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Ways To Truly Support and Celebrate Queer Parents During the Entire Holiday Season

Feature image photo by Javier Zayas Photography via Getty Images

A swirly background in blues, oranges, and golds. The words HOLIDAYS 2022 are on torn gold paper, along with the Autostraddle logo.

Holigays 2022 // Header by Viv Le

This was going to just be a gift guide.

When helming our annual holiday package, I had a list of dream gift guides I wanted from writers. One of them was “a gift guide for queer parents.” It’s silly to think all queer parents need or want the exact same things when we’re talking just products you can buy. “Queer parents” is a vast umbrella. But when I brought the idea to our own Laneia, she said something along the lines of “what if instead of just gifts it’s ways to offer tangible support and service to queer parents for the entirety of the holiday season.”

After all, while queer parenthood looks so many different ways, regardless of how old one’s kids are, queer parents could always use support and help from the non-parents in their lives. That’s a constant and a given. Parenting is so much goddamn work, and given that our society is still not set up to give queer parents equal footing and access as other parents, the parents in our LGBTQ+ community deserve some fucking rest and celebration. So instead of a gift guide, this is more like a care guide. Yes, there are also things for actual purchase, but they’re all oriented around the idea of service and celebration, just small little ways you can make a queer parent feel a little less tired, a little more appreciated this holiday season.

I based the tips and ideas below off of conversations with queer parents in my life, and tbh, that’s where we shall start:

Ask the Queer Parents in Your Life What They Want

You can also, of course, ask them what they need. But try starting by asking what they want. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell someone what you really need. It’s vulnerable. There’s unfair pressure on queer parents to have their shit together, and that can make it hard for them to ask for help. But if you say: Hey what’s something you’d love to receive as a gift?” that’s an easier entry point. They’re likely super focused on the holiday shopping they need to do for their kids and not at all on gifts for themselves. So just ask them. If they have young kids, they might already have to be Santa, so you can be THEIR Santa.

Do Their Grocery Shopping for Them

I’m thinking of Thanksgiving in particular here. It’s so easy to say: “Hey, I’m doing a grocery run, do you want me to get anything for you” or even “hey, do you want me to do your Thanksgiving grocery shopping for you?” Have them make a list and hand it off to you. It could save them time or money they would have spent on a service like Instacart!

If you have the room in your budget, you can even pay for the groceries, but even if that’s not something you can offer, it’s still a huge help just to do the actual errand for someone who might be spread thin with parenting duties and kid schedules.

My friends and I often group text each other when we’re running errands to see if anyone needs anything. It’s such an easy gesture to do, and it doesn’t have to only be for special occasions.

Get the Things for Them That They Have To Get Their Kids

Parents buy advent calendars for their kids; my mother got ours at Ikea every year. Now, I buy them for myself and my girlfriend. But why make a parent buy their own advent calendar when they’re already having to buy some for their kids! Also, you can make this even more fun by getting them more of an adult advent calendar, which are so popular these days. The chocolate in most advent calendars for kids is pretty shitty, and gifting a queer parent shitty chocolate is RUDE. They deserve more! They deserve advent calendar luxury! I found some at an array of price points and for all different types of parents: the Bonne Maman fruit spreads calendar ($40), the Total Wine advent calendar ($80), THIS DOLLY PARTON ADVENT CALENDAR ($40), an English tea advent calendar ($15), a hot sauce advent calendar ($25), and a jerky advent calendar ($60).

Along these same lines and going back to the idea of being the Santa for queer parents of young kids, no one is stuffing their stockings!!!! As a surprise, what if you got them a cute stocking — like the $15 Target monogrammed one my girlfriend and I have for us and our dog — and filled it with, and this is crucial, things they will actually like. Not bullshit candy or junk! But small things that will bring them joy. Are they a skincare and/or beauty person? Sephora has such cute holiday gift sets full of minis and sample-size products, like the $45 holiday lip set, the $30 must-haves set, and the $15 mini nail polish set. Other adult stocking stuffer ideas: a mini candle set ($10), boozy freeze pops ($10), a candy cane of mini moonshines ($17), dried florals ($12, and like now I can’t stop thinking about how cute a stocking with florals popping out of the top of it would be!), really nice socks ($29), the Momofuku pantry starter pack ($60), TINNED FISH ($33 for the classic three-pack, but A+ members get a Fishwife discount).

Offer Full Holiday Card Courier Services

I know so many parents who want to send out holiday cards, run out of time to send holiday cards, vow to send them next year, and then repeat the cycle. It’s understandable! Between organizing the entire family for the actual photos, choosing a design and paying for the cards, and then actually getting them addressed and dropping them off at a whole ass post office?! EYE have trouble finding the time and organizational skills to get it done every year, and I don’t have small humans demanding things from me at all minutes of the day (I do co-parent an elderly French bulldog who is very uncooperative for holiday photos, but she’s still easier to manage day-to-day than a TODDLER). If you have ever heard the queer parent in your life say they wish they could have sent out holiday cards, now is the time to be the little holiday helper they deserve.

