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In Praise Of Boxing Day and Football Family

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Why I’m grateful for the Reds, Liverpool Offside, and YOU

Arsenal v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

I’m all about radical vulnerability, so I’m going to share something a little personal with you.

My favorite Christmas movie is RENT, the film adaptation of the popular Broadway musical.

I don’t say this the way some people say Die Hard is a Christmas movie. There’s no irony here, no wink-and-a-nod, no satirical critique of the very concept of a Christmas movie. I really mean it.

Aside from the narrative framing around the holiday— the story takes place over the course of one year, beginning and ending on Christmas Eve— RENT is a strident defense of values I hold close to my heart. The idea of Chosen Family. Trying to be who you are and live your life on your terms, even when it’s hard, even when it’s dangerous. Trying to survive in a world that’s actively hostile to you and people like you. Holding space and bearing witness for the poor and sick and oppressed in the world. Not being afraid to tell the people closest to you that you love them. Of course that all resonates during Christmas. How could it not?

That first point, the bit about Chosen Family, is really important to me. I’ve had a difficult relationship with my blood relations for most of my adult life. And this was before I started living more openly as a queer person. Things have only gotten more complicated since I came out as trans. I knew what I was getting into, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

And so, over the years, I’ve had to cobble together a different kind of family. The people I’m closest to have been there for important moments in my life. Graduating from college. Going through difficult breakups. Surviving serious illness. Surviving homelessness. Coming out of the closet. Times that I thought I would have to face alone, and I didn’t have to. I wish I could express in words how important these people are to me.

This Chosen Family has come to sprout multiple branches. For one branch, our big day together is Boxing Day.

I’ve always been a football fan but I’ve only been an active, engaged supporter for... five years? Maybe? Me being the kind of fan where I’ll haul my fat butt out of bed no matter how early it is— I’m six hours behind GMT, so your 3pm kickoff is 9am for me— started in earnest in the 2010s.

But in these past few years I’ve found something like a Chosen Family. I didn’t grow up as a Liverpool supporter. I came to it later in life, on my own, knowing exactly what I was getting into. Knowing what kind of people got behind this ridiculous team and saying, yes, these are my kind of folk.

And over the past year and a half I’ve been able to write for TLO. Along the way I’ve become friends with everyone on staff here. We’re a writer’s bullpen that spans three continents— maybe four, depending on what Tito’s up to— but through impossibly long email chains and Twitter it always somehow feels like we’re in the same room. Like we’ve taken over the back alcove of a pub, where it’s quiet and warmer and we can hear each other.

I took this gig thinking it’d be a fun opportunity to write about Liverpool on the record. Now I try to imagine what my life would be like without Noel and Jordan and Ritika and Chuck and Steph and Kevin and AJ and everyone else here in the TLO community and I just can’t see how that would even work.

I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, which I’m spending with my parents. Today (Christmas Day) I’ll be visiting with some close friends. And tomorrow I get to spend the day with Football Family, yelling about the Mighty Mighty Reds on the internet as they try to bash Swansea. I’m excited for the game. I’m excited to see Mo Salah bag a hat trick and Simon Mignolet pull some clown shit and get away with it and Łukasz Fabiański stare ruefully at his gloves and ponder his life choices.

But mostly I’m just excited to spend a few hours with you. Yeah, you.

Wherever you are, however you’re spending the holidays, I hope you get to spend some time with people who care about you. If not over Christmas, than tomorrow, when our boys in crimson line up on the pitch at Anfield. We’re here for you, waiting.

Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day, Reds. YNWA.