December 24, 2019
At Christmas, the meaning of family is heightened. Despite inevitable arguments about politics and strops thrown during Monopoly, the season is synonymous with relatives coming together. But what if you don’t have a good relationship with your family, or would simply rather spend it away from them?
Merry Queermas! Why We’ll Be Spending Christmas With Our Chosen Families
It’s an age-old saying that “friends are the family you choose”, but for LGBTQ communities in particular, this concept couldn’t be more important. This is sometimes due to necessity – many face homophobia, rejection or estrangement from their families, with only 47% feeling they can be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity with those they’re related to.
For some, creating their own support network is a way to move away from the traditional ideas of what it means to be “related” to someone. Instead, they create their “chosen family” – one where they deliberately select the people they want to play a significant role in their lives. And at Christmas, chosen families are many LGBTQ people’s companions of choice.
“They are a group of people that I don’t feel like an ‘other’ with,” says Rachel*, 32, who is spending the season with her girlfriend and their mutual friends, many of whom also face homophobia at home. “I can talk about queerness and left-wing politics with them, without worrying about getting a horrible comment thrown at me.” Rachel, who has a good relationship with most of her biological family, has a sibling who is unaccepting towards her sexuality – so she’s decided not to put herself in an uncomfortable space this year.Related... Pride + Prejudice: Think We’re Living In A Post-Homophobic Society? You’re Wrong “I work hard all year,” adds Rachel, “and don’t want to put myself through unnecessary stress. Being with this group will just be easy. It’s a place where I can just be myself.”
This also rings true for Kate, 38, who says the idea of “home” doesn’t bring positive feelings for them and many of their friends: “A lot of us are LGBTQ+ and want to be authentic to ourselves rather than return to places of discomfort.”
The political climate makes things worse, Kate explains: “[My Friends and I] are a mixture of ethnicities and nationalities, and some of us feel nervous in the places we grew up after elections, here and abroad. It feels difficult to predict where you might face hostility as a marginalised person, so carefully planning who you spend Christmas with can offer some much-needed stability.” 
Forming a chosen family isn’t always easy, though – and it’s for that reason Carla Ecola, 34, facilitates Outsidermas in London, a Christmas celebration open to LGBTQ people who might not have family to spend the day with. “Christmas is a religious holiday and many people in our community can feel ostracised by our families or our faith for living our truth,” says Carla.
“Christmas is the campest holiday to get together for. I’m really surprised we didn’t start the whole thing.”Outsidermas offers different Christmas pastimes, from art to acupuncture, karaoke to movies, plus a giant pizza delivery. It’s run by The Outside Project – the “UK’s first homelessness and crisis centre for LGBTIQ+ people” – and is a vital source of support, considering nearly one in five LGBTQ people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. “For our community, there is no build-up or breakdown to becoming estranged from family,” says Carla. “Many of us just come out and suddenly find ourselves on the street.”
The project is about togetherness, and it won’t ignore the complex factors that drive people into isolation. “Estrangement is a unique experience, but it’s not the only reason we have higher rates of homelessness,” adds Carla. “There are systemic issues, like barriers to education, employment, healthcare, housing and a desperate lack of crisis services.”
At Outsidermas, there’s a quiet room where support workers are on hand for people who are homeless or at risk of it. Having organisations like this are important, believes Carla – and we need more similar services nationwide at Christmas. “Across the UK, space for our community is prescribed to us during LGBTIQ+ history month and Pride,” they say.
“I find this performative, as the focus is often on how inclusive local politicians and corporate companies are. If they are looking to make a genuine difference to the welfare of our community, they need to fund LGBTIQ+ services and spaces that are led by us for us all year round.”
Other nationwide charities also offer support for the community ahead of Christmas, such as Akt, working in Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle; Birmingham LGBT in the midlands; and MindOut in Brighton. The issue, though, is that they don’t all have services available on Christmas Day. For those who need a safe, listening ear, the LGBTQ helpline, Switchboard, remains open from 10am-10pm every day. Behind closed doors, Christmas with a chosen family looks different from person to person. For Kate, who will be celebrating at home with friends, it will be low energy, but high quality. “We will share food, ignore each other to read, praise Stormzy and be glad for one another really,” they tell us. “There will probably be many of us still in PJs. It’s about nurturing one another in the way we need, and sometimes that’s just quiet companionship.”
Michele, 21, who says she has a difficult relationship with her mum, and whose dad passed away, has a long itinerary of activities for her and her chosen family. “On Sunday we had a big pub lunch, and on Monday we watched movies and wrapped presents,” she says. Chosen families are people who you decided were supposed to be in your life.“On Christmas Eve, my friend and her family host a small neighbourhood party and I’ve been nominated to make fun cocktails for everyone,” she says. “My friends also make a special Christmas Eve dinner for me, as my family used to celebrate on the 24th. Christmas Day will involve lots of food, presents, love and fun.”
The concept of unconditional love often widely goes unquestioned, says Michele, but in some contexts she believes that can be toxic. “A lot of families expect you to be nice to them no matter what they say, because they’re your family.” Instead, she says, there’s something to be said for a love that is more intentional.
“The value of chosen family is that you can surround yourself with people you chose to love and care about, rather than people who may not share your values,” says Michele. “Chosen families are people who you decided were supposed to be in your life. I think that’s ten times better.”Related... I Don't Want To Engage In This Election. But As A Gay Black Woman I Have No Choice How To Make Friends When You Travel, According To Solo Travellers Why 'X' Passports Matter To Non-Binary People Like Me Useful websites and helplines:London Lesbian & Gay switchboard (LLGS) is a free confidential support & information helpline for LGBT communities throughout the UK | 0300 330 0630Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard is a free support, information and referral service for the Manchester and North-West area | 0161 235 8000Stonewall for more information on other LGBT services and helplines | 08000 502020
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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