Meet the LGBT activist sending Christmas cards to disowned queer people
The Rainbow Cards Project sends Christmas cards to LGBT+ people disowned by their families. PinkNews speaks to founder El Roberts-Wright about her campaign to combat loneliness in the LGBT+ community by spreading the festive cheer.
For many LGBT+ people, Christmas can be an incredibly lonely time. With gay people across the world still facing rejection from their families after they come out, the festive season can leave some in the queer community feeling isolated and sad.
In 2016, El Roberts-Wright, a queer 20-year-old from Devon, UK, sent out a few tweets saying she would send Christmas cards to those LGBT+ people who had stopped receiving them from their families since coming out.
After a bigger response than expected (she ended up sending 30 cards to people in nine different countries), Roberts-Wright set up The Rainbow Cards Project the following year.
Since then, she has crowdfunded hundreds of pounds to send thousands of Christmas cards to LGBT+ people.
PinkNews caught up with Roberts-Wright about how she wants to ensure all LGBT+ people feel loved.
Q. Why did you set up The Rainbow Cards Project?
A. It was coming up to Christmas 2016 and I was thinking about how excited I was to write Christmas cards to all my family—I have multiple chronic illnesses and had been to unwell to write any the year before.
Earlier that year I had also come out to my parents and my extended family, so as I was thinking about sending them cards.
I imagined what it would be like to have no one to write cards to, and no cards turning up in my letterbox.
I love Christmas, and what I’ve always loved about it is the love and celebration with family, so it really struck me how drastically different Christmas would feel if I didn’t have family to celebrate with, and how lonely and upsetting that would be.
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.
Q. What happened next?
I put out a couple of tweets saying if your family have stopped sending you Christmas cards to you since you came out, message me and I will send you a card myself. From just a couple of tweets, I sent over 30 cards to people in 9 different countries.
How keen everyone was to get involved, and how many people had requested cards just from a couple of tweets, made me realise that maybe this was something our community needed.
“I hope each card someone receives helps prove to the recipient that they are loved”
I came away from that Christmas knowing this was something I needed to turn into a real project that could cater to more recipients and allow others to write cards. Over the first six months of 2017, I worked on raising the initial funds, setting up a website and figuring out the logistics.
On July 9 2017, the project launched.
Q. What do you hope to achieve with The Rainbow Cards Project?
A. My aim for this project is pretty simple: to combat isolation in the LGBTQ+ community through simple acts of kindness and remind people that they are loved and not alone.
I know I can never replace someone’s relatives, but I can reach out with a little kindness and help them feel like a part of a bigger family.
I hope each card someone receives helps prove to the recipient that they are loved and they see that someone out there cares enough to write to them, and that in turn lessens the isolation they feel and helps them feel proud of who they are.
Q. What has the response been like so far?
A. The response has been pretty incredible. Within just days of launching, more than 100 recipients signed up, and since then it’s just grown and grown. Now the project caters to over 420 recipients.
Since the project launched, we’ve sent well over 4000 cards, with more than half of those being Christmas cards sent last year.
“My aim for this project is pretty simple: to combat isolation in the LGBTQ+ community through simple acts of kindness”
This project couldn’t have come this far if it wasn’t for the amazing supporters who send cards and donate funds to keep everything running.
Without those wonderful people, this project wouldn’t be here today.
Q. How do you decide who to send your cards to?
Recipients find out about us and then choose to sign up to receive cards via a form on our website. Everyone who signs up will receive cards.
Q. How does your project highlight the continued isolation faced by those in the LGBT+ community?
A. I’ve had many cisgender, heterosexual people say to me: “Wow, I never even considered what it would be like to not receive cards from your family because they’ve cut you off.”
I think just hearing about what this project does is making people aware of one of the many struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
I’ve had LGBTQ+ people share their struggles on our fundraisers or Twitter page to highlight why this project is necessary, so it has become a bit of a platform to have these discussions about isolation.
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But more important than highlighting the isolation faced by LGBTQ+ people is addressing that isolation in a tangible way, rather than just discussing it, and I think that’s what this project is doing .
This project offers a way for those who are feeling isolated to reach out and ask for support, and for those able to offer support to offer it in a physical way that ends up in the hands of the person who needs it.
Now, whenever that person is feeling isolated, they can take out the cards they’ve received and read the messages of support and solidarity and know that they are not alone.
To find out more about The Rainbow Cards Project, visit: www.therainbowcardsproject.org
To donate to The Rainbow Cards Project GoFundMe, go to: www.gofundme.com/christmas-cards-for-isolated-lgbtq