valid and deserves the same respect and value as any legally defined family.

Written by Neon, NSC 23-24 Member