It may be the season of home and hearth, but thousands of LGBTQ kids will be spending the season feeling rejected by their families. Your Holiday Mom offers these at-risk young people support and encouragement when their own families let them down.
I watched the cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas Friday night with five-year-old Madison. I’ve seen that show a thousand and one times. I’ve read the book aloud a thousand and two. I can say every freakin’ word right along with the narrator. But Friday morning Sandy Hook happened, and I felt the need to hold the kindergartener in my life on my lap, and hope she could work her Maddie magic on my flagging spirits. I have the feeling I was not alone in this desire. I noticed Melissa Harris Perry tweeted Saturday morning that she was running late to the studio because she couldn’t tear herself away from giggling with her daughter.
I did my best to stay in the moment and not convey my distress to Maddie. I sang along, and didn’t complain, when she spent five minutes pressing the “skip back” button, replaying the Who’s joyful song (the one that sounds like “Sol-Who-Dores”?) in 10 second intervals, until she was satisfied we had both learned the correct lyrics with the proper Who language pronunciation. I took issue with how well Cindy Lou Who could speak for someone “not more than two,” and we discussed whether Whos might develop language skills more quickly than humans. Maddie volunteered the information that fairies are born knowing how to sing, but even under intense tickling could produce no supporting evidence. I had her put the show on pause while I pretended to make an emergency call to the Humane Society to report that the abusive Grinch had tied too-heavy antlers to his dog Max and hitched him up like a reindeer to pull his sleigh. I really was trying to be good company, but Sandy Hook still had my heart in a vice.
Then it happened. The Maddie magic. There they were, the Grinch and Max, frozen on the TV screen, teetering on the top of a mountain, as the Grinch whipped poor Max to make him take the suicidal plunge downward. I covered my eyes, and passed Maddie the remote telling her, “I don’t think the Humane Society is going to make it in time. I can’t look! Let me know when it’s over.” Next thing I hear is Maddie’s excited voice crying, “You can look now Nana. They’re over the fiscal cliff.”
I laughed. I laughed out loud. I laughed at the perfection of the visual metaphor – the Republicans as Grinch, whipping poor President Obama as he tries to pull the economic sleigh – and I laughed at the realization Maddie had no clue of such grown-up concepts. Mostly, I think I laughed in relief that all the joy had not been taken from the world.
Somehow the term “fiscal cliff” had wormed its way into Maddie’s vocabulary, if not her comprehension. And as I squeezed her a bit too tightly, and we watched the Grinch slide down the “fiscal cliff “ and slither his way into Whoville, it struck me that we have all been marinating in too much negativity for much too long. The campaign took its toll on our nation’s psyche. Hurricane Sandy battered us. And now this hideous act in Connecticut, that I have not yet processed well enough to even write about, has kicked us when we’re down. Yet there is still joy in the world. We need to remember that. There are still good people. Kind people. Hopeful, determined, patient people, quietly committing acts of kindness. And it is still Christmas after all, the season of peace and love.
I decided, even before the horror of Sandy Hook laid us low, that this week, the week before Christmas, I would find a worthy Christmas story for On Our Radar. A story of pure hearts. A story about generosity of spirit. A story of friendship. In my search, I came across many many worthwhile charities collecting money for very laudable causes; Lawrence O’Donnell is sending desks to Africa via the K.I.N.D. Fund. Jesse Tyler Ferguson is selling bow ties to benefit Marriage Equality campaigns, through his Tie The Knot website. And there is always Sandy Relief including rebuilding the Ali Forney Center, a New York LGBT youth homeless shelter which was flooded by Hurricane Sandy. But I wanted a story about people who were not asking for donations. Who were not looking for praise. Who were not pandering for votes, or trolling for publicity. I wanted a true Christmas story, and I found it. I found it right here in the midst of the LGBT community, where, just like Maddie did for me, Your Holiday Mom is raising spirits and creating Christmas magic for LGBT kids struggling with strained family relationships.
Your Holiday Mom is the effort of group of disparate women who have reached out via a website this holiday season, to LGBTQ kids who have been rejected by their own parents. Most of the women are straight, but not all of them. Some are mothers of LGBT kids, some have never had children. A few are even Dads. What they have in common is a desire to make Christmas a little less lonely for LGBTQ kids, who all too often feel detached and unwelcome in their own homes, especially at this time of year. Forty volunteers have each recorded a video, and written an open letter offering to be a surrogate Mom to a lonely LGBTQ kid this Christmas season. The kids can sign up to receive emails each day from Thanksgiving to New Years, or if they rather remain anonymous, they can read the letters online, and reply blog style if they would like to open a conversation.
Unsurprisingly, most LGBT kids who become estranged from their families do so as young teens, around the same time puberty sets in. Most are the victims of religious intolerance. And even though psychologists say that the biggest single indicator of how successful a gay teen will be as an adult is the acceptance and support he receives from his family when he comes out, all too many LGBTQ teens are told to leave, or subjected to emotional abuse so miserable they run away. These are just kids, trying to figure their lives out, and like all kids, they crave the encouragement and assurances of a mother they feel cares about them, even if it’s a surrogate mother. Your Holiday Mom is trying to fill that very real yearning for parental acceptance too many LGBT kids are denied. The lifeline Your Holiday Mom offers these lonely kids is truly the best kind of Christmas gift, a gift from the heart.
I hope you will allow me to posit one last thought on the plight of the LGBTQ teens Your Holiday Mom is attempting reach. Use the term “LGBT Youth” and everyone fixates on the “LGBT” part of the term, when it’s the “Youth” part that should be our focus. The average age of a homeless LGBT kid is 14 years. If 14 is the average, that means nationally there are thousands of 12 and 13-year-olds living on the mean streets too. It would seem to me, 12-year-olds being thrown away by their own parents should shock the public conscience, as surely as the tragedy of Sandy Hook. There should be a societal demand that such parents be charged with neglect. And we should rescue these kids with the same urgency we would rescue a baby abandoned in a dumpster. We cannot change what happened at Sandy Hook. But we can save these kids. All we need is the will.
As the saying goes, “Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.” This Christmas season 40 Moms did something; they opened their hearts to kids who really need to be loved.