Unwrapping the Island of Misfit Toys

Fri. November 23, 2012 12:00 AM
by Greg R. Baird

The holiday season has arrived in full force with many of us rushing to find the hot shopping deals, party planning and getting ready to gather with our family and friends for holiday dinners. If you are like me, I also enjoy the old Christmas TV shows like; It's a Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer. Those old shows remind me of my childhood and that the holiday season is officially here.

There is a scene from Rudolph that has always made me think about the LGBTQ community and the many students I meet on my lecture tour, especially during the holiday season. Remember the song, "The Island of Misfit Toys" from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer? The toys had something missing from them, or they were not made correctly and all were put on an island to be together, all to be forgotten.

For many young and older LGBTQ people, we often think we are missing something, where we feel isolated or as if we don't matter. This happens even stronger during the holiday season. Never do I want anyone to feel like they don't fit in or that they are cast aside as broken. Walking the beat of your own drummer is often a challenge, but being original and true to yourself is the best gift you can give to yourself and others.

When many young LGBTQ students go to a college or university, they usually find their sense of community and belonging for the very first time. There is a sense of comradeship and honestly sharing your story without judgment, allowing you to just be you. The holidays are often rough as the students come home on break to an atmosphere where they are often not out. The fear of being discovered who you are and the isolation can be a challenging holiday. Many are isolated from their families because of their sexual orientation. Whether young or old, many in the gay community choose to celebrate the holidays together in both traditional and non-traditional ways. Many of us have extended families that love us for who we are. Going to their place for the holidays is often more safe and inclusive than going home to our own families. We need to keep educating and being inclusive of all so no one feels as if they are a misfit.

The real present from our parents is unconditional love. Affirming you as their son or daughter and as a LGBTQ person is a great gift that doesn't need wrapping. I look forward to the day when I hear more LGBTQ people bringing their spouse or partner home for the holidays where it is not an issue, but a loving extension of who they are.

As a community we need to extend our gift of friendship to reach out to those who can't go home for the holidays. Expand the definition of family; create family celebrations that extend to friends, former partners, boyfriends, girlfriends and spouses. A caring heart is a token of friendship to those that are isolated during the holidays, and doing that year round is what community and inclusion is all about.

This holiday season as you are donning your gay apparel and singing all those wonderful Christmas songs, reach out to your friends and our young LGBTQ community. Be a mentor and set an example of inclusiveness, unconditional friendship and hope. Above all, send out the message of what the holiday season is really about.