LGBTQIA+ Representation in Holiday Traditions Globally

LGBTQIA+ Representation in Holiday Traditions Globally

The winter holiday season is a time for togetherness, joy, and the celebrations of the identity and also community around the world. For LGBTQIA+ people, the increased visibility and acceptance of the recent decades has helped to expand the possibilities for inclusion and also positive representation in various holiday traditions. Still, as an often marginalized community, there remain many opportunities for the progress.

In the United States, LGBTQIA+ people have made a lot of substantial advances in the holiday representation and celebration in the past several decades, coinciding with many advancements in legal rights and social attitudes. Christmas advertising campaigns by the major brands have begun featuring same-sex couples and also chosen families, acknowledging the buying power and social influence of the community. Television specials geared toward LGBTQIA+ audiences have found success during the holiday season, signaling the new space created in the popular culture for positive queer representation alongside the traditional mainstays. LGBTQIA+ affinity groups within the churches and spiritual communities that observe Advent or Christmas have enabled newfound open religious celebration during a season that, while central to the dominant culture, hasn’t always welcomed them.

While other parts of the world have in many cases lagged behind such advances, bright spots nonetheless emerge. In Ireland, Poland, Argentina and other heavily Catholic countries, Pride events and equality marches have been held successfully during the Christmas season, powerfully contrasting the messages of exclusivity with those of radical welcome. LGBTQIA+ people of minority faiths in diverse national contexts from Israel to India have carved out the safer spiritual spaces to openly observe the holy days important to the identity and community, but not always accessible.

Culturally specific celebrations have also become very important sites of reclamation for the LGBTQIA+ people celebrating outside the dominant traditions in their nations of residence. Diwali, for the Indian communities abroad and at home, has welcomed those finding renewed confidence in cultural and religious belonging after painful exclusions. Afro-Latinx queer communities celebrating the Three Kings Day have honored found family while upholding the syncretic hybridity of Latin and African diasporic customs. Lunar New Year festivities in the regions of Asian diaspora have made concerted efforts at representation and welcome for LGBTQIA+ attendees.

The increased visibility of LGBTQIA+ experiences comes with the opportunity to reflect on what works, and what we still must do. Representation in consumer advertising should move beyond the surface-level inclusion toward portraying lived realities. Faith communities must continue interrogating the barriers embedded in their theologies and cultures. The creativity shown by the marginalized groups reimagining the cultural celebration according to their identities might inspire the dominant cultures toward a more radically inclusive vision of the seasonal joy and light. Most importantly, progress requires that LGBTQIA+ voices be centered in determining what representations are most meaningful, which traditions resonant, and what a more just world worth celebrating looks like.

The holiday season lays bare the highest human hopes comingled with the deepest pain. For the LGBTQIA+ people navigating violence, erasure and exclusion this time of year, visibility and representation can represent not just feel-good branding, but deeper possibilities for collective healing. By leaving more seats at more tables in these cold and darkened months, sharing more stories and struggles in the candlelit halls we gather in, perhaps we all move a bit closer toward the light.

We at SHAVA are honored to share this article as a reflection of our deep commitment to celebrating the rich diversity within the transgender community. It is with heartfelt solidarity that we stand with transgender individuals of color, wholeheartedly advocating for an environment of acceptance and allyship. Through our efforts, we aim to uplift and honor the myriad of unique experiences that contribute to the beautiful tapestry of our community. Discover more about our initiatives at shava.co

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