Thanksgiving is a time that family and friends gather together. Turkey, gravy, collards, or cranberries. No matter how you celebrate, it is a time that families flock together. Encyclopedia Britannica notes “with respect to vehicular travel, the holiday is often the busiest of the year, as family members gather with one another.” Where does this leave our transgender and non-binary friends? To sum, speaking from first-hand experience, it can be awful.
In conversations with one of my adult transgender friends, they share the depth of the anxiety and sadness brought on at a holiday gathering. Being referred to by their given name (deadname) rather than their chosen name is just one painful aspect of the holidays. For example, receiving gifts of clothing appropriate for their natal gender is just too much to take and is not only insensitive, but it is also dangerous. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Moreover, in our own family, members of our family made it painfully clear that they do not support our parenting or affirmation of our child. This occurred during the 2020 Zoom Thanksgiving. Seemingly polite banter started the interaction, but we quickly became aware of the actuality. The interaction was purposely pernicious, delivered with joyful musings atop a vicious message. We do not acknowledge her. We cannot see her and we will not interact with our ten-year-old grandchild. The attacks have become increasingly venomous over the past year. We will never have Thanksgiving as an extended family again.
Each year transgender and non-binary people are left alone, ostracized, or forced to subject themselves to emotional abuse. Whether by choice or by exclusion, family holidays turn into markers of abandonment. The price of participation is high. Compulsory deadnaming and presenting to conform rather than be comfortable in their own skin. All to an apathetic audience and often side-by-side performative allies who are subject to bystander apathy.
I call on you to make this Thanksgiving an inclusive and loving time for everyone in your life. The following are a few opportunities that you can implement to have an inclusive Thanksgiving. Check out my Pinterest page for free place card and ground-rules printable @allrwelcome
May your Thanksgiving table be filled with love, peace and safe spaces.