Ho, ho, ho! Welcome to another edition of Queer Tested, Teacher Approved. The original title of this edition was “Winter Holiday Fun.” The thing is, once I started doing my research, I realized that fun queer winter holiday entertainment isn’t easy to find. That makes sense, though, after I thought about it for, oh, a second. Even if you have the most supportive family of origin imaginable, the winter holidays can be extremely lonely and isolating for queer people. And if they aren’t accepting?
Please indulge me a moment and allow me to play queer auncle: there is nothing wrong with you. If the winter holiday season makes you feel like crap for any reason, there’s nothing wrong with you. If it makes you feel great, there’s nothing wrong with you. Obviously, if you are financially dependent on your family of origin, you must do what you need to do to keep safe. However, if you’re financially independent, it is totally fine to make your own traditions (not that you need my permission … ).
So, I do believe that the reason so many queer winter holiday stories err on the side of dark is collective queer trauma. What does that mean for this article, practically? I read many a-holiday story, combed archives and listicles for works that center around the winter holiday season. I’ve ended up with four Christmas (and one New Year’s) stories that I enjoyed. I tried really hard to find stories that weren’t about Christmas, but unfortunately, they just weren’t out there. I’m also including a list of picture books that were on recommendation lists, but I just couldn’t get a copy of — I live in Turkey — and some are a bit more inclusive. I cannot speak to their quality.
All the below works take place during the winter holiday season, though they are not all specifically “holiday” stories. The main characters are high school-aged or younger. I found them all on queer/LGBTQIA+ lists and have read/watched the main four I recommend.
There are definitely spoilers, so keep that in mind.
Anna and the Apocalypse
Anna and the Apocalypse is perhaps the epitome of a Gay Movie™. It’s a Christmas-high-school-movie musical with zombies. And it’s Scottish. And there’s a queer gal. Here’s the thing, this movie starts out as like a nine or ten but ends at like a six, which in my mind means it’s like a seven/seven point five overall. Be forewarned, this is also a super gory — albeit campy gory — movie, so if you cannot handle that, this movie is not for you. Content warnings.
I Wish You All the Best (series)
Mason Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best follows Ben, a nonbinary teen whose parents kick them out of the house on New Year’s Eve. They then go live with their sister and forge a new life. The sequel novella, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, is much lighter and sweeter, and it was nice to check in with Ben again to see that they were still doing all right. Content warnings.
This Winter (A Heartstopper Novella)
This Winter (A Heartstopper Novella) by Alice Oseman is a novella about characters from their Heartstopper series. It’s also a follow-up to her novel Solitaire. This Winter is told in three chapters, each from a POV from one of the three Spring siblings. The story takes place on Christmas Day and mostly deals with how Charlie and his family are dealing with his recovery from disordered eating. Content warnings.
Your Temporary Santa
“Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan is a short story in My True Love Gave to Me, a YA holiday anthology edited by Stephanie Perkins. Levithan’s story is bittersweet, verging on bitter. The premise could be funny — Christian boy asks Jewish boyfriend to play Santa to keep his little sister believing one more year. But, as this story unfolds, we realize how out of place the narrator — imposter Santa — feels and just how big an ask his boyfriend’s Santa ploy is. Content warnings: death/loss of a loved one, homophobia.
Picture Books (I couldn’t get)
- Santa’s Husband written by Daniel Kibblesmith, illustrated by AP Quach
- Rachel’s Christmas Boat by Sophie Labelle
- The Christmas Truck written by JB Blankenship, illustrated by Cassandre Bolan
- Light the Menorah!: A Hanukkah Handbook written by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kristina Swarner
Resources for a Queer Holiday
Below are some external links for tips, ideas and support to get through the holidays as a queer person.
- The Trevor Project provides crisis support within the US
- The Switchboard provides crisis support within the UK
- UCCS LGBT Resource Center Guide Queer Holiday Survival Guide
- PFLAG’s Holiday Survival Guide
- “Surviving the Holidays as a Queer Person” by Ryan Cassata
- “How To Create Your Own Holiday Traditions“
- “5 Questions to Help You Start Your Own Traditions” by Cambria Bold
Lastly, I want to leave you with a piece of advice a friend gave me recently: It’s OK to take a break from caring. We don’t — can’t, won’t — always have the energy to deal. Take your breaks, drink your water.
I wish you all the best this winter holiday season. See you in 2022!