December 4, 2019
By Hannah Brauer, Photographer/Writer Student Lead
Winter break is upon us — and though this period provides a much-needed rest from classes, it marks the beginning of the holiday season when many members of the LGBTQ community may return home. Research shows the LGBTQ community is more likely to experience symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression during this time, as many folx may not have positive relationships with family or have a home to return to.
Carmelita Perrien Naccarato (she/her/hers), a junior studying Public Health Sciences and returning member of the Spectrum Center Programming Board, discussed how difficult this transition can be. She mentioned the option of spending time with chosen families but recognized the desire for many to spend time with biological family and the situations that arise as a result.
“Some students may not be out at home but are out on campus, so they have to sort of ‘re-closet’ themselves to survive going home. This can obviously be incredibly difficult and emotionally traumatizing,” said Naccarato. “If people are out or family otherwise suspects an individual of being LGBTQ, they may find themselves placed in uncomfortable or even dangerous situations [such as assumptions or harmful remarks].”
The Spectrum Center puts on a Home for Break event every year, which offers a chance for students to relax from exam studying with food and games while also processing their emotions before the holiday season.
“This is a place where [students] can be themselves and enjoy the queer community on campus before the break,” she said. “We do try to facilitate discussions as a group so that people feel comfortable sharing how they feel about this time of year, but we don't make anyone share that doesn't want to.”
As a member of the Programming Board, Naccarato expressed being involved at Spectrum Center has made her personally feel at home.
“Back home isn't the safest place for LGBTQ individuals, so I was searching for a queer community here and I found it in Programming Board,” she said. “It feels like coming home. They have helped me love myself so that I can be out and proud and share my truest self with the world.”
For other members of the community, Naccarato recommended reaching out to CAPS or another mental health service such as therapy. She cited other resources such as the Trevor Project and the Jim Toy Community Center for those who do not have access to therapy.
Overall, she emphasized the importance of chosen families and leaning on other loved ones.
“There's nothing wrong with needing other people,” she said. “Call your friends and rant about your family. Go to your friend's house and cry on their shoulder. Read a book, light a candle, go for a walk - do whatever it is that you need to do to take care of yourself. This time of year makes it seem like you have to be there for everyone else, but it's okay to put yourself first. Ultimately, your health and well-being matter more than pleasing your entire family… You don't have to apologize for taking care of yourself, especially when no one else will.”
For more resources through the Spectrum Center, see our guide for going home over break.