The vaccine’s rolling out as we (hopefully) round the COVID corner! We see the light! But first, we have to get through something that’s just as anxiety-inducing as a global pandemic to some…the holidays. We’re talking uncomfortable family gatherings, potential shaming, deadnaming, and your bitter uncle crying out “voter fraud” every chance he gets. Those Grinch vibes though…
We know that this time of year can be tough on a lot of people, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community. So, we thought we’d put together a survival guide to get us to 2021 – the long-awaited time where all the world’s problems will turn into distant memories! 😉
We’re thinking about all of you who may be going through it right now. Remember, we’re all in this together. Use this survival guide to remind yourself of the ways you can keep up with your sexual and mental health and ultimately sleigh the 2020 holidays down.
Keep Up with Your Sexual Health, Wherever You Are in Texas
Tip #1: Be Naughty AND Safe
It’s okay to be on the naughty list this year – but you can be naughty AND safe. Try your best to avoid mistletoe this year, and keep your play below the waist. “It’s really best to keep your mouth out of any kind of in-person sex play,” says our Director of Clinic Quality, Holly, in this Austin Chronicle feature on sex during a pandemic. To further reduce your risk, skip missionary (since you’re face to face with your partner) and try doggy-style, use a condom and try to limit your sexual partners. All this reduces your risk of contracting HIV, STIs and COVID-19.
If you want to be extra safe, take it virtual! Learn how to become a cam star in our blog, “Let’s Talk about (Cam) Sex.”
Tip #2: Stick to Your Meds
Set those alarms because sticking to your medication regimen is essential. PrEP (Truvada and Descovy) is much more effective at preventing HIV if taken daily. Stay healthy by taking your antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications as prescribed to decrease your viral load. Continuing your hormone replacement therapy (HRT) regimen will also keep you on the path to becoming your authentic self.
Tip #3: Make a Virtual Telemedicine Appointment
Our telemedicine appointments are a quick and easy way to stay on top of your sexual health regimen. Whether you’re needing a follow-up PrEP appointment or are seeking HIV care, our providers got you – virtually! You can schedule a virtual appointment online or by calling our Patient Support Center at 1-833-WE-R-KIND (1-833-937-5463). Read more about why staying in care is so important here.
Take Care of Yourself!
Tip #4: Navigate Challenging Family Dynamics
Spending family time can be a bonding experience for many, but some may not feel 100% comfortable being 100% authentic around their family. Your parents or siblings may struggle to use your chosen name and pronouns, but that doesn’t change who you are. It’s okay to keep correcting them. Just remember to be consistent, be patient, and most importantly, be yourself.
Sometimes family just doesn’t “get” it, and they might make comments about your sexual orientation. “Well, maybe you just haven’t met the right person!” In this instance, remember that society has done a pretty good job of enforcing heteronormativity, so it might take some time for your family to unlearn this and fully accept your sexual orientation. The best thing you can do for yourself and the people you love is to keep being unapologetically who you are.
Certain family members might even go as far as asking you to present yourself a certain way. “Can you try dressing more masculine/feminine?” It’s important to remind them that your comfort is just as important as theirs. If you do feel like you have to compromise on a dinner time look that’s less fabulous than you’re used to, wear something that makes you feel sexy and confident underneath, or have your own selfie photoshoot in your favorite outfit later.
If you feel like your family is willing to learn, grow, and become better allies, try to keep your heart open and grant them a little patience and forgiveness when needed.
Tip #5: Get some alone time
It’s important to give yourself time to relax a bit and re-center yourself. If you’re feeling naughty, you can pack your favorite sex toy for some alone time to relieve stress. You can find some solo play tips here. If you’re bringing a partner home, you can even (re)christen your childhood bedroom. The scandal!
OR you can opt for a different type of alone time like reading a book, meditating, or going for a walk – your call! You do you.
Tip #6: Stick to Your Boundaries
You know what’s best for you so stay true to yourself by sticking to your boundaries. Don’t feel pressured to conform to norms or traditions that make you feel uncomfortable. You can always catch up with your family after the church service or take some time for yourself if your fam is visiting an extended family member that’s been hostile or made you feel uncomfortable in the past.
If you feel like your boundaries have been pushed, you can also choose to take on those tough conversations and speak up for what you believe in. The decision is yours, just be aware of the boundaries you’ve set for yourself.
Tip #7: Reach out to Your Chosen Family
If your family drama is too much to handle, reach out to your chosen family for support through the holidays. These people are often the people who know you best and can help you through these sticky situations. According to Gutierrez in this GLAAD piece, chosen families “…are created by queer people to bring familial love that was otherwise missing into their lives, or to form an even deeper connection with one’s friends.” In other words, call your friends!
Tip #8: Be Yourself in Your Hometown
Traveling back to your hometown can be traumatic and triggering to some. You may make a quick stop at the grocery store and see that one person who said that one thing that one time in high school. *triggered* In times like these, remind yourself of how much you’ve grown and stay rooted in that. If you feel safe enough, being your authentic self in your hometown can be liberating. Plus, you never know who you could inspire around you by simply being you!
If You’re in a Crisis…
If you find yourself in a crisis, are feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgement-free place to talk, please reach out to The Trevor Project‘s Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.
Wishing all a safe and happy holiday season and a very happy New Year!
If you’re traveling for the holidays, stay safe, and please wear a mask!