By: Ilya LeVangie
December 15, 2023
As winter rolls in, many people think fondly of family and plan how they’ll spend the holidays together. Some people may travel across the country to be with family and friends, while others may walk next door. But what about those who can’t go home for the holidays? What about the ones who can’t go home at all?
For many people, the world in its current state feels unsafe. War is a constant in the news, and political tensions are high worldwide. In the United States, people of color and transgender people have been facing an increasingly hostile climate, both socially and politically. In the recent moral panic surrounding queer people’s very existence, many states have been passing anti-trans and “anti-drag” laws.
America saw this take initial shape in 2016, with North Carolina’s so-called “Bathroom Bill” banning the use of bathrooms that don’t match the gender marker on one’s birth certificate. Now, in 2023, the American Civil Liberties Union is tracking 506 anti-LGBTQ laws, with 84 of them having passed into law.
Florida, in particular, has been in the news due to the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, prohibiting the mention of queer identity and pronouns in the classroom, as well as bans on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for anyone under the age of 18. This law has also made it easier to challenge and ban books related to queer identity and race, causing Florida to lead the country in book bans, with over 40 percent of all book bans coming out of Florida. This hostile environment has caused the BIPOC and queer communities of Florida to feel pushed out of their communities by DeSantis’s government.
Despite many landmark wins for queer people in the last decade, such as the 2015 Supreme Court case that made same-sex marriage a legal right, there has always been an uneasy feeling surrounding safety for queer Americans. With the threat of undoing their rights, some members of the LGBTQ+ communities have chosen to stay and fight these initiatives, while others have chosen to move elsewhere. While many have chosen to stay in their home states and fight these laws, many others have chosen to flee.
Leaving your home behind, especially when one does so out of fear for their future, can be a traumatic experience. The loss of one’s community can result in social isolation, depression and anxiety. The effects of the hostile political rhetoric surrounding one’s identity are also a major stressor, with rates of suicidal ideation amongst queer youth on the rise. While research into the mental health effects on fleeing queer youth is limited, a 2022 review found that the “widespread destitution faced by (Transgender Forced Migrants) results from social and economic marginalization linked to pervasive and persistent violence, discrimination, unobtainable documentation, barriers to healthcare access and economic exclusion.”
When moving out-of-state, queer people are forced to leave behind their cultures and communities, and in some cases, family. While many queer youth leave with their families, many others are forced to leave their families behind. Whether due to their family’s own conservative views or because they are unable to go with them, the loss of family is devastating and can contribute to the social isolation already found when moving to a new community.
While it may not seem a huge move for those staying within America, the adjustment period after leaving your home is difficult. Re-establishing yourself in a new community, disruption to your daily routine and the stressors of finding a new job and new home all stack on top of one another. The culture shock can also be incredibly real as, despite the similarities among Americans, the cultural differences between states like Texas and Massachusetts can be massive.
As the holiday season approaches, there is more to mourn for people who have left their homes and families. While some may be able to visit, it is not always possible. Not being able to spend this time with family is an emotional hardship that is made all the more difficult when seeing others get to do so. The emphasis on family in the media and amongst friends can highlight the loss, and the isolation this comes with can be immensely harmful to oneself.
For some, the simple reminder of family and the holidays can be a stressor. Being pushed out of your family is a wound that takes a long time to heal, if it ever does. Combined with political hostility, it can feel that the world is against them during a time meant to be happy. Queer people in America are feeling pressure from all sides, and as the months get colder, empathy and kindness are needed now more than ever.
Ilya LeVangie is a senior majoring in English and Professional and Public Writing, with minors in Music and Russian. They are planning to go to grad school for an MFA in creative writing, and teach English at a community college afterwards. His free time is spent making art and people watching.