Offer to do basically all of the work. Snapfish is almost always offering a million sales on Christmas/Holiday cards, so you can also offer to pay for the cards, as most queer parents are likely already stretching their budget during the holiday season. But if you can’t afford that or if they won’t let you, then at least offer to do the rest. If you’re a photographer, that’s great! If you’re not, do you have a phone? We take our holiday cards every year with the self-timer setting on an iPhone, and it turns out perfectly fine! Become a photographer for a day and offer to take the actual pics of the family so that the parent(s) can focus more on making sure everyone is making normal faces and has their hair brushed than on the framing, lighting, and setup of the shot. Snap a million photos, especially in instances of a fidgety child. Show the parent(s), take more if they’re unsatisfied with all of them, and then let them have the final say!

Then offer to do the actual courier aspect. Have them make their list of recipients and their addresses in a Google Doc or spreadsheet. Then YOU address the envelopes (a lot of the online services offer preprinted addresses but it’s significantly more expensive and also people tend to prefer hand-addressed cards!), put stamps on them, and take them to the post office. Like a little mail elf!

Take Their Children Very Far Away From Them, Overnight

This was, almost verbatim, a suggestion from Laneia. This is obvious, but yeah! Queer parents indeed want a break from parenting! This is, of course, only a suggestion for you if you indeed have a close relationship with a queer parent. Don’t go offering an overnight babysitting adventure to someone you barely know lol. But also, I want to say: If you have someone in your queer chosen family who is a parent who brings their kids around and you have not made a meaningful attempt to get to know their kids…maybe think about changing that! It’s all up to the parent and whatever social boundaries they have, but I’ve seen this happen in some queer friend groups where people almost overcorrect for not wanting to define a friend who is a parent by their parenthood and just completely ignore that part of their identity altogether? It’s weird! Make queer parents feel seen, and start by directly acknowledging the literal life they brought into the world and don’t make parents feel weird for bringing their kids around! Not everyone can get a sitter every time they want to socialize!

Anyway, yes, if you do have the kind of friendship or relationship with a queer parent that includes closeness with their kids and an established track record of being able to care for children, offer up a full-on overnight parenting break — maybe even an entire weekend if you can swing it! I’d offer this for any time that works for the parent’s schedule, so it’s kind of up to them to choose when they want this little Get Out Of Parenting Free Card.


Are you a queer parent? Tell us in the comments what you want!


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 458 articles for us.

7 Comments

  1. I know every article can’t be every thing, but since this is framed as “truly”offering support during the “holiday” season, it would be nice to acknowledge that not all queer parents are christian, and those who are not often feel extra alienated even by attempts at support when those attempts fundamentally disregard a core part of their identity. having to perform gratitude for well intentioned gestures that mostly makes u feel more alienated (like being gifted an advent calendar as a jew) and having to manage the anger of xtians who take it personally that you don’t celebrate their holiday is an extra burden. I’m not a parent myself yet, but I know managing the feelings of ur kids about not being christian during this time of year is a whole other exhaustion. this article is about christmas, and that’s ok! there can be articles that are only about christmas. but saying holidays when the only holiday on offer IS, in fact, christmas is more misleading/disappointing than actually inclusive.

  2. I love this! My dad and I recently had a really good discussion about how it’s okay to ask for help and not a sign of not being good enough. He also said he was really impressed with my parenting and all that I do, which I appreciated!

    One of my good friends just asked me if I wanted a gift card for a massage and I said yes. Several years ago when I had a lot going on, the same friend did all of the holiday gift purchasing for my kids. Being Santa can be hard. I gave her the money and parameters, and checking in with me along the way, she did a really thoughtful job of selecting gifts! It took such a load off my plate! The kids loved their presents and she had fun selecting them!

    For my birthday this year another friend asked what I wanted, and I said a homecooked dinner that I didn’t have to cook. She made and brought over chicken and dumplings for my whole crew.

  3. “Take their children very far away from them, overnight” made me laugh because it’s so true. We have an informal reciprocal kid sleepover arrangement with Kiddo’s best friends’ parents and it is awesome.

    I do really appreciate my friends who treat Kiddo like a whole interesting person they like, too. Of course sometimes we want time with no child management mental effort, but when she’s there, it’s lovely to see her and my friends having a good time together. One friend made her a whole T-Rex costume out of cardboard, which she still remembers fondly years later.

  4. I love the idea of a care guide! I’d look to see more care guides for other groups that struggle with the holidays too: disabled friends, friends who struggle with mental illness, grieving friends, friends who are spending the holidays alone, friends struggling financially, etc.

  5. Re: care guides, Anne Helen Petersen (who is, alas, not a gay but has a great and always interesting cultural studies newsletter/Substack) recently published a crowdsourced Google form with questions meant to support the building of communities of care, which could be really valuable for parents and non-parents alike. It’s linked midway through the article (which is itself worth reading) here: https://annehelen.substack.com/p/a-shortcut-for-caring-for-others

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