“The depressing thing about the Christmas season—isn’t it?—is that it’s the time when all the institutions are speaking with one voice. The Church says what the Church says. But the State says the same thing: maybe not (in some way it hardly matters) in the language of theology, but in the language the State talks: legal holidays, long school hiatus, special postage stamps, and all” (Sedgwick 5).
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s essay “Tendencies” touches on an essential theme in both the text and queer studies: how the dominant culture works to ‘other’ queer people and identities. We don’t tend to put the concept of Christmas and queerness in the same conversation, but there is something to be said about the queer isolation that the concept of Christmas causes, as Christmas can be seen as the epitome of heteronormativity. It’s heavily centered around the idea of the nuclear family, which is the “purest” example of the word and the type of family to which most ads market to. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, or even during and before it, the stores bring out the holiday mood, imploring you to start buying. They can’t waste one day of sales because it all comes down to money. The people who have those “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers would be making a real statement if it weren’t for the fact that someone cleverly sold those stickers to them for money, going against their very message. Christmas in either form, religious or capitalistic, or a mix of both, all feed the same monster called capitalism in the end.
Sedgwick goes on to talk about how every aspect of culture becomes monolithic, and if you don’t fit into it like many queer people do not, you are forced to sit down and watch anyway. If you are trying to escape Christmas, good luck. You will be met with it through the television, apps, radio, stores, and advertisements which are found in all four of those. Sedgwick asks the question of why everything has to be saying the same thing. The dominant culture dominates other voices and thus destroys a sort of diversity in ideas about how to live. What would be so wrong with different aspects of culture saying different things? I think that would make for a more interesting society, one that doesn’t follow certain institutions’ every move. I understand that most parts of society have something to gain from Christmas, namely money.
However, this leads to people buying into the script that these things write for us. So many people who aren’t particularly religious celebrate Christmas, specifically the gift-giving of it. That is only one of the small ways the heteronormative lifestyle is given value and its one that queer people subscribe to as well. Grow up, get married, have kids, and die. Obviously other lifestyles exist out there, but that’s just it, these lifestyles are ‘othered’. They are called ‘alternative’. I’m not saying that if you celebrate Christmas you are giving into the Man, I’m not the Grinch. I just think it’s worth noting the ways in which we are conditioned to want to follow the linear structure of life that is presented to us through things like Christmas and elsewhere in the dominant culture. The linear way of life is emphasized as the way during Christmas, and in turn, disregards the existence of queerness.