Christmas can be painful and bitterly lonely for far too many LGBT+ people. This charity is out to change that

An LGBT+ charity in Birmingham, England, is calling for donations so it can send members, many struggling with isolation, a holiday hamper. (Stock photograph via Elements Envato)

As much as festive jingles blare out of shopping mall speakers and storefronts become tangled with tinsel, with the coronavirus still gnawing on normality, it can be hard not to feel like a sack of coal right now.

But for many queer people, it’s business as usual. Just another Christmas season of feeling like they live in Narnia – a place C S Lewis once wrote where it’s “always winter and never Christmas.”

Indeed, in the LGBT+ community, Christmas can be a poignant and painful reminder of loneliness for those who have no family or have become isolated from relatives – one in eight LGBT+ people see their biological family less than once a year.

Birmingham LGBT, an award-winning charity based in the West Midlands city, is out to change that.

Since opening in 2013, the group have held parties on Christmas Day for LGBT+ people who do not have someone to spend it with in its community centre on 38/40 Holloway Circus.

But with measures to curb the coronavirus stuck in place, Birmingham LGBT’s annual party, a day of gifts, grub and party games attended by some 50 people, has been cancelled – a crucial lifeline for many squashed.

Refusing to let the city’s LGBT+ community spend the holidays alone even as morale wilts, the charity is now asking for donations to host a Zoom party and mail members a holiday hamper instead, Birmingham LGBT director Steph Keeble told PinkNews.

The group’s GoFundMe page has already raised more than £1,100 – smashing it’s the initial target – with volunteers rejoicing at the generosity.

In throes of a global pandemic, Christmas poses even more challenges for the already vulnerable LGBT+ community

“This year sadly due to the ongoing global pandemic we are not going to be able to open on Christmas Day like we usually do,” Keeble explained.

Birmingham LGBT, the city’s leading and award-winning charity for queer residents, often holds communal functions that COVID-19 has since thrown into jeopardy. (Supplied)

“Instead we will have two members of staff hosting a Zoom social in the afternoon we are also aiming to provide hampers with a gift and some Christmas treats like chocolates and mince pies to people who would have attended the party.

“We have staff who will make them up and deliver them on Christmas Eve which is what we are fundraising for. The fundraiser is to cover the cost of making the hampers which will include presents and food.

“It’s been a very difficult year for many in the community during lockdown isolation and loneliness has increased with many people living alone and bars, clubs, and community centres closed many people have been isolated from their friends and their community.”

Keeble said that demand for the charity’s counselling and domestic abuse services have spiked since lockdown – with hotlines lighting up with reports of violence and strained mental health, the psychological fallout of the virus has left her team deeply wary and alarmed.

She added that those without a Birmingham postcode are free to join the online party and can do so by emailing hello@blgbt, while imploring people to “stay connected, talk to your friends, arrange online hangouts and be there for each other”.

“We are hoping that by providing a small hamper at Christmas and a Zoom social on Christmas Day,” Keeble said, “we can enable people to stay connected with each other and their community this Christmas we really want people to know that we are there for them and that they matter to us this Christmas.”