The holidays can be an isolating time for some people when you don’t have family you can spend time with. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community still face rejection from their families after they come out, leaving them feeling isolated during the festive period. Roughly 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, and one in 10 transgender people have had a family member be violent towards them because they’re trans.
That’s why the work of El Roberts-Wright is so important. Two years ago, the then-18-year old founded the Rainbow Cards Project, which sends roughly 4,600 christmas cards to LGBTQ+ people across the globe.
In 2016, Roberts-Wright came out to her parents and several members of her extended family. As she was thinking about sending Christmas cards to her family, she realised how it would feel if her coming out had been met with rejection instead of acceptance.
Roberts-Wright tweeted, asking if there was anyone who no longer received Christmas cards since they came out, saying they could message her and she would send them a card. She said: “I wanted to do what I could to support any LGBTQ+ people who might be in that situation, and hopefully reaffirm to them that the LGBTQ+ community is a family in itself.”
She ended up mailing cards to nine different countries and found other people who wanted to get involved. This made her realise that this was something the LGBTQ+ community needed.
In 2017, Roberts-Wright raised money, started a website and officially launched the Rainbow Cards Project on 9 July 2017. Although the project started for the festive season, Roberts-Wright now also sends cards for birthdays and other occasions throughout the year.
“People I’ve sent the cards to have said some incredibly touching things. So many people have told me opening their package made them cry because they felt so overwhelmed by love and support.”
“I’ve even had a couple of people tell me it saved their life because it reminded them that they weren’t alone and people out there did care about them. People tell me it was the highlight of their birthday to receive cards, because it made them feel accepted and connected to a wider, loving community.”
I’ve even had a couple of people tell me it saved their life because it reminded them that they weren’t alone
This year, Roberts-Wright has sent between 5,000 and 6,000 cards, 4,600 of them being sent during the festive season.
The Rainbow Cards Project has also helped Roberts-Wright on a personal level. She suffers from multiple chronic illnesses, and running the project has given her a sense of purpose.
“I’ve been bedridden for the past four years and that can be pretty isolating, but thanks to this project I no longer feel cut off from the world,” she said.
“I have something to wake up for every day, and my presence in the world actually feels like it matters because I’m helping influence the lives of others in a positive way.
“It can be incredibly stressful to run a project alone at times, especially when you have multiple chronic illnesses, but it really has changed my life for the better.” Roberts-Wright’s conditions make fundraising is difficult, so she has to rely on online donations to fund the project.
Having a support system, and getting to be with your family over the holidays, is something so many of us take for granted, when lesbian, gay and bisexual people are less likely to see their biological family than heterosexual people – one in eight see them less than once a year.
It’s so important to remember that this overly joyous period can be a lonely time for the LGBTQ+ community. It can’t fix the loneliness you feel, but something as simple as a Christmas card can brighten the day of people who need it the most and make this difficult time a little easier. And that shouldn’t be overlooked.
You can donate to the Rainbow Cards Project here.