Celebrate Yourself for the Holidays

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal. 

Ho, ho, ho isn’t always so for everyone at the holidays. This time of year can be particularly difficult for trans people who have been rejected by family and friends or who have grown apart from the significant people in their life because of transition. 

One of the most important things about a holiday, no matter which one you celebrate, is the traditions and rituals that go along with it. You might have specific memories of chestnuts roasting on an open fire or yuletide carols being sung by choir. But now those pleasant memories become painful as you realize that the people you used to share them with are no longer including you.

It can make for a very sad time of year. But being alone doesn’t mean that you have to give up the joy of whatever holiday you might celebrate. If you’re starting over in your life, you are also in the unique – and possibly wonderful – position of creating your own traditions and rituals. You can do what you want to do, the way you want to do it, and make your special days all the more special for yourself.

Maybe Christmas isn’t your thing, but you can do the same with any holiday that’s important to you. If you have no one to celebrate with, you can celebrate with yourself and you can celebrate yourself – celebrate being your true self and living your authentic life and surrounding yourself with the things that ring true to the person you really are.Your browser may not support display of this image. 

Ask yourself what things make you happy. Ask yourself what you would truly enjoy eating, seeing, doing – not the “you” that existed for others and had to get through the holidays pretending to be something or someone else, but the real you that exists now and is no longer buried under the unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and meaningless decorations of the past.

One of the problems you might encounter is not being able to identify these things at first. If you have lived a long time as someone you’re not, you might struggle to figure out what is meaningful and joyful to you – the real you.

So experiment. Try adopting a tradition or two from the past that you enjoyed, but alter them to fit the way you live now. Or throw everything out and start over from scratch – after all, this is your holiday now.

If spaghetti is your favorite food, but you always had turkey on Christmas because that’s what “the family” wanted, make spaghetti your new traditional holiday meal. If you’re not a morning person, but you used to have to rise at dawn to please the relatives, sleep in.

And don’t forget to treat yourself – if exchanging gifts is something you know you’ll miss, buy yourself something you’ve always wanted. Then wrap it and wait until Christmas morning – or the day that gifts are exchanged on your holiday – and open it. No, it won’t be a surprise, but isn’t it better to get something you want than something Aunt Clara thought you might want, based on who she thought you were?

If you have extra money, treat yourself to a shopping spree – for kids who won’t otherwise get a gift. It doesn’t matter whether or not they know who bought it for them. You know. And this is your holiday – remember?

Building your own holiday traditions can give you something to look forward to and make the day special again. But if being alone is still too difficult, there are plenty of places and people who need you – yes, you.

Volunteer to visit nursing home residents or hospital patients. Volunteer at a shelter to cook and serve a holiday meal. Or maybe the local animal shelter needs someone to pet and play with the animals. Try it out – if you like it, make it part of your tradition.

As you are creating – or living – the life that you were always meant to live, as the person you were always meant to be, create the holidays that you were always meant to have.

Celebrating your way is part of the joy and freedom of being who you are. 

(Photo: My favorite Hallmark Christmas card – a friend sent it to me a few years ago, and it’s become part of my Christmas tradition.)  

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