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What Thanksgiving is for me

by Robbi Cohn

If you know someone who’s by themselves during the holiday season, why not include them in your family?
“Bittersweet” is the word that always comes to mind when the holiday season approaches. Leaves are falling from the trees, the days are getting shorter and the vibrant greens are turning to reds, golds and browns. These are harbingers for the changing of the seasons, a metaphorical and actual slowing down as the earth prepares for hibernation.

We instinctively celebrate the temporary death, as is our wont, just as we celebrate the rebirth of life in the Spring. As is often the case, we experience a coincidence of opposite — perceived endings infused with joy. We mark these changes in life with celebration and revelry. Out tastes and desires are prompted and fulfilled by get-togethers with family and friends, by the sampling of the fruits of a bountiful harvest, and the general camaraderie the season engenders.

For many in the LGBT, and specifically the transgender community, however, the holiday season has its own unique and bittersweet patina. We, too, welcome the changing of the seasons. We, too, enjoy the tastes and sounds and smells — music, food and intoxicating aromas and perfumes. But, the unfortunate reality is that many in the LGB and transgender communities have lost the embrace of family and the comradely of friends.
The sad truth is that many families and former friends have ostracized those who could no longer live the life of denial. Yes…we understand that transition is never easy for the families, but because of the prevailing winds of society, many transgender persons have no one with whom to celebrate at this time of the year. They are, in more ways than can ever be expressed, truly alone.

In light of this bittersweet state of affairs, I am celebrating my second annual Thanksgiving bash, which is open to all who find themselves with nowhere to go and with no one else to celebrate. It is my hope for this to become a yearly tradition — not just in my house, but in households everywhere — and that no one need ever be alone. We can fill our bellies, partake of the spirit of the season, and celebrate our magnificent individualities and the wonder of life’s diversity. We can feel the warmth of human companionship without judgment and open our hearts and minds to each other.

It may not be the same as that to which we had been accustomed. And it may not be the ultimate substitute for the family we no longer have around us. But there is a kinship and a solidarity we enjoy which is substantial and, not in the least, ephemeral. We are a people who have cut across the boundaries society has drawn and who can revel, not just in what the holiday season has to offer, but in the freedom of an open-ended sense of perspective.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving — and of sharing — it is my hope that those in our community will likewise open their hearts and their homes. Each of us undoubtedly knows a person, a friend, who has suffered the rejection of their family. Each of us has either been down that road or knows someone who has. We are surrogate sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. We can be a new family that eschews judgment and embraces all. We can be the nucleus of a new sense of community. And we can help to separate the bitter from the sweet this holiday season.

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