For most of us, the holiday season really does seem to be the most wonderful time of the year. But while we’re in warm homes, eating delicious food and laughing with our supportive families, many in the LBGTQI community are struggling through holidays without the love and acceptance of family.
Every year, LBGTQI youths especially are struggling with not only the loss of this supportive family unit, but with the loss of security, the loss of a home. 1 in 2 LBGTQ youths face negative reactions when coming out to their parents. Children and young adults are kicked out of their homes or forced to leave to avoid physical and emotional abuse. Homelessness is one of the biggest struggles in the LGBTQI community. As if having to leave one’s family isn’t enough, 1 in 3 transgender youth are turned away from a shelter because of their sexuality and gender identity. For non-heteronormative young people, alienation from loved ones and the lack of a safe haven is not rare.
Faced with all the obstacles that a family’s disapproval can bring (abuse, displacement, depression), it’s little wonder that the holidays don’t always hold the same appeal for individuals who have lost their family’s support. Recognizing the need for a loving, alternative message to this overwhelming trend of familial rejection, Robin Rice, better known as Shamama, started a viral sensation with her blog project, Your Holiday Mom.
The project started in 2011 when Rice recorded a short audio message, offering herself up as a “Holiday Mom” for anyone in need:
“I’m a mom that really accepts you as you are,” Rice affectionately declares, “As your Holiday Mom, I accept you. I care about you. I am interested in you. I want you to love and I want you to be loved.”
The response to the clip was overwhelming and helped to show the need for an open dialogue around the repercussions of family rejection. The project evolved into a series of letters, written by different moms from across the country. In this, its third year, the project also has submissions from dads, brothers, aunts and more.
“The challenge is when you’re growing up, it’s very easy to believe that what your parents think is what all parents think,” Rice reasons, “This is a way to step in, virtually and energetically, to show that it can be another way. To show people, there are an enormous amount of people who don’t care who you love. That you love, yes, we care, but who you love? That doesn’t matter to us.”
Starting on Thanksgiving, a different letter of support has been posted each day on the project’s website. The blog will continue to post new messages of encouragement from now until New Year’s Day, full of heart and compassion, wisdom and humor, acceptance and love.
“Last year, we had some really super oober gushy letters coming in and I wrote back saying, ‘Listen, these might seem a little unbelievable. There’s gonna be heart-hard tough street kids that could be skeptical.’ But I was totally wrong,” Robin laughs warmly, “Those are the ones that they want.”
Rice’s passion for the project is inspiring. In an amazingly courageous video posted during last year’s season, she opens up about the loss of her younger brother, Ricky, who took his own life due to struggles with sexuality.
In the video, Rice implores anyone considering suicide who may think their families would be “better off without them” to reconsider:
“We want you here. We want you in our families. We want you in our society. We want a world where you are so welcome to be who you are.”
“This is what I would have said to my little brother, this is what I would have wanted someone to say to him,” Robin states.
To anyone struggling this holiday season who may feel alone or helpless in a toxic situation with your own family, please know, you are not alone.
“I don’t care if you like vanilla ice cream or chocolate or strawberry. I don’t care if you like boys or girls or something in between. I don’t care if you ARE a boy or a girl or something in between. All I care about is that you’re being who you are,” Rice insists, “That’s what’s important to me.”
It’s easy to hear that message, when listening to any audio clip on Your Holiday Mom, as well as feel the warmth and love that fuels this project, “You can imagine there’s a mom out there who’s willing to give you a hug and say, ‘I like you. I’m interested in who you’re becoming. I support who you’re becoming. I want to see you shine as the real you. I want to see you happy.”
For more information, please check the links below and be sure to share this story, loud and proud, so that anyone out there suffering this holiday season can know they are not alone, that they are loved and accepted more than they know.
Rice adds, “You don’t know who is potentially suicidal or struggling. Not everybody knows that someone else’s parents have been horrible to them that day. Share it with your community, because whoever needs to find this should be able to.”