This post is about my Christmas List - that list of friends and family to whom I will send Christmas cards this year. The last posting date for UK destinations is only six weeks away, and it's sooner than that of course for anything sent abroad. It's about now that a well-organised person begins to plan.
It's a list of cards only, and not presents. Niece and nephew will get a small cheque, slipped into their cards, but there will be no parcels. In my family, a 'no-present' culture was established years ago. We got sick of playing the annual commercial game of spend, spend, spend. And shopping for presents - assuming you could think of what to buy - was a chore that became too much for elderly Mum and Dad, or my aunt in Wales. Besides, we were all adults who could afford anything we wanted. What was the point? Young children are always an exception, but for a long time there were none. I expect to give gifts to little Matilda when she gets a bit older, but she's too young at this point.
Some find that, at any age, there is a thrill to be had from ripping (or carefully snipping) brightly-coloured paper and ribbons off a mysterious package on Christmas Day. I do see that. And in the past I have myself wrapped up a Special Gift for a Special Person in such a package, and have thoroughly enjoyed the golden experience of giving. But I am bad at receiving: I really don't want any presents for myself, and I certainly don't like to see cash and effort wasted on glittering packages that will contain nothing that I actually want. There are many other aspects of Christmas, frivolous or serious, that grown-ups can appreciate just as much. Things you do, not things you get. Things said, things sung, things eaten in company, the toasts proposed, little gestures of friendliness and sincerity, and of hope for the year to come.
This will be my sixth Christmas since coming out as trans. Yes, the sixth - 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and now 2013. It's time to take stock, and decide who really merits a goodwill message that I will mean with my heart.
I want to get away from sending a card just because it's the conventional or expected thing to do at this time of year. Let's have sincerity. One or two people I will still send a card to have a shocking record of forgetting the date of my birthday, but I forgive them that, because I know they do not want to let go of me, nor I of them. Others, including some of my distant family, have without fail sent me cards at Christmas time when I know it's only because they feel they must. And the same on my side. It's time to put a stop to such exchanges.
This year I am going to be objective and unsentimental. There's another thing of course: with postage at 60p for a card sent first-class, or 50p second class (not much difference in the prices, is there?), a long Christmas List is an expensive proposition! But cost is only an annoying side-issue. I want to cut through social etiquette, and customary obligations and conventions, and get back to acknowledging only those relationships and friendships that really deserve it. These will be my simple rules. I will send a Christmas card if:
1. The recipient is someone I like, and I want to see them again in the future.
2. The recipient is (to the best of my belief) someone who likes me, and who wants to see me again in the future.
I am going to make no distinction between family, friends, neighbours or those professional persons in my life who have become friends. So (for instance) if a family member is a bit cold towards me, they won't get a card. And if the paid person who (say) comes to my house to clean it always has a warm-hearted and cheerful word for me, and shares their life with me, and seems interested in my life, then they jolly well will get a card.
I really think that the people who make an effort to be helpful and supportive and particularly pleasant should have a monopoly on all of the recognition going. I don't see why those who are simply there, but who stay away from me, who do not seek me out, should merit the same. I am therefore going to honour genuine goodwill, empathy and sheer personal effort.
It will of course be no coincidence that the persons getting a card will also be the ones who, despite knowing that I am trans, are comfortable in my company. I'm still an obvious trans woman, easily spotted as such by the general public. The people I'm talking about are prepared to cope with this fact. They have overcome initial suspicions that I might be living in a dream world of self-deception, or be frankly mad. They treat me as a normal person. I so much appreciate their wide vision and maturity, and willingness to accept difference. It should be acknowledged.
So this is the spirit in which I will draw up my Christmas List.
Of course, I will find myself forced to make exceptions. Somebody not on my list may get in touch with a warmth that can't be ignored. And I still have hopes that, out of the blue, one or two persons, whom I thought had totally abandoned me, will take this Christmas as the right moment to come back into my life - and then stick around. Would I be able to cope, if they did? Well, let it happen, and then we'll see how we get on. It would be the one sort of present I'd want. Give me people every time.