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  • Oliver Whitney

The Ultimate Trans Guide To Getting Through the Holidays

The Ultimate Trans Guide To Getting Through the Holidays

While the holiday season is a joyful time of gathering with family for many people, it can be a period of incredible loneliness, difficulty, and anxiety for trans and gender non-conforming folks.

Many of us have painful relationships with this time of year as pressures mount to attend gatherings with families who don’t see or accept us as who we are, where we often risk having to endure traumatic comments about our identity, being deadnamed, or addressed with the wrong pronouns. Even if you have some family that do support you, you still might have to deal with extended family members who don’t. And for those whose blood families aren’t in our lives anymore since we came out, the holidays can be an especially hard and grief-heavy time to be alone. 


But the time of year when homes are decked in Christmas lights and Mariah Carey’s iconic holiday tune follows you from store to store doesn’t need to be one you manage on your own, or one you feel powerless throughout. This survival guide will offer guidance on how to best navigate the season with tools to help you feel supported and advice on how to manage uncomfortable situations.  


Remember, You Aren’t Alone  


First off and most importantly, know that you are absolutely not alone. I know it may feel like it, but know that there are many trans folks all across the world who are also experiencing loneliness this time of year. For trans people who don’t have family or community to be around this holiday season, there are still options to spend it with others. I encourage you to check out your local LGBTQ center for any holiday events to attend, look into local mutual aid groups you can volunteer at as a way to meet others and support your community, or seek our online trans community on places like Reddit or Discord to have a safe place to vent (or for great, relatable memes), or COVID-safe virtual meetups. 

A transmasculine non-binary person at a dinner party

It’s OK To Opt-Out of the Holidays 


For starters, if you’ve been invited to a family gathering and you know that going will only make you feel worse, know that it is completely okay to not go. The truth is, you don’t owe your blood relatives a thing, especially if they don’t support and respect you as the wonderful trans or non-binary person you are. I know I know, that’s easier said than done — trust me, I too have spent years pleasing people and valuing others’ comfort over my own. Ultimately, it’s not worth it, and I much rather have a small friend hangout with Christmas movies and cookies. If you have chosen family and supportive friends you’d rather spend the holidays with, do that instead! You can tell your family you’re just not up for it this year, and that’s okay. 


Make A Plan 


A non-binary trans woman smiling at a dinner party

If you do want to attend gatherings and are feeling stressed about it, here are some ways to manage that.

First, make a plan for support. Ask a friend or two if they can be available for a quick call or to text during your gathering if you need to step away and vent. If you have a therapist, check if they’ll be available to reach during tough family moments, and if not, ask their advice on how to best manage those alone. And if you struggle with depression or self-harming thoughts, please keep crisis hotline phone numbers saved in your phone this season, like Trans Lifeline and The Trevor Project. Know that you always have someone to talk to. 


There’s also a lot you can do yourself to de-stress or ground yourself in heated family moments. Some ideas: 

  • Make a calming playlist you can listen to before or during if you need to clear your head 

  • Take a walk around the neighborhood if you need to step away 

  • Download a meditation app to listen to guided meditations or breathing exercises to manage anxiety (I love InSight Timer’s free app for this, but also check out Calm

  • Bring a notebook to journal in 

  • Find a quiet room where you can step away and do some deep breathing exercises 

  • If you have a favorite encouraging quote or affirmation you like to read, write it down and carry it in your pocket 

Set Boundaries 


Another key part of planning is checking in with yourself beforehand. Ask yourself what you have capacity to handle and what you don’t. For instance, maybe you can tolerate that one uncle blabbering on about how much he loves Trump and tune him out, but if your cousin starts saying offensive things again about your transition you’ll be prepared to leave the room or go home.  


Think about what your boundaries and limits are with certain family members or topics of conversation, and if you feel safe and comfortable to do so, communicate those at the gathering or in advance. You could say, “Mom, I’m excited to spend Christmas with everyone, but I’m only comfortable coming if you use my chosen name.” It might also be helpful to think of some responses to toxic conversations to feel prepared. Some examples are, “That’s disrespectful and I’m not comfortable talking about that,” “I’d like you to please not ask me about that again,” or “This conversation is upsetting, I’m going to step outside for some air.” 

Holiday Table Setting

You Don’t Owe Them Anything 


The holidays are a heated time for political conversations, and unfortunately as trans folks we often get dragged into debates proving our mere existence. But I want to remind you that you have no obligation to educate your cis blood relatives about anything related to your identity, transition, or community. If educating is something you want to do and have capacity for, then just be sure you’re checking in with yourself and not expending more energy than you have to offer. 


Also remember, you never need to ask permission for what you need to feel safe and supported. We’ve all heard family members complain about how “hard” it is to use the right name and pronouns, or how “confused” they are — that’s for them to work through on their own, and for many it may take some time. Just remember, you deserve to be seen and respected, and you have a right to ask for it. 

Trans Traveling Tips

Travel Advice 


If you’re traveling to see family for the holidays, one option I highly recommend for those who can afford it is to stay elsewhere. Being stuck in a house with triggering or unsupportive family can make you feel trapped and deflate your confidence in asking for what you need. If you can find an affordable Airbnb or nearby hotel to stay in, that will give you your own space to decompress in. It also helps create distance and gives you more control over how much time you spend with your family. 


Another important thing to keep in mind this holiday season (and afterward) as you travel or spend time indoors is to protect yourself and others from COVID. Cases continue to rise and 1,000 Americans are dying each week from the vascular disease. This is especially important because trans people experience the highest rates of long COVID, or the long-term symptoms that can develop after an infection, lasting months or years. As trans people, we already have enough to battle in the U.S. healthcare system to maintain our health and wellness. Continue to mask up and follow multi-layer protections to keep yourself and others safe this holiday season.  

Ultimate Trans Guide to Getting Through the Holidays

Give Yourself A Gift  


All that said, absolutely no trans person should have to go through the immense mental and emotional labor to simply enjoy company during what should be a celebratory and relaxing time of love and cheer. We should be able to enjoy end-of-year traditions in peace and comfort. I want to encourage you to give yourself a gift this holiday season: put yourself and your needs first. It’s scary, I know! But you can do it.

And I want to give you a gift: a reminder that you are beautiful, valid, and deserving of love just as you are. As trans people, we are gifts to this world. Never forget that. 

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