How to Be a LGBTQ+ Ally Throughout the Holiday Season

The start of the holiday season is often joyful and exciting, but this time of year can also be especially triggering for those in the LGBTQ+ community. As family and friends come together, difficult conversations often about relationships, gender, sexual orientation, politics and other “hot button” issues create uncomfortable situations for queer people. Your allyship during this time can be more meaningful than ever for the LGBTQ+ people in your life.

The Importance of Allyship During the Holidays

Stress, anxiety, and depression are everyday experiences for many LGBTQ+ people around the holidays. For some, family dynamics can be the cause. The spectrum of acceptance is different from family-to-family and individual-to-individual. While some are incredibly accepting of their queer relatives, friends, and acquaintances, others might not be so welcoming. That could mean that queer relationships are overlooked or ignored, pronouns are assumed or misused, and conversations around LGBTQ+ news and politics could be uncomfortable.

For other LGBTQ+ people, the holidays can bring about feelings of loneliness and being left out. There are many people in the queer community who are fully detached or distanced from their families and may not be invited or feel comfortable attending gatherings. Some people have friend groups or their “chosen family” to turn to, but others can be on their own for the holidays. Understanding the underlying conflicts your LGBTQ+ loved ones and others are experiencing during this time can help you be a supportive ally.

4 Ways to Create a Safe and Inclusive Holiday Gathering

Being an ally during the holiday season is a great way to help foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for those who need it most. From supporting someone who’s coming out to proper pronoun usage to acceptance of others’ lives and beliefs, your allyship can create a safer, less-stressful environment for LGBTQ+ people during gatherings.

1. Take Measures to Avoid “Outing” Anyone

The act of coming out is highly personal, situational, and unique for everyone. Your friend or family member might be out to you, but that doesn’t mean they are out publicly or even to others in your family or at a gathering.

To avoid outing anyone, make sure you know where they stand with other people in your circle and at any holiday events, you’re attending. Take the time to check in with the person and ask if they are out to the whole group or are comfortable with you engaging them in conversation around LGBTQ+ topics and that element of their life. If your friend is out publicly, the most important consideration you can make is to be respectful while discussing their relationships, struggles, and beliefs. If your friend is not out to everyone, keep conversations about their sexuality, gender, or relationships between you two.

Coming out isn’t just a singular event. It’s a process and journey throughout a person’s daily life as they meet and engage with new people. It’s up to them how, when and to whom they want to disclose their truth.

2. Ask Questions with an Open Mind

Don’t be afraid to ask LGBTQ+ people meaningful questions. Just be sensitive in how you frame your questions, and it should convey your support, interest, and desire to learn more. There are a few ways to approach these interactions.

If you want to ask personal questions, try to do it in a one-on-one conversation rather than in a group. Make sure your tone when asking questions matches your level of care and doesn’t read as judgmental, condescending, or insincere. Being forthcoming about your level of knowledge pertaining to LGBTQ+ topics can help prevent any confusion or miscommunication. Another way to create a welcoming environment is to ask which topics are “in-bounds” or “out of bounds” to make sure you don’t flow into topics that might cause discomfort.

While you can certainly rely on context cues to tell you when things might be going wrong, it also helps to offer the other person an out. Giving them the “ok” to stop you if you overstep or misspeak can really help to avoid and diffuse any negative situations. It’s also good to check yourself and consider why you’re asking the question. Is it to gain further knowledge, learn, or understand? If not, you might want to rethink it.

3. Use the Right Names and Pronouns

Using someone’s correct gender pronouns is one of the easiest and most important ways to show you respect their identity and to practice your allyship. At a large holiday gathering, asking everyone in the group to share their name, nickname and pronouns is a great way to create a welcoming environment for all.

It’s important to ask the whole group to ensure no one feels cornered or targeted by the ask. Knowing everyone’s pronouns also minimizes hurtful assumptions or mishaps when addressing others. When asking others for their preferred names and pronouns, don’t forget to provide your own. Routinely asking and sharing will help everyone at the gathering feel comfortable and confident when interacting.

Allyship is an active practice and honest mistakes will happen. If you fumble with somebody’s name or pronouns, it’s best to apologize and move forward by slowing down and trying to get it right the next time. Familiarizing yourself with pronouns and why they matter can also help; this guide from the Human Rights Campaign is a good resource.

4. Extend an Invitation

For some in the LGBTQ+ community, the coming out experience can lead to strained relationships with family and relatives. The holidays can be difficult for those who are detached from their immediate families and might not have anyone to celebrate with. It’s always a kind gesture to invite your queer friends to join holiday gatherings or events you are hosting.

If your queer guests do attend, you can go a step further to ensure they feel included and welcome by asking what they need to feel comfortable. Maybe there’s a family dish that they really miss having every year that you could prepare. Or there’s conversation topics that they’d rather stay away from to keep confrontation and discomfort to a minimum.

All of these gestures are small ways to provide support and make sure your LGBTQ+ loved ones have a pleasant holiday season.

Allyship Takes Practice

Practicing allyship is a journey, and you won’t get everything right immediately. There are many resources to help you learn how to support and understand your LGBTQ+ loved ones and others in your life. Organizations like Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG offer informative and helpful learning resources for both those within the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. With respect, support, and acceptance, you can foster an inclusive holiday gathering and ensure everyone present feels welcome and seen.