Holidays got you blue? Here’s some joy and fight and warm hugs

Our culture maven S. Bear Bergman has some terrific suggestions on navigating family drama and crafting your own traditions

Hello, wonderful friends! It is, as my beloved friend Hanne Blank Boyd likes to say, the PGDFF Season! (Pronounced Pigduff, it’s an acronym for Pretty G*d Damn Fucking Festive.) My calendar is filling up, as I hope yours is, with invitations to an assortment of festive occasions, which I especially enjoy when they are holiday-specific, rather than Holidays Comma Various. Let me invite you to eat Hanukkah latkes, and then invite me to come eat Christmas cake, is one of my many feelings! Of course I have plenty more feelings about the season (which I will save for another forum), but also many ideas about what you might like to watch, read, look at and listen to here in the dark of the year, whether that means “days are short” or “work is exhausting” or “family of origin behaving badly” to you.

Help, my family is behaving badly

Mrs. Frazzled.

This is more a collection than a single item, but there are a few things I have found useful around the question of “I feel obliged to spend time with my family of origin and some of their behaviour around my gender or sexual orientation is absolutely Not Okay.” In no particular order, the Mazzoni Center has published a guide I generally like for “How to respond if your family misgenders you over the holidays,” my new TikTok fave Mrs. Frazzled has a video for that family member who has shit to say about your sexuality (I for one feel like it’s perfectly fair to just connect your phone to whatever speaker is available and play it at max if or when they get started), and for your friends, here’s an article I wrote a couple of years ago, but still like, about “How to support someone you care about if they’re stuck at home with bigots.” If your FOO is trying a little, give them some encouragement by showing them this incredible short doc executive produced by notably-supportive-dad-of-a-trans-daughter Dwayne Wade, The Dads—six dads of queer and trans kids talking about their children, very tenderly. 

There are also some active culturally specific groups that provide support for families navigating the rough waters between loving and wanting to support their family member and participating in a cultural community that may make that more challenging, including Desi Rainbow, Eschel, Muslims for Progressive Values, the book Queer Theology Beyond Apologetics by Linn Marie Tonstad or queue up the thrilling, Obama-produced, civil rights movement film Rustin for an interior look at the integral contributions of Black gay man Bayard Rustin, a close colleague of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin’s contributions to the civil rights movement were all but erased because of his sexuality. And please feel free to send anyone with “opinions” about LGBTQ2S+ children, students and youth to the Family Acceptance Project, which exhaustively details, with hard data, why family support is so critical for LGBTQ2S+ people, but especially young people (they also have downloadable resources for LDS/Mormon families in English, Spanish and Chinese).


Pattie Gonia, “Won’t Give Up” (featuring Yo-Yo Ma and Quinn Christopherson)

Today in collaborations I would not have predicted (honestly sometimes my favourite thing), eco-drag royalty and climate activist Pattie Gonia has released a new love song to the planet called “Won’t Give Up” and it is a collaboration with Ahtna Athabascan and Iñupiaq trans songwriter Quinn Christopherson and … cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who all met up in Christopherson’s native Alaska to record the song beside two vanishing glaciers. Ma, who has won pretty much every prize for music, recorded on 100+ albums and appeared with everyone from Big Bird on Sesame Street to bagpiper Cristina Pato to street-style dancer Lil’ Buck, joins Gonia and Christopherson to make this music video, where the three performers—all noted for joy, invention and deep commitment to music—give a heartstring-tugging performance in coordinating outfits, and I for one am just delighted by it. Please allow me to also draw your attention to Christopherson’s Tiny Desk Concert, which is just great, and also Gonia’s performance of “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen, undertaken while snowshoeing and skiing (watch it before you hit the slopes or trail for inspiration and warmth), and also Yo-Yo Ma on Pinkalicious & Peteriffic, thank you.

E. Patrick Johnson gives the Kessler Lecture at CLAGS

For a minute, 20-plus years ago, I was in community with E. Patrick Johnson when he was in his first academic posting at Amherst College in the late ’90s and made friends with my friend Torin. This meant we saw him sometimes at karaoke night and, if memory serves, once or twice on the Sunday each month my ex and I used to throw open the doors and make a vat of stew and invite everyone queer either of us knew (except the proto-TERFS of the local valley) to eat and talk. I remember him as erudite and a great storyteller, possessed of a dry wit, a better-than-passable falsetto and a hearty appetite. Somehow, this has made it even more thrilling to watch his successes as the intervening decades passed, reading his incredible, genre-defining book Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South—An Oral History, which spawned a solo performance and then the film Making Sweet Tea, which for absolutely no reason I can figure out cannot be streamed anywhere, at all, which is a shame because it’s marvellous. He has written a number of other books since, and continued to write and perform and insist that Black queer experiences are valuable and necessary to the field of queer studies. His talk on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. EST is entitled Quare Studies: A Postscript (referencing his 2001 article “‘Quare’ studies, or (almost) everything I know about queer studies I learned from my grandmother,” which carried an entire orchestra of race and class politics into the burgeoning academic field of queer studies and set it down with a a crash that was somehow also a chord) and you can watch it on Zoom, with me.

Fresh Meat on demand

Shawna Virago.

I glad to report that Fresh Meat isn’t yet another new twist on a hookup app (I am surely not against them, but I think we probably have as many as we can use), but instead a festival of queer and trans performance centering trans, gender nonconforming and queer artists of colour. And this year, for a couple of weeks, you can stream the performances from wherever you happen to be. There are three programs available, only for the period of Dec. 1–9, and each of them features a delicious selection of pay-what-you-can performances from exciting artists like drag monarch and mentor King Lotus Boy, punk multi-hyphenate Shawna Virago (turn her track “Gender Armageddon” allll the way up as another holiday coping mechanism), plus so many more, but my column is already running a little long this week so … onward.

We Live Here: The Midwest, on Hulu

Oh gosh, this got me hard in the feelings: We Live Here, a documentary produced and directed by Melinda Maerker, following some queer and trans couples and families in the American Midwest. I think that it’s compelling because, though the production values are superlative, it’s not at all slick—these are people, talking about their lives, and where and how they feel well and loved (and also where and how they feel hurt or scared). In various ways, We Live Here disrupts the idea that to be queer or trans is something that happens on the coasts, or in cities, and that whatever bright pansy pops up elsewhere must immediately be transplanted to a more hospitable pot. Here, however, are people who for a variety of reasons have chosen to grow where they were planted, as queer Southerners often say, and it is incredibly gratifying to watch them do their thing (even when, especially when, other people would prefer that they didn’t do that thing). I am at least half in love with everyone in this movie, and I think you will be too. It premieres on Hulu on Dec. 6 for people in the U.S., and I hope it will be available for purchase on other services shortly thereafter because it is truly a delight. 

Well, despite my long-windedness, we have at last reached the end of this column’s recommendations, and I am ready for my hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows and my giant, fluffy slippers. I hope you also have many comforts; I hope that this is a season of brightness for you and that if historically it hasn’t been the case, perhaps this is the year it brightens, or the year you figure out how to make yourself bright enough to eclipse any shade or shadow. In the meantime, if you’re making something new and queer, drop me an email or DM and let me know? I love to hear your news.

S Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a writer, educator and advice columnist. His ninth book, Special Topics In Being A Human, was published by Arsenal Pulp Press in the fall of 2021.

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