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This holiday season, whether you're spending time with your chosen family, yourself, or with your blood relatives, know that you are seen. Know that you are loved. Know that you matter.

The holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year. Along with the stress of travel, trying not to overpack, scheduling self-care when you're in old environments, and reflecting on the successes and failures of the past year, it can be taxing to even think about anything else. Personally, I love this time of year because I enjoy reflecting and celebrating what has been accomplished, and gearing up to start the next year anew. But in doing so, I feel like the holiday season emphasizes the privilege of family and cheer. The holiday season (besides the whitewashing and colonization behind many of the holidays that we celebrate this time of year in the U.S.) can emphasize marginalization even more than usual. In its efforts to celebrate love and traditional values, the holiday season as we recognize it today continues to push out traditionally marginalized people because it often leaves very little space for us to include our experiences. Anything that is outside of that model is heavily erased, leaving so many of us without recognition or support. I've begun to ask this question in regards to the notion of "going home for the holidays". What do the holidays mean when we are spending it outside of our blood families? How do the meanings differ when we shift from forcing ourselves to spend time with people who may be abusive, toxic, and downright dangerous to our safety and well-being; instead, replacing them with our chosen family of friends and loved ones that affirm and fill us with warmth? These questions weigh heavily on my mind, especially as so many of my queer and BIPOC siblings find themselves left out of the narrative of holiday cheer. Are we any less valid because we do not separate our need for survival with choosing ourselves over the weight of expectations that are rooted in our own oppression? As I look around at those who are becoming vocal about their interpretations of the holidays they are celebrating, I'm in awe of the bravery it takes to choose oneself and to choose those who are in our chosen families over the traditional models that leave us aside. But I have to wonder: those of us who carry trauma with us, who are unlearning toxic coping mechanisms and are reliant on survival over comfort — where is there space for us within narratives of holiday cheer? Where are the narratives that include those of us who cannot and do not have traditional families to "go home" to?

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