Regardless of faith (or nonfaith), traditions or culture, the holiday season has begun in earnest. Shop floors are crammed with the evidence of over-the-top consumerism. Holiday songs provide an incessant soundtrack to the season. Families wander in tree lots to find the perfect tree if an artificial one isn’t already propped up in all of its plastic glory. Menus and shopping lists are planned for feasts around the family table.
For members of the sexual- and gender-diverse community, the unfulfilled promise of gatherings of families and friends is often what hurts the most. For persons who have a limited or no social net of family or friends the festive season can be overwhelmingly intimidating, depressing, and lonely.
Social isolation is a problem in all facets of society, but it is especially acute in the sexual- and gender-diverse community. Biological families can be less than accepting. Sometimes people within the 2SLGBTQ community are “uninvited” to family gatherings or are delivered ultimatums that they must present in a way that is contrary to their identity or presentation. Even if a person is out to their biological family, they still may have to endure inappropriate or hurtful comments.
So how do you beat isolation and loneliness when you’re a member of the 2SLGBTQ community? Here are some ideas:
• Recognizing that the holiday season could be a tough time for people, many groups that support the 2SLGBTQ community in various capacities will continue to meet in December. For a list of those meetings, go to OUTniagara.ca and click on Community Calendar.
• On Dec. 4, out artist Ria Mae will perform on The Stars Tour with special guest Mathew and Valerie. The concert takes place at the Warehouse in St. Catharines. Tickets are available at mrgconcerts.com, eventbrite.ca, and Mindbomb Records in St. Catharines.
• Celebrate the season with your queer family at the Holi-Gay Open Mic Night at the Niagara Falls Community Health Centre, 4790 Victoria Ave., on Tuesday, Dec. 17 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. The all-ages free event is co-sponsored by NFCHC and Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines.
• As part of the regular meeting of the Niagara Region LGBTQ+ Women’s Group held at Mahtay Café on Dec. 17, a cookie exchange will be held. The group will hold a holiday dinner at Lina Linguini’s in St. Catharines on Dec. 11 from 5-9pm; for details on a meal discount, go to the group’s Facebook page. On Dec. 21, the group has also planned a breakfast at Johnny Pastrami’s. Details are listed on the group’s Facebook page.
• Need some balance in your life? Entelechy Yoga is offering a free holiday de-stress session through Rainbow Flow Yoga, led by Celeste Turner. The event takes place Dec. 12 from 8-9pm at Soul Fire Power Yoga, 111 Fourth Ave. in St. Catharines. The safe-space session is open to 2SLGBTQIA+ members of all abilities. Mats are available. For more information, contact Celeste at 289-407-0654 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
• If you find yourself without a place to stay, check out overnight shelters. The City of Niagara Falls will pay cab fare for patrons to travel from the Out of the Cold shelter on Morrison Street to the Gale Centre on Thorold Stone Road where hot showers are available.
• If isolation and depression reach a crisis point, please contact the 24-hour Niagara Distress Centre hotline. If you live in St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and area, call 905-688-3711. In Port Colborne, Wainfleet and area, call 905-734-1212. In Fort Erie and area, call 905-382-0689. In Grimsby and West Lincoln, reach out to 905-563-6674.
• If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386. TrevorChat is a free, confidential and secure instant messaging service that provides live help to 2SLGBTQIA+ youth.
It’s often difficult for an isolated person to reach out. Be the initiator and invite your friend for a coffee date, send a message that you’re thinking about them, or arrange an activity together. For someone who is isolated, your attention and time may be the best gifts of all.
Did you know that OUTniagara has a Community Fund? The mini-grant program helps to subsidize the activities of Niagara’s 2SLGBTQ organizations, groups and individuals in an effort to help keep our community diverse, supportive, vibrant, active, vocal and fun. In addition to financial support, OUTniagara is open to collaboration to assist you in your activities. Check out the details at outniagara.ca