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    Problems and Pleasures of Being Home for the Holidays

    By Tabitha Parent–

    As I sat in the Uber from Northwestern’s campus to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, I was shocked at the number of college students I saw climbing out of cars and milling about the terminals. Home Alone had taught me that the holidays were a terrible time for travel (hence why I arrived at the airport a full four hours before my flight), but I hadn’t realized that perhaps the painfully long lines, appalling traffic, and lack of Ubers were created almost exclusively by students attempting to make their way home for the holiday. 

    I made my way down the aisle of the plane (which, of course, was slightly delayed—thanks, O’Hare), surrounded by a sea of colorful college sweatshirts on all sides. I’d forgotten how many Midwestern colleges used O’Hare as their travel base, but the vibrant array of college sweatshirts was a very good visual reminder. Notre Dame students, in particular, were heavily decked out in green and blue gear; I guess they treat holiday travel like a football game, too. 

    As I settled into the 36th row (coach is a popular seating choice with the broke college students), sandwiched between a burly University of Indiana sweatshirt-wearing kid who was definitely a quarterback and a glasses-sporting University of Chicago student doing math that looked like a foreign language, I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone’s respective Thanksgiving would look like. 

    My Thanksgivings and Christmases are always an affair—a word that severely understates the production value of a Parent Family Thanksgiving. Family members from across the country make their way to California for a 20+ person gathering that usually takes place at my cousins’ house in Tiburon. It’s chaotic and loud, a little bit stressful, and completely magical. It’s full of love and I love it. My excitement before the day is always uncontainable.

    Of course, as with any family, there will be some tensions (brought on by a day spent organizing, cooking, and making last minute trips to Whole Foods because someone forgot the gravy). But the tensions never overshadow the day itself, and I always leave my cousins’ feeling uncomfortably full of both food and love.

    But sitting on the plane, as one of many college students frantically writing last minute essays so we could properly enjoy our breaks without the threat of a deadline looming in the distance, I couldn’t help but wonder about those who would leave their holiday celebrations feeling empty.

    For young LGBTQ+ individuals, the holiday season can be particularly painful. Uncle Joe’s drunken homophobic jab at the dinner table might go unnoticed by the rest of the family, but for a young LGBTQ+-identifying person, the holiday table becomes just another place where they feel unsafe in the world.

    According to a summary of holiday crisis trends from The Trevor Project, a non-profit that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth, the holiday season may be associated with increased crisis levels among LGBTQ+ youth.

    While youth reached out to The Trevor Project at 20%–40% lower rates around on the actual holiday itself compared to usual call rates, The Trevor Project found that call rates increased by 20% in the two days following the holiday.

    If this tells us anything, it’s that the holidays bring their own unique set of stressors for LGBTQ+ youth, in particular.

    I wish I could say to take a load off, eat some pie, drink some eggnog, and try to ignore the relatives who love to make problematic comments to poke fun around the dinner table. But saying that would fully dismiss just how painful it is to suppress a part of your identity, even if it is just for one holiday meal.

    The holidays can be a cornucopia of mixed emotions for LGBTQ+ youth. If you’re struggling to feel at home with a family that feels less than supportive of who you are, then you are not alone.

    Because the holidays are about giving, I would encourage you to think about one thing in the face of Uncle Joe’s dinner table remarks: there is so much that you give to the world. Don’t let someone’s hatred stop you from giving your light to the world.

    Tabitha Parent was born and raised in San Francisco and is currently a sophomore at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Having spent time in three major international cities this year, Parent has observed how different regions of the country welcome LGBTQ+ individuals. In her free time, Parent spends time looking out over Lake Michigan (the view rivals that of the Bay). 

    Published on December 1, 2022