Holidays are often extremely challenging and alienating for transgender people because they are often not able to go home to families that accept and support them. For Elias Lowe, a transgender person, the holiday challenge and alienation hits close to home. In addition to their own experiences, they have friends who have been kicked out of their houses and fully isolated from their families. Elias wanted to address this problem and create a critical space for their sense of family and community, so they created the “Trans Chosen Family Feast,” providing an alternative space for transgender people to feel welcomed. They also wanted the event to be an educational opportunity about Thanksgiving and how it promotes a racist, colonialist legacy.
Holidays are often extremely challenging and alienating for transgender people because they are often not able to go home to families that accept and support them.
Elias met with the Nightshade collective, a group of queer and trans people in Pittsburgh, to get the project started. The Three Rivers Community Foundation, a grantmaker dedicated solely to social change and justice, provided a grant to Nightshade to help host the dinner. They had to do a lot of logistical work — finding a space to host the event, making a budget, and finding cooks, volunteers, performers and organizations who would table at this event.
It was important to them that the event was not just a dinner, but also an open space for radical ideas. To open up the discussion, Let’s Get Free, Dreams of Hope, The Queer Caucus of PGH IWW, Fair Moans, Nightshade PGH, and Queer Punk Slam Junk tabled at the event. These organizations passed out reading material, information about their organizations, and things like gender-affirming clothing. Three trans performers also displayed their acts for the audience. Elias had also researched Indigenous People’s history to give a small speech about the problematic legacy of Thanksgiving during the dinner.
At the event, Elias met a mother who brought her three children, two of whom were trans. The mother was incredibly touched by the event and was very concerned about raising trans kids without a community because other parents around her were discriminatory towards her children. They ended up building a connection and are now trying to organize queer-competent child-care for her. Elias shared that, “It was really inspiring to see trans kids expressing themselves freely at such a young age and to know that the event was fulfilling a need.”
“It was really inspiring to see trans kids expressing themselves freely at such a young age and to know that the event was fulfilling a need.”
The day of the event was incredibly stressful because there were so many things to account for. However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the community of volunteers and friends to help set up, break down, cook, serve, decorate, and face the various unexpected issues that came up.
Elias hopes that more projects like this will be implemented all over. You can organize your own Trans Chosen Family Feast in a location of your choice, and have a positive impact on the trans community wherever you are.