I used to live in Brisbane, where, year after year on the afternoon of Christmas Day, a group of older gay men I knew would meet up in a pub.
Spending some of the holiday season catching up with friends over a few drinks is an experience familiar to most. At the time, I didn’t think too deeply about the annual ritual these men were undertaking.
Rituals are important for all at Christmas.
It is clear to me now, though, they were very deliberately seeking out and spending time with their chosen families on the one day of the year when escape from images of domesticity and family appeared all but impossible.
When Christmas rituals match with an individual’s belief system, they can induce immense comfort. There are certainly many lesbian and gay Australians who enjoy exchanging gifts, eating a festive meal and undertaking the more traditional cultural rites associated with this time of year. It is also difficult for some to avoid the conspicuous seasonal consumerism that marks the season.
If one looks deeper though, it is evident that the Christmas season can place a number of complex stresses at the forefront for some members of the lesbian and gay population. For some lesbian and gay Australians, spending the season with family may not be an option if families refuse to accept their sexuality or include their partner in celebrations.
For others, going home for the holidays can mean returning to places where memories of childhood and adolescent experiences of homophobia resurface. There are also those lesbian and gay Australians who do not have a home to which they can return. Rates of homelessness are much more pronounced among this population than the broader Australian population.