When our families are supportive, it makes a huge difference for LGBTQ people. But not everyone has family support … and the holidays can be especially challenging for some people. As the December holidays approach, make plans now to reach out to those who may be feeling isolated. Think about how the language of sermons or teachings might call upon nostalgic images of family togetherness and remember that this doesn’t apply to everyone. While people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can be estranged from their families, LGBTQ people are especially hard hit. The fact that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ tells us, sadly, that families are continuing to reject their own children.

What can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Spiritual care providers in your congregation can be particularly aware of who might be feeling isolated or alone. Check in with people and encourage them to make connections with others if they wish to do so. Visit those who would welcome some company.
  • Reach out to organizations who serve LGBTQ youth, people with HIV, and LGBTQ seniors to see if they have need of holiday gifts, visits etc.
  • Remind LGBTQ people that they are affirmed in your community of faith using both words and symbols. You might include some rainbows in the decorations or rituals, such as rainbow candles on a menorah or rainbow ornaments on a Christmas tree.
  • Hold a gathering or discussion for people who are struggling during the holidays. Allow people to offer peer support and simply be validated for not feeling as cheerful as the stereotype. Some congregations hold a special service that allows people to express their “blue” mood during the holiday season.
  • Talk about the value of chosen families and networks. When speaking about families in sermons or teachings, use examples of different configurations beyond just biological families.
  • Hold programming in December that anyone can come to—movie nights, bowling, cookie bakeoffs, anything really—that allows people to spend time with others even if they don’t have families or partners nearby. Not everyone is included in the flurry of holiday activities.
  • Invite LGBTQ people to lead aspects of worship or teaching, as appropriate for your community. Not only is this affirming for your members, but visitors will recognize that this is a place where they, too, can be affirmed.