Tips for Navigating Family Over the Holidays

December 20, 2023 Daniel Lyons

Let's face it: navigating family interactions over the holidays can be stressful when you're queer or transgender. Some of us come from accepting families; some of us do not. Some of us have a mix of experiences with our families and face additional stressors over the holidays. The holidays are stressful for everyone, but they pose special challenges for transgender and queer people this time of year. Today, I'd like to break down some tips for navigating family at this time of year.

What Can a Queer or Trans Person Do to Navigate Family Over the Holidays Successfully?

Navigating family over the holidays is hard, but these tips can help: 

  1. Practice saying "no." Is there a side of your family that is especially hateful? Is there a family member that loves to misgender you? Is there an uncle that always makes homophobic jokes? You don't owe it to anyone to put yourself through a painful or difficult family gathering. It is okay to say no. Sometimes, family members may try to guilt you into going to a gathering to make everyone feel comfortable but try to remember you don't owe anyone an explanation, and you deserve to take care of yourself
  2. Know your limits. Before trying to navigate family over the holidays, know what kind of behavior you can and cannot tolerate. Decide ahead of time what your limits are. An example might be, "I am not okay with misgendering." When I was more newly out as transgender, I would always send an email before I went home to my close family members and remind them of the expectations about my pronouns. I also let them know that I would correct them if they were to misgender me. This ensured there weren't any surprises when I did speak up. 
  3. "Go where it's warm." This is an expression I often hear in Al-Anon, a 12-step-oriented community to which I belong. I think it can be beneficial at this time of year. Essentially, it means going where the love is, focusing on where the love is. If this means you can't see your biological family this time of year and need to focus on your chosen family instead, then so be it. Focus on the relationships and people who lift you, affirm you, and celebrate you instead of banging your head against the wall trying to get your unaffirming family members to support you. 
  4. Leave when you need to. This comes back to my second point about knowing your limits when navigating family. If a gathering begins to feel unsafe or you're getting constantly misgendered, and it's upsetting to you, it's okay to leave. You don't owe it to a homophobic or transphobic family member to stick it out if it's harming you. 
  5. Identify which family members are allies. If you have no allies in your family, then I might recommend not going home at all during the holidays. If you do have family members who support you, ask them to help out with the misgendering and to correct people so you don't have to the whole time. Maybe have a code word with your safe family members that lets them know when you need to leave. When I am nervous about certain family gatherings, I stick close to these family members and try not to let them out of sight (I've done this at weddings and funerals, for example). 

One Final Tip for Navigating Family During the Holidays as a Trans Person 

I hope these tips have been helpful, and I wish you and your families, chosen or biological, a happy and healthy holiday season.

APA Reference
Lyons, D. (2023, December 20). Tips for Navigating Family Over the Holidays , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Daniel Lyons

Daniel Lyons (they/he) is a writer and mental health therapist who is passionate about the intersections of gender, sexuality, and mental health, and he lives in Oakland, California, with his service dog Noche. Find Daniel on Instagram and Medium.

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