For many, the holidays offer a home swelling with cheerful celebration, the warm embrace of family and shared time with loved ones.
But some moments can be tense and uncomfortable, especially for those in the LGBTQ community whose families don't accept them or have yet to become comfortable with their identity.
To celebrate the stories of LGBTQ people journeying home for the holidays, Pantene has partnered with the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles and GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, to produce a "Going Home for the Holidays" video series.
The videos highlight the stories of four transgender chorus members returning home for the holidays and sharing their experiences, which range from intolerant receptions to moments of joy and love. Overall, the stories ring with resilience and hope.
"While every LGBTQ+ person has their own unique story about going home for the holidays, everyone is seeking the same thing — to be surrounded by people who love and accept them," said Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Pantene, in a news release.
The series begins with a video of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles singing an a cappella version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" while viewers get flashes of the chorus members preparing to go home.
"137 million Americans will travel home this holiday season," the video says. "44% of LGBTQ people feel they can't come home as their true selves."
We get a glimpse of the true selves of Steven, Miliana, MJ and Crystal, who all identify as transgender, in the rest of the video series as they tell their stories of going home for the holidays.
Being free to appear as their true selves
Steven, Miliana, MJ and Crystal each share their own experiences with grappling with appearance and identity, something that can create discomfort among family who may be used to seeing them look a much different way.
"I grew my hair out, started letting it be curly, playing with it, having fun with it," Crystal says in her video. For her, being acknowledged as a woman by her family meant the world.
Eventually, she says, her mother told her she was pretty, and her grandmother sent her a quilt with the words, ""I love you Crystal, my granddaughter," embroidered on it.
"To have my family truly respect who I am as a woman, it was the most important thing for me in the world," she said. "Because everybody just wants to be loved, and respected, and feel welcome. To be able to express myself openly and genuinely, it's been freeing."
Getting to feel the freedom of acceptance can take time and difficulty, such as in Miliana's experience. In her video, Miliana shares how her father reacted to her choice to grow her hair long.
"For me, my hair was like my strength, my femininity. It was my character," she says. "My dad was not a fan of me growing my hair out. He ended up shaving my head bald and that was a very tough time for me — to lose something that meant the world to me in an instant."
Five years later, Miliana says, her father embraces her, transforming the anxiety that she used to feel around him into comfort and love.
"Now, to go home for the holidays means that I have a sense of community and family. It's just an amazing feeling of comfort to be back. I just feel like that's where my heart is."
The importance of "chosen" family
MJ has a complicated relationship with relatives. Like many other LGBTQ people, MJ has built up their "chosen" family by surrounding themselves with people who love and support them.
"What it means to go home for the holidays is a hard question," MJ says in their video. "I may not talk to my blood relatives, but I have so many brothers and sisters and siblings. I have a huge family. The importance of finding chosen family, I think, is key in the trans community."
MJ explained that their chosen family are the people who saved them when they were homeless and who celebrate them unconditionally.
"Home is not just where I lay my head, but it's the people around me, the people who support me, and the people who love me unconditionally."
Their words of hope for young trans people
Steven shared his advice for trans people going home for the holidays, letting them know that it's OK to still be figuring out who they are.
"I'd like for trans folks to realize and know that they don't have to have it all figured out," he said. "I know parents and families have a lot of questions, but it's OK to say, 'I don't know,' and it doesn't make you any less valid in who you are."
MJ urged young trans people to honor who they really are.
"For youth going home who are trans and gender nonconforming, let the holidays be a time that they can remember you as your authentic self," MJ said. "Let it be a celebration like it is."
From her own experience, Crystal knows that some things just take time, including acceptance from family. "To any young trans person going home for the holidays, stay strong. Give them time because they will come around. You will have joy and you will be loved. I believe that."