Michael Aaron

Family and ‘family’

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I love the holidays, because it is a time I can spend with my biological family. My mother for my entire life has made Christmas and Thanksgiving a production, overspending on gifts, getting us together to bake goodies for a week prior, and when we were smaller, having us make ornaments and other decor for display. Yes, we bent all of the pages of old Readers’ Digests to make Christmas trees that we spray-painted and glittered.

Much of these traditions live on, but in different ways. I’m not around to help bake things. I haven’t made a crafty kitch in decades. But Christmas is still special — Mom has made sure of that.

When I moved out of the house to go to college, I found a group of friends through the then-Gay Student Union that I ran. We all lived together for many, many years, and though I was at my family’s on the actual holidays, we always had our own “family” celebrations at our house as well. We would invite all of the “gay orphans,” as we called them — friends whose family kicked them out of the house or just made it so difficult to enjoy their time together, that they didn’t bother — to have a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Friday of Thanksgiving weekend.

I moved away for a few years, and many of my friends did as well, so that tradition fell by the way-side. I know, however, that there are many “orphan Thanksgivings” and Christmas celebrations across this valley for very much the same reasons we held ours. While times are changing, they’re not changed yet.

These days, for the last 12 years, my other family has been the singers in the Salt Lake Men’s Choir. I still marvel at the closeness of the choir family. While the numbers of singers are growing rapidly and it becomes hard to pick up all the names, it still happens in time. This is in no small part due to artistic director Dennis McCracken and president Wesley Brady.

Dennis is like the mom of the choir. He hosts orphan holidays of his own, fussing and cooking and planning to make sure everything is just right.

And Wesley is like the mom of the choir. Yes — we are a two-mom family. Every year for the Fourth of July, Wesley fusses and cooks and plans to make sure the annual summer party is just right.

In the not-too-distant past, lesbians and gay men would call each other “family” as code for being gay. I know some who do it to this day. This is what this community does — it creates families where some are lost.

Hats off to the Sun Trapp and Club Try-Angles and the Utah Pride Center, who will have Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations for the orphans. And hats off to those who invite their orphaned friends to share in their festivities. This is what is good in the world, and this is the time of year to celebrate that. Q

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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