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Diversity for the Holidays

Nov. 22, 2016
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Thanksgiving is again upon us. Despite the election gloom cast over the LGBT community and hate crimes on the rise, there’s still a lot to be grateful for. And, with the holiday season now in full swing, we should find solace in those aspects of our lives that bring us together. One in particular is our diversity. But, ironically, in these divisive political times, even that can be a source of contention.

GAMMA, one of the gay groups I volunteer for, recently announced its “Christmas Party.” Although most members are beyond practicing religion, the argument was since the majority is of Christian tradition, why not, for the sake of all the joyful memories it conjures, call it what it is? Fine. As an Irish ex-Catholic, I grew up celebrating all the magnificence of Christmas. It’s about tradition, good will and peace on earth.

I’m catering that event with a menu of holiday food reflecting the ethnicities of my fellow GAMMA members. It’s Milwaukee after all, so I’m preparing various German and Eastern European Christmas and Hanukkah specialties. There’ll be Kugel (last year, the one Jewish guy didn’t know what it was and the half-Jewish guy loved it). There’ll be fish for the Poles, too. There’s no South Asian food on the menu, but the Czech sauerkraut soup has no beef in deference to the Hindu guy—although he’ll have to forgo the veal paprikash. I’m not sure what one serves for Solstice; maybe a pine nut and root vegetable buche, but I’ll figure it out.

Of course, once the party was announced, an atheist member pushed back against using “Christmas.” Nevermind the promised appearance of Saint Nick or the GAMMA Gives gift collection for Penfield Children’s Center, he wanted it called a “Holiday Party” or even a “Solstice Party.” Oy vey...

Like it or not, saying “Happy Holidays” invokes religion. We don’t think about that because we are too busy being unholier-than-thou. Besides, ultimately, Christmas is just a re-branding of Solstice, even down to the evergreen tree.

And god knows, most diehard “Happy Holiday” gays, scarred by homophobic religions as they may be, still vehemently array their homes (usually excessively) with the symbols of Christmas past. Albeit inadvertently, they’ll decorate with all that religious falderal like wreaths, crosier-shaped candy canes and globe ornaments (they symbolize the apples of the biblical Garden of Eden). Some even set up a crèche with a couple of hunky shepherd statuettes. Call it appropriation, hyper-decorating disorder or simply human nature, it’s part of who we are. 

For all our harping on the value and respect of diversity, we certainly have our prejudices when it comes to recognizing it. I’d rather grin and bear it once a year than mix all the rainbow colors and get something muddy and indistinguishable. And, especially now, we can’t allow ourselves to be divided and conquered. 

Anyway, this season, we get all the holy days at once. Winter Solstice is Dec. 21, Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day is Kwanzaa Eve. So, as my mother would say, “Happy, Happy!”


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