Show solidarity to those who cannot be out to family during the festive season.
Not being out can feel like being a failure, or worse, as though being complicit in queerphobia. The rhetoric around being in the closet is often to celebrate those who come out as brave, but ultimately, so many never have the chance or safety to come out.
Christmas can be the worst time for heightened anxiety and depression, particularly for those with seasonal affective disorder. It’s compounded upon hugely for those who are not out, but may have family visiting or be around relatives for much of the season. Christmas is based around consumerism, but also around families. When the focus so much is on family bonds, it can be incredibly difficult for those in the closest to manage any heightened anxiety about their identity, and who exactly knows what.
“It can be incredibly difficult for those in the closest to manage any heightened anxiety about their identity, and who exactly knows what”
There should never be any emphasis on those to have to come out, however. If people can come out and want to, that must be celebrated. We all too should work constantly to ensure that our society is safe for anyone to come out, so that people aren’t pressured to stay in the closet. However, we must avoid insinuating those who don’t come out are weak. We don’t know people’s circumstances, around one in four homeless youths are LGBT and no one should ever feel forced to reveal anything about themselves.
There is a lot of emphasis on people to stand up to bigoted relatives during the festive season. This is an important act. We must challenge prejudiced beliefs wherever we can, even within our own families. But it must be remembered that some cannot challenge these beliefs for fear of exposing their identity to those very same prejudiced relatives. It can be a traumatic time. Those in the closet who remain silent are not complicit in prejudice, their identities have been silent because of our culture of prejudice.
Some of those in the closet are the loudest allies in our lives, but no one else may know their identity. It’s not ours to know who is queer, but it is all of our responsibility to work to make sure that all queer people are safe (which is far from the case right now). People don’t owe us their identities, and they shouldn’t have to come out while the turkey is being sliced to try to prove that they are a ‘true’ activist or ally.
The holiday season can be fraught enough as it is. Show support and solidarity to those who are in the closet, and can’t/won’t reveal their identities to family members. Stand up by taking on relatives and their prejudices wherever possible – you never know, but a relative might just need to hear it even if they can never tell you that themselves.