While most people will be spending the Christmas period with their partners, family and friends, this time of year can be a very lonely one for some members of the community.
For gay men and lesbians who have been rejected by their families, are single or have recently moved to Sydney for a better life, the festive season can be a very unhappy time.
Any time of year where you have a whole society celebrating and coming together with family, anyone who is not in that situation at the time feels neglected or feels somehow outside of that, Matthew Kalitowski, a counsellor in Surry Hills, said.
It can be a very lonely, isolating experience.
Susan Alldred-Lugton, a psychologist in Edgecliff, believes this is why there are more suicides over the Christmas period than at other times of year.
A lot of single gay people would have friends and family who are tied up with other things, other Christmas dinners, and so they find themselves alone, Alldred-Lugton said.
That can be a very alienating experience. And if they haven’t got the ability to hold themselves together emotionally they can really plummet.
The death of a partner or break-up of a relationship during the year can make Christmas a particularly lonely time.
In my experience, gay relationships are often very close and the partner is usually their closest friend. So when you haven’t got that person by your side you can feel like you don’t exist, Alldred-Lugton said.
Christmas can also be difficult for people who have just come out to their families, and also for those who aren’t out and don’t feel they can be themselves around their relatives.
Alldred-Lugton’s advice for those who find they are alone at Christmas is to force themselves out of the house and to be around people. Even if they go up and help people at those places that give out food to the homeless. Or go out where there are people, to the park, the movies or caf? she said.
If they can’t do that, get on the phone and wish someone happy Christmas. You’ve got to keep connected, to remember that you do exist and have value as a human being. You’ve got to really force yourself.
One suggestion for Christmas Eve is to attend the Metropolitan Community Church’s gay and lesbian service at Sydney Town Hall from 8pm, featuring the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir and guest speaker Reverend Dorothy McRae-McMahon.
One of the most important things is to be conscious of your own feelings and acknowledge them, according to Matthew Kalitowski. Don’t just ignore it, that’s the biggest mistake you can make, he said.
Acknowledge the situation and prepare to pre-empt it.
If there are people you can get together with, do. Don’t just assume everyone else has something to do and you’re the only one who doesn’t, Kalitowski said.
The Gay & Lesbian Counselling Service can be contacted on 8594 9596, or 1800 184 527 if you are calling from outside Sydney.