Making LGBT Spirits Bright This Holiday Season

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com December 04 2013 8:41 PM ET

While traditional wisdom contends that the holidays are a time to spend with families and loved ones, for many LGBT people, those families of origin aren't accepting of their identity and may well be estranged. For those folks, the holiday season can be a particularly lonely and tough time. 

But two campaigns are aiming to brighten the spirits of LGBT people who aren't yet feeling that holiday cheer. 

Since 2011, Your Holiday Mom has been collecting letters, voice messages, and videos from supportive, welcoming parents to share with anyone who could use a little extra love in their life at this time of year. Every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the blog publishes a new message of love and affirmation from a different "Holiday Mom," letting her proverbial children know they are loved, wanted, and accepted as they are. And for the first time this year, the messages featured on Your Holiday Mom's website will include notes of support from brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends. 

"Dearest Sibling," reads a letter posted November 24 from "Sibling Ashley." 

"Let me be the first one to say that those people who’ve contributed to your feelings of loneliness, unworthiness, or unwantedness; those people are not your tribe. Your tribe is out here in the world. We welcome you. We embrace you. We send you air-hugs and high-fives. We invite you to join our celebration this holiday… This holiday, we sit beside you in Spirit and whisper three I love you’s for every negative thought or word you hear. We give you a long and hard hug of acceptance every time you’re feeling self-conscious. We color with you when you forget the happiness and bliss of childhood. We exchange gifts of inside jokes and tickle-fights. We cuddle together with a warm cup of hot chocolate and watch my favorite movie because you promised that you would. And I sit through the eighteenth rendition of yours, because I love you."

Also in its third year is The December Project, an ambitious, warm-hearted campaign from four trans activists and allies that promises a phone call to any trans person or partner of a trans person who could use some support this season. 

"The world is full of transgender people who are unable to see their children, their parents, their loved ones, all because of the simple fact of who they are," writes Jennifer Finney Boylan on her blog announcing this year's Project. "We cannot undo all the hurt in the world. But what we can do is CALL YOU ON THE PHONE and remind you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You don’t have to be in crisis to take advantage of this project. All you have to do is want a friendly voice."

Boylan, a trans woman and the recently appointed national cochair of GLAAD, teamed up with fellow trans woman Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, Denver-based artist Dylan Scholinski, a trans man who directs Sent(a)Mental Studios, and Helen Boyd, a professor at Lawrence University who is married to a trans woman, to reach out to trans people and the folks who love them to offer support this month.

To request a call, just send an email to Boylan at [email protected]. Emails should include the name and phone number of the person seeking support, as well as a few dates and times that might be good to receive a call. Those wanting to speak to one certain participant can make that request, though Boylan notes she can't guarantee that's who will ultimately make the call. The December Project promises to keep all information strictly confidential, and will only use the information provided to reach out to those who request it.

The Project, which Boylan writes operates on a "shoestring budget," consists of the four friends trading phone numbers and calling those who need some love. Boylan notes that the December Project is not a crisis intervention line — those contemplating suicide or self-harm should reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, and LGBT youth in crisis can contact the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. Both numbers offer confidential counseling from trained specialists, and are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day.