8 in 10 readers forced to hide their true self at Christmas, eye-opening PinkNews survey reveals

Two people looking miserable at Christmas

Eight in 10 PinkNews readers say they have to hide who they really are during the festive period, highlighting how difficult the holidays can be for many LGBT+ folk.

To mark the launch of PinkNews’ “All I Want For Christmas Is To Be Myself” campaign, we asked our readers to tell us all about their experiences of the holidays.

More than 7,500 of you responded, with many sharing stories of being forced back into the closet around the dinner table, being deadnamed by relatives, and being prodded and pushed about when they’ll be “settling down”.

An overwhelming 82 per cent said they feel they have to hide who they are, while 10 per cent said they plan to spend the holidays alone this year.

“It’s lonely,” said one woman. “As a queer person in the holidays, you almost have to be around found family unless you’re incredibly lucky.

I am not out yet, so being quiet and holding back has often been hurtful. Constant questions about boyfriends become increasingly hard to handle.”

A massive 68 per cent of readers polled said they find the holidays more stressful because they are LGBT+.

My biggest issue is my bigoted father who up until last year has deadnamed me on any gift tags, he still refuses to use my actual name or pronouns,” said one trans person. 

I wish he would respect my legal name change rather than have a gift come with a healthy dose of dysphoria and despair just because of a name.”

“It was difficult to be around my family too much on holidays because I had to hear a lot of homophobic things from them,” said one 23-year-old, a non-binary lesbian.

“And the rest of the time, I felt like I was on edge trying to prepare myself for the next hateful comment.”

Another reader, a bisexual woman who struggles with being perceived as straight because of her marriage to a man, said: “I find a lot of pressure and expectation to conform to society’s preference to be a straight family with children, which I do not want for my life.”

Adding to the chorus of voices saying Christmas doesn’t have to be a “celebration of heteronormativity”, she added: “The lack of representation for families and partnerships that do not fit the binary makes me feel bothered.”

But it’s not all bad news. Many spoke of how Christmas has become a time for chosen family, and of the joys of being surrounded by people who love them for them, rather than fear of being disowned or erased.

“If it weren’t for the strong LGBTQ+ community being so genuinely, lovely, kind and open […] I don’t think I’d have made it to this point in my life,” one reader said

“I’m genuinely grateful to be a part of it.”

Christmas for LGBT+ people is a time of ‘guilt and shame’, poll finds

The poll comes as PinkNews launches a campaign to call out the issues facing LGBT+ folk at Christmas, while highlighting some of the ways communities are coming together to support each other.

We want to hear the one thing that you would change about Christmas to make it a more inclusive and happier time, using the hashtag #PNMyChristmasWish.

With holiday celebrations being cancelled for many last year due to COVID-19, there’s more pressure than ever to have a perfect holiday season,” said PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen.

“Sadly for many, LGBT+ people who may have faced rejection or discrimination from their closest relatives, the idea of a cosy celebration can be more associated with fear and anxiety.”

Cohen’s husband and PinkNews COO, Anthony James, added: “The first Christmas that Ben and I spent as a couple was at a time when I still wasn’t fully out of the closet, meaning we had to spend our first Christmas apart.

“What should have been a joyous and special occasion was instead one associated with guilt and a sense of shame.”

Nancy Kelly, CEO of Stonewall, said: All lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people should be free to be themselves no matter where they are.

“But across the UK, Christmas and the festive period can still be a difficult time for LGBTQ+ people. It’s great that PinkNews is launching their inaugural festive campaign to remind our community that no matter how the festive season goes, we’ll always be here for each other.”

Indeed, as one reader, a non-binary lesbian, added: “It’s not always a happy time of year for us, so checking in on LGBT+ loved ones and showing some extra love is needed.”

But, they added: “It’s OK if the way we spend this time of year seems unconventional to others, as long as it works for us.”