There are few times during the year where not having loved ones around is harder than during the winter holidays. There’s something to be said about being surrounded by your family (even your weird uncle), having your familiar traditions, and celebrating the way to which you’re accustomed.
One of my family’s New Year’s Eve traditions, for example, is to choose one word that sums up what you want out of the New Year, a sort of alternative to a New Year’s Resolution. Everyone has his or her own recipe, custom or activity that makes the holidays feel… well, like the holidays. It can be incredibly difficult – painful even – to break away from these traditions, even when the circumstances are within your control.
I moved abroad in 2011 and now often spend the holiday season apart from my family. I’ve learned to make my own traditions with friends to ease my homesickness when I can’t visit the U.S. One of the traditions my partner and I have started is a potluck dinner where we cook a main course and a side or two and everyone else brings a dish.
At this year’s dinner, I’m introducing a new tradition, courtesy of Black and Pink. Black and Pink is a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources and support for LGBTQ people currently in prison. In addition to their work combatting the disproportionate violence faced by LGBTQ prisoners at the hands of the penal system, they also connect those on the inside with allies in the form of pen pals.
This year, they are sponsoring holiday card writing parties around the world. The project is designed to bring a little bit of joy back into the lives of incarcerated queer and trans people, who are less likely to have support systems on the outside. A silly card, a personal letter, a drawing, or even a poem you love could mean the world to someone who may not receive any other holiday mail.
Black and Pink will send you names and mailing addresses for the number of people to whom you agree to write. They will also send a holiday card-making kit, complete with printable card templates, stickers and pens. It cost me nothing to sign up for my party of 8 to write to 25 people this year, but the opportunity to connect with someone trapped in the penal system is priceless.
If you’d like to host a holiday card writing party, you can register your event by filling out this sign up form and Black and Pink will take care of the rest. You’ll be going a long way to make the holiday season a little brighter for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Black and Pink, there are local chapters in Boise, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, NYC, San Diego and San Francisco. They do extensive work providing resources and support to combat the disproportionate violence perpetrated against LGBTQ prisoners. Visit them at blackandpink.org.
Amelia Shroyer is a writer, editor and social media strategist living in Stockholm. You can listen to her decry the world's injustice on Twitter.