Fam­ily by Proxy

Milwaukee Magazine - - HOLIDAY -

THE HOL­I­DAYS CAN BE STRESS­FUL FOR MANY of us, what with packed so­cial cal­en­dars, wal­lets hem­or­rhag­ing money and fam­ily ten­sions. For les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual, trans­gen­der and ques­tion­ing youth (LGBTQ+), the sea­son can be down­right trau­ma­tiz­ing.

“The hol­i­days can be a very lonely time for peo­ple of our com­mu­nity,” says Amy Orta, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mil­wau­kee LGBT Com­mu­nity Cen­ter. “When some peo­ple come out, their fam­i­lies dis­own them.”

She adds, “There is this as­sump­tion that you have fam­ily, and there will be cel­e­bra­tions. Many of our young peo­ple are in fos­ter care or home­less shel­ters. There is a dis­con­nect.”

The Cen­ter’s Project Q (PQ) works throughout the year to help LGBTQ+ youth, ages 13 to 24, feel ac­cepted and nur­tured through so­cial pro­gram­ming, dis­cus­sion groups and well­ness pro­grams.

“All of our youth have ex­pe­ri­enced bul­ly­ing, ha­rass­ment, dis­crim­i­na­tion and of­ten vi­o­lence,” says Natalie Zanoni, di­rec­tor of client and pro­gram ser­vices. “PQ space and our cen­ter are an ac­cept­ing, af­firm­ing, drug- and al­co­hol-free en­vi­ron­ment where they can iden­tify and ex­press them­selves with­out fear of ridicule or ha­rass­ment.”

PQ goes into high gear dur­ing the hol­i­days, com­bin­ing with the cen­ter’s other pro­grams, in­clud­ing those for se­niors. They host a drag show at Hal­loween. At

Thanks giv­ing fest, spon­sor­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions (in­clud­ing PrideFest Mil­wau­kee, the Mil­wau­kee Met­ro­pol­i­tan Com­mu­nity Church and the Les­bian Al­liance of Metro Mil­wau­kee) con­tribute main dishes, sides and bev­er­ages, and ev­ery­one brings a dish to pass. Other hol­i­day events have in­cluded drag shows and lip-sync bat­tles.

This year, the cen­ter was plan­ning to host an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional Thanks­giv­ing potluck – and pos­si­bly also a win­ter dance. “All of our so­cial pro­gram­ming is led by the in­put of both youth and older adults in our pro­gram,” Zanoni says.

Thanks­giv­ingfest & Potluck

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