From sappy rom-coms to blood-drenched slasher sagas, queers narratives can now be found in nearly every kind of film. But one genre where our stories are still rarely represented is the Christmas movie. 

Whether you’re craving a little gay flavour to accompany your eggnog or just need an escape during the annual family chalet week, Xtra has assembled a variety of holiday distractions to warm your heart in unexpected ways.

 

Female Trouble (1974)

Časlav Tomović/YouTube

The classic Christmas film often chronicles a curmudgeonly creature undergoing a personal transformation leading to a climax around an over-dressed evergreen. Perennial provocateur John Waters’ third feature doesn’t follow that formula. But why would you expect someone who shot to fame by filming a drag queen eating dog shit to follow in anyone else’s footsteps?

Instead, the film opens with an ill-fated family Christmas that propels its main character into a life of self-destruction. Featuring Waters staples — Divine, Mary Vivian Pearce and Mink Stole — Female Trouble follows in the depraved footsteps of his previous shocker Pink Flamingos, at the same time it continues to challenge fatphobia and the boundaries of decency. Definitely the right thing to pop into the Blu-Ray if you need to traumatize your Trump-loving uncle into speechless submission. 

 

The Family Stone (2005)

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Sarah Jessica Parker’s first post–Sex and the City outing is more straightforward holiday fare, with queerness as the side dish rather than the main course. But the team, no doubt intent on capitalizing on the show’s gay following, peppered the project with material for homo audiences, including a subplot about Thad and Patrick,  a couple adopting a child. 

Parker plays an uptight executive meeting her boyfriend’s wacky family for the first time. Convinced they despise her, she repeatedly puts her stilettoed foot in her mouth with her attempts to win their affections. 

Amid the chaos, Thad and Patrick occupy an unusual space for queer characters in a straight narrative; while everyone else is battling their personal demons, they’re the only ones who aren’t totally messed up. Equal parts slapstick and romantic comedy, The Family Stone will pluck at your heartstrings in exactly the right ways.

 

Holiday Heart (2000)

Robert Townsend/YouTube

Ving Rhames is known for hyper-macho roles like drug lord Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction and zombie-fighting cop Kenneth in Dawn of the Dead. So his turn as a church choir leader who moonlights as a drag queen marks a major departure. Holiday (Rhames) is mourning the death of his lover when he befriends struggling drug addict Wanda (Alfre Woodard) and her daughter Niki (Jesika Reynolds), hoping he can help them find a better life. 

Originally released as a TV movie, the film’s attempt to mix heartwarming moments and dire tragedy make it less Christmas-y than producers likely intended. But Holiday Heart stands out as both an early depiction of a gay black character on screen and a reflection on the unique ways in which queer families are constituted.

 

Make the Yuletide Gay (2009)

Ryan Saunders/YouTube

We’ve seen a handful of low-budget stabs at the gay holiday flick like 1999’s 24 Nights and 2005’s Regarding Billy. But Rob Williams’ 2009 film is one of the first to have the slick feel of a major motion picture. Gunn (Keith Jordan) is a politically active college student who’s out to everyone in his life except his parents. This comes as a shock to his boyfriend Nathan (Degrassi’s Adamo Ruggiero), when he shows up unexpectedly at Gunn’s place for the holidays after his own parents ditch him for a swanky cruise.

What follows is an innuendo-laden comedy of errors that feels like a film gay folks might watch with their straight friends. The laughs are often predictable and the performances are uneven. But the film succeeds by addressing the reality many queers face of having to remain closeted around their families. If you give it a chance, Make The Yuletide Gay turns out to be an unexpected tear-jerker at the same time that it points out just how far gay rom-coms have come.

 

Tangerine (2015)

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There’s very little that’s touching about this smartphone-shot film about a trans sex worker’s quest for truth on Christmas Eve. Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is fresh out of the slammer and happy to reconnect with her pal Alexandra (Mya Taylor). But when Alexandra lets it slip that Sin-Dee’s lover Chester (James Ransone) has been screwing around while she’s been locked up, she sets out to settle the score.

Despite being set on Dec 24, it may be the least Christmas-y film of the bunch. But if you’re looking for something to transport you away from the tinsel-laden sentimentality of the holidays, this is definitely one for your roster. At its heart, Tangerine becomes an unexpectedly moving exploration of queer kinship. And in a year that delivered the transphobic mess [re]Assignment, it’s fitting to ring in the holidays with a film that has deep, complex trans characters played by actual trans actors.

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