January 24, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Q&A: Thanksgiving at Long Beach LGBTQ Center

For Long Beachers who celebrate Thanksgiving with their chosen family, the LGBTQ center of Long Beach is thankful for you. 

On Friday November 29, the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach is hosting a Thanksgiving lunch at the Center on 4th street. The Pride LA spoke with event coordinator Ismael Salamanca to se what attendees can expect. Check it out: 

Can you tell me a little bit about the annual thanksgiving meal?

The holidays are a huge time of year for families to meet and share your gratitude for the support they share for one another. For many in the LGBTQ community, specifically youth and older adults, families may have a different definition. For some youth, their family has rejected them and they depend on friendships and groups of peers to lean on for that support. For some older adults, there may be loss of loved ones, friends and other may not have families to call their own.

Isolation for older LGBTQ adults is a key focus for us at the LGBTQ Center Long Beach. That is why, since I started working here in 2008, we have Thanksgiving at The Center. We create a space for those who may not have a space to call their own and we become a family, if only for that one day. This means a lot to people and being able to host these events for over a decade now is proof that places like that Center are important to our community.

What can attendees expect?

Each year The Center gets support from local leaders to purchase food to distribute and each year Center volunteers sign up to help decorate and plate food for our community. This year, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn, has donated funds to not only support Thanksgiving at The Center but also our Senior Programs, Coffee Talk Tuesday: Thanksgiving event this year. Coffee Talk Tuesday is a weekly gathering for LGBTQ older adults to socialize and learn about new topics each week.

For the holiday, participants will enjoy thanksgiving themed food and an overall family feel to the event. Coffee Talk Tuesdays happen each Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. here at The Center. For Thanksgiving at The Center, held on Friday November 29th, volunteers and staff will serve a traditional thanksgiving meal including turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and great company. We see anywhere from 20-30 people each year ranging from young adults to seniors.

Is it open to the public?

Yes, this and all of our events are open to the public. Our events are created by and for LGBTQ people who do not have other resources to go to. Many places that offer Thanksgiving meals are not affirming to our community, which is why the LGBTQ Center Long Beach exists. We will never turn anyone away and we hope that people who join us for the holidays are aware that this is one of the few spaces that is safe, welcoming and supportive of LGBTQ people who need that support during the holiday season.

Why is “Friendsgiving” or celebrating thanksgiving with friends an popular and important trend in the LGBTQ+ community?

Friendsgiving or Thanksgiving at The Center is not something I would consider a “trend” in our community. For some in our LGBTQ community, celebrating with friends is the only option. Some LGBTQ folks may have been kicked out of their homes; others may not be welcomed at home with their partners or spouses. Some are also rejected simply for living their truth. Many transgender and non-binary people are not accepted at home every day of the year, making the holidays a harsh reminder of what they do not have.

The LGBTQ community is a strong community and we support each other when no one else does. We are resilient, but still need a family to call our own. I don’t think this is a trend, I think it’s a result of ingenuity from a group of people who may have been rejected from their biological family and accepted by the community family.

What is the LGBTQ Center grateful for this year?

We are grateful for many things this year. In a year where our government is constantly focused on removing our rights and services, we are also in a year where many have shown their support. We are grateful to our donors and funders from all levels for supporting our work and keeping our doors open. We are also grateful to our volunteers and staff who work tirelessly to connect people to the services they need. Lastly, we are grateful to our clients who trust us to serve them and are patient when times get tough.

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