All too often, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are estranged from their families of origin, making going ‘home’ for the winter holidays difficult or even impossible. For this reason, and because of the strong sense of family among many in the community, a number of organizations throughout the valley have long held Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for all members of a broader family and their friends and allies to attend.
On Thanksgiving Day, Integrity Utah, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-affirming Episcopalian group, will host an interfaith Thanksgiving Day Celebration at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 4615 S. 3200 West, beginning at 3 p.m. The need for the dinner, said Integrity officer Robb Trujillo, is apparent, given the discrimination and prejudice queer people routinely face.
“Perceptions and/or confirmation of a person’s LGBT identity in school, or work can lead to verbal or physical assault, consequently making that family, work or social setting unsafe for many LGBT people,” he wrote in a Facebook message announcing the dinner and Holy Communion service open to members of all faiths. “In response, to the known fact that many in our community are not in regular communication with their family of birth and we have through time formed our own family’s of choice even with newly formed family of Choice, the Holidays can be very difficult for many.”
Held in the church’s parish hall, the dinner will include such traditional fare as turkey, mashed potatoes and what Trujillo referred to as a “divine” sage stuffing. He requested attendees, however, to bring side dishes and deserts to make the meal complete.
Since this is the first year Integrity Utah has held such a dinner, Trujillo said he is hoping to get a large and enthusiastic response.
“We really want it to be an intergenerational gathering, so we have elderly and middle-age and young and GLBT families and singles, so we get a broad cross section of the community who may be estranged from their families of birth, and so we can gather together and celebrate our unity in diversity,” he said.
“I think that we’re created to be in community,” he continued. “It’s very hard to practice any sort of betterment or spiritual growth as an individual. When we come together in community we celebrate the varieties of gifts that we have, and I think that it helps us to take better stock of the things we should be thankful for and the things that unite us as opposed to taking the other track and pointing out or differences and divisions.”
To further emphasize the importance of community, Trujillo noted that the church and Volunteers of America have set aside 25 slots for homeless youth at the dinner.
Holy Communion will be held at 2:30 p.m. with dinner to follow from 3–5 p.m. After dinner, those present will be able to watch a football game or a movie together. Those interested in attending should RSVP by Nov. 22 so the appropriate number of turkeys can be purchased. To do so, contact Trujillo at 435-849-2961.
The reason behind the Utah Pride Center’s annual Thanksgiving dinner (also held Nov. 26) is exactly the same.
“A lot of people form chosen families due to the discriminatory practices of their biological families, so it becomes quite important around holidays that we create spaces where we can come together in a safe, supportive environment to celebrate together,” said Jennifer Nuttall, the Center’s Adult Programs Director. “The Utah Pride Center wants to facilitate providing those opportunities for our community to gather to celebrate the holiday with people who support their identities and relationships.”
The dinner will be held in the Utah Pride Center’s Youth Activity Center, so attendees may make use of its pool table, television and games.
Unlike Integrity Utah’s dinner, however, all food items are donated beforehand, so attendees need not bring a dish. Like the church’s dinner, however, homeless youth are also encouraged to come, as are members of the center’s Service and Advocacy for GLBT Elders program.
“Generally the older generation has not had the same kind of family support as [younger gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people] are getting more recently, so it’s also a good place for elders to come and be a part of, and a great place for generations to connect,” she said.
While the dinner has a sufficient number of volunteers, Nuttall said that some food items are still needed. For more information about donating food or money, contact her at 801-539-8800, ex. 13.