Make room at the holiday table

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We made it fam! Mariah is about to have your radio on lock (just as she has every holiday season since 1994). And, if we are to believe the vibes from her Vegas residency, all someone wants for Christmas is you.

Netflix is bringing some teenage queer-girl realness with the release of “Let it Snow.” A secret Christmas bar exists in Las Vegas and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t next-level excited to check out the holiday light display at the Ethel M Chocolates Cactus Gardens. I love the holidays. I overbook myself.

I eat way too many calories and make a lot of very practical, very important goals for the coming year. I ask myself if I even remember what was important to me a year ago and I look forward with unbridled excitement to the holiday pajamas I will surely receive from my grandmother. Don’t judge. You haven’t lived until you’ve slipped a toe into a fleece onesie wrapped with the loving touch of the best Oma on the planet.

It was during a holiday visit home (at the age of 30) that I first came out to my Oma. I had enjoyed an upbringing of near unconditional support from my grandparents and I had every reason to believe that would continue. My privileged existence was suddenly called into question as I stumbled through my big news.

She listened quietly as she peered over glasses nestled at the end of her nose. After a brief pause, she said simply: “Well, OK. We had better tell your Opa.” My grandfather’s reaction was just as underwhelming and left me wondering if I had done it right. It is only now that I realize what an extreme blessing this response was.

In contrast, the holiday season can be a bitter-sweet time in our community. The fortunate among us will enjoy rest and precious moments with those we hold dear. We may relish in the sounds of the season as we gayly assume our holiday traditions.

But for others in our community, such levity and nostalgia are out of reach. And, we would be remiss not to acknowledge just how difficult the holiday season can be for those who do not have the support of their families.

What is most remarkable to me is the resilience I see this time of year. My faith is renewed when time after time, I see members of my community bringing an extra chair to the table. Nobody does home for the holidays like the gays. And like many others I find myself reflecting on what matters.

Hot toddies matter. Mac- n -cheese matters. Heartfelt hugs with the warmth of yule log matter. Napping during football games, holiday baking and giving matter. Eggnog (while somewhat controversial) probably matters, too. The holiday spirit matters and selfless acts of kindness make an appearance in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Rejection is real. Pain is real. Feelings of loss are real. But this holiday season I would argue that they just don’t matter. You may have experienced trauma. And, of course, your experience is valid. But remember this, the trauma you have experienced, does not define you. You determine your worth. You determine your path and there is always room for another chair at that table. You’ve survived this far. You might as well pull up a seat.

Joslyn Hatfield is a Las Vegas-based writer and activist.

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