Nfld. & Labrador

LGBTQ group hosting safe holiday gathering for St. John's community

Charlie Murphy explains Pflag's annual holiday event for the LGBTQ community offers a safe space for people who may not feel accepted by their families.

The annual holiday event hosted by Pflag St. John's will be held at the St. John's Farmers' Market Dec. 17

Pflag's annual holiday event is a 'chosen family' get-together where everyone is accepted and everyone is welcome, says the organization's Charlie Murphy. (Submitted by Charlie Murphy)

The holidays are meant to be a time to gather with family. But it's a complicated time for many in the LGBTQ community, with some feeling unsafe being themselves at family gatherings, and others not welcome by their family at all.

An annual event hosted by Pflag St. John's is offering members of the LGBTQ community a place where they can feel welcome during the holiday season.

Organizer Charlie Murphy said the get-together offers a safe space to gather for a holiday experience, and is an extension of the work Pflag does every month.

Speaking with The St. John's Morning Show, Murphy said Pflag used to stand for Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians but "doesn't really stand for that anymore." Murphy said Pflag is now a more all-encompassing term, referring to the LGBTQ community coming together for peer support.

Pflag's holiday event will be held at the St. John's Farmers' Market this year, as it has more space for physical distancing. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

Murphy said there are monthly Pflag meetings. "It's now basically like a gathering place for when you need that peer support and you just come for two hours to talk."

Those two hours can be focused on anything from "needing to be around like minded individuals or having to talk [about] some pretty heavy topics that might be affecting you and you're just needing someone to talk to or some advice from the community."

But Pflag's holiday event is different from the monthly meetings, as it provides refuge from a time of year that can be difficult for some members of the LGBTQ community.

"When we think about holidays, it's very family focused, which is great if you're supported by your family or you have a strong connection with your family," said Murphy.

"But there are times where you might not be supported by your family."

Murphy said that lack of support can come in many different forms. There might be a particular family member who doesn't respect a person's pronouns, name or partner. It's a situation he says can make even the act of going home a traumatizing experience. 

"Some people just aren't welcomed at home, and that's really hard," said Murphy. "Sometimes the whole family is not supportive. And so when we do this annual event, it's more like a 'chosen family' holiday event where everyone is accepted and everyone is welcome."

Murphy says the holiday season can be challenging for members of the LGBTQ community if they don't feel supported by their families.

Pflag has been having an annual holiday event for years at St. John's city hall, but due to pandemic precautions, this year's event will be held at the St. John's Farmers' Market building.

Food and drinks from Rocket Bakery will be served, the Spectrum Choir will perform and there will be games and prizes.

Pflag will also be collecting non-perishable food items for the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador and the First Light Centre in St. John's.

A more welcoming holiday

Murphy also offered some tips on how people can create a more supportive environment for their LGBTQ family members.

He said people should use their family members' proper pronouns and names when signing cards or gift tags, as it helps affirm their identity. 

When it comes to gifts, Murphy recommended buying "gender-affirming" items.

"If someone is identifying as male, don't buy them a dress, even though you might see them as your daughter."

Murphy also suggested buying toys that aren't gender-specific.

"If a little boy is asking [for a] Barbie doll, don't make a big deal about it.… Let them have it.

"It's supposed to be a time where you are enjoying each other's company and magic is supposedly happening and everyone's supposed to be really cheerful. So [make] sure that it's special for them."

Pflag's annual LGBTQ holiday event will be at the St. John's Farmers' Market on Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show