Family by Proxy
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