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  • Writer's pictureAngela Dragon

10 tips for navigating family dynamics as a queer person

Last year around this time, I gave a presentation at the Pride Community Center on the topic of finding joy during the holiday season, specifically when navigating family dynamics as a queer person.

Here are those tips, which I hope feel helpful and supportive to someone reading this. Feel free to share with your queer loved ones, and do let me know if you have tips that I can add to this list!

1. Make plans in advance to have friends you can text or call. Ask a few friends or safe family members when they will be available if you need to vent.

2. Have an exit strategy. Plan an excuse to arrive late and/or leave early if needed.

3. Create or continue your own holiday traditions - working on a puzzle, cooking together, watching a parade, going to the beach, etc. Which traditions or rituals do you enjoy and want to reclaim as your own?

4. Celebrate with your chosen family!

5. Set boundaries with family regarding your time and energy. A polite “No thank you” or “I’m not available to do that.” may be effective.

6. Plan time to be alone. How can you carve out some alone time? What activities restore you? Where in your parents' home can you go hide out? (I like to escape by saying "I'm going to go meditate for a bit! Byeeee.")

7. Journal - both in advance and after the holidays or spending time with family if that feels helpful. Suggested journal prompts could be: What am I looking forward to? What are my fears? In what ways can I care for myself?

8. Plan to watch uplifting movies or listen to joyful music. In my experience, a loud, bright room overwhelms me fairly quickly, even without the added stress of family. Ask if you can turn off bright lights and put on some holiday jazz or other music that you find to be soothing or uplifting. Laughing while watching a comedy together can be a big stress reliever!

9. Complete the cycle. When you feel agitated, angry, or frustrated, find a way to physically release that tension. Suppressing our emotions can lead to dis-ease in the body, so this is very important. If you’re a runner, go for a run. If you love birdwatching, bring some binoculars and go for a walk. If you’re having a hard time thinking of something to do, you can even find a private space and simply tense up your entire body, take a large inhale, then relax and let out a big sigh. (If you can go for a short drive, a loud yell in your car also works well to release stress or anger!)

10. Nervous system regulation. I learned a fun and simple technique from a brilliant woman named Kristen Toth ( who specializes in nervous system regulation. I call it The Inchworm. Using three fingers from one hand, place them around the tip of one finger on the other hand. While maintaining contact, lift those three fingers up slightly to “inch” your way to your knuckle, moving very slowly and perhaps also breathing deeply as you go. When you get to the knuckle, slide your three fingers up and off of the finger you just inched down. Repeat on the other fingers and then the other hand, as slowly as you can, and notice how this may shift your stress levels. I love this tool because you can do it anywhere with your hands in your lap.

Also, here are a few hotline number that you can call if you need someone to talk to:

Trevor Project: 866-488-7386

LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564

Pride Institute LGBTQ Dependency: 800-547-7433

I'm sending love, and wishes for a nourishing few weeks ahead. 💓

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