Queer Santa
PRIDE
PRIDE

Episode · 11 months ago

Queer Santa

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

For the last 23 years, Linda Warren has put on her shiny red suit with white fur trim and gone around granting the holiday wishes of LGBTQ youth in Denver, Colorado. Once she’s in that costume, she’s no longer Linda. Today, we speak with Linda, a 78-year-old woman who aims to bring holiday cheer to youth regardless of sexuality or gender. Her own experience with abandonment fuels her passion for giving these kids a Christmas they’ll never forget every year. Linda opens up about how her own family’s rejection of her sexuality spurred her desire to create a safe environement for today’s youth and what being Queer Santa is all about. 

Your host is Levi Chambers, co-founder of Gayety. Follow the show and keep up with the conversation @Pride. Want more great shows from Straw Hut Media? Check out or website at strawhutmedia.com. Your producers are Levi Chambers, Maggie Boles, Ryan Tillotson and Edited by Silvana Alcala Have an interesting LGBTQ+ story to share? We might feature U! Email us at lgbtq@strawhutmedia.com. *This podcast is not affiliated with Pride Media.

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Straw media. When I put on that suit, I would quick come Queer Santa, and nothing else matters except those children and Christmas and that they have a wonderful time. That's all that I care about. For the last twenty three years, Linda Warren has put on her shiny red sue with white fur trim to grant the holiday wishes of lgbtq plus youth in Denver, Colorado. Once she's in that costume, she's no longer Linda and known around here is Queer Santa. Today we speak with Linda, a seventy eight year old woman who aims to bring holiday cheer to youth regardless of sexuality or gender. Her own experiences with abandonment fuels her passion for giving kids a Christmas they'll never forget. Every year. I wanted them to have like I told the people at the center at the time, I was like I wanted to be like a lot of children and like my grandchildren. They get what they want, not a need, and that's I wanted to help these children do the same thing, so I asked for a list. Every year, Linda opens up about her own family's rejection of her sexuality and how it spurred her desire to create a safe environment for today's youth. She explains the magic behind what being Queer Santa is all about. I'm the by Chamber and this is pride. On Christmas Eve in one thousand nine hundred and ninety eight, Linda was getting ready for a party when she received a panicked call from a friend and they wanted to know if I would get the children a gift for Christmas, because whoever was going to do it had dropped the ball. The center had designated one person to be the official gift giver for All the youth at the Rainbow Alley...

Lgbtq community center. The center offers support, activities and counseling to all LGBTQ plus youth and their allies. Bringing them a holiday gift was no easy task and Linda had very little time to prepare. Well, I said yes, but I had to call it for an and get her to do it, and then I paid her for them and it was just gift cards. Little did she know those gift cards had started a tradition that would carry on for over two decades. Linda continues to give gifts to the youth at the center, but under one condition. So I'm met with the people at the center that were over Rainbow Alley and said I will do this every year, but I want them to have a list and put down there something that they want, not a need, because if they need something, I will make sure that they get it. I want it to be a want, just like most children are able to get, like my grandchildren get. So I did not want them to have to just take something because they needed it for or Christmas. President Linda said goodbye to gift cards and instead delivered a personalized gift for each youth who attended the celebration. I grew up in Mississippi, you know, so I couldn't wait until I got old enough to leave when I realized I was gay, which was at a very young age. Mississippi is the most conservative state in the country. To put it into perspective, they didn't legalize same sex marriage until two thousand and fourteen, a decade after Massachusetts became the first US state to legalize same sex marriage. To this day, Mississippi schools are free to discuss queer topics in a negative light and workplaces are legally allowed to deny services to the LGBTQ plus community, it's not an ideal place to be queer. Linda's greatest desire was to get out of Mississippi. Unfortunately, this wouldn't happen for many years. I had been married in a...

...head daughter and she had gotten married and she was having children and I just knew that I had to get away from from Mississippi and I had to go someplace where I would could be accepted, and so I don't know why I chose good for but I did and I've certainly been happy here. As a divorced adult, Linda decided to come out to her parents. How did they take the news? Not Well, in fact, they disowned me. And my parents were very close to my daughter also, and she and I were very close and she was very upset Oh the fact that they did not accept me. And in fact, when my parents both died, she wanted to wanted to share whatever she got from the House and everything with me, and I said no, I didn't want anything that anyone didn't want me to have. So I thought belonged to her. Linda's strange relationship with her parents drove her to give back to others. She wanted to ensure the people in her life wouldn't have to feel the way she did, especially during the holidays. There was a certainly a difference in what I got for Christmas and what my brother got, or what he got any time and what I got, and I think they always knew that there was something there that wasn't quite right, but they didn't know what it was. And so it was and it was. It was hurtful to me, you know, and so I wanted that's I guess that's why it was so important to me that I not get gift cards with these children, that I got them something that they truly wanted and they could think Sanda brought it to them, you know, gave it to them. So Queer said to female Santa, I would I just couldn't stand it to think, and I know it is out there, that there are children that won't get anything or won't get something that they would like to have. You know, it will be something that they just need, and so that it means a lot to me to think that. Now it's time to...

...address the question likely on everyone's mind. Where did the name Queer Santa come from? There was a little girl whose brother came here and she would come with him. She had her mother's with her and they told me, because I had a really difficult time excepting Queer Santa as being called to that, but I never said anything to the children. But then this this little child who I guess wasn't even in school, as she was, it was like kindergarten, would run up to me and say quis Santa, Chris says. So I was like, Oh goodness, I've got to I've got to accept this, you know. And so then her mother said to me, do you know what she when we go to macy's or any place where they have a Santa at Christmas, she calls them Queer Santa. Also, she says Hello Queer. Looks like God he's going to kill all of us. But anyway, that's the way it got started. I just had to come to grips with it, though, because it was not a word that I liked. But now I don't have any problem with her. Up until the nineteen century, the term queer was used against individuals deemed odd or outside social norms. Then the term became a derogatory slur. For someone in the LGBTQ plus community, it was very hurtful to me to be called that or to see anyone else call that, because the only thing that Iver knew about people calling anyone queer was, you know, that it was just a slur to them, and it's just kind of a slap in the face, you know. But in recent years the community has slowly embraced the term, reclaiming it too many it's no longer used to be little individuals, but instead to empower them. Some people have used queer as an umbrella term to describe their sexuality. Celebrities like actor Alexandra ship and our Korn Orma Testa and Supermodel Lily Cole all...

...say Queer is the word they gravitate towards when labeling their sexuality, and Linda is right there with them. Reclaimed it. You're part of the movement. Yes, I claimed it. Rainbow Alley's annual Holiday Party is a holiday celebration for everyone. Young people are welcome, regardless of sexuality, gender, race or religion, to come and enjoy a traditional holiday meal and to receive a present from Queer Santa. Linda says she loves interacting with the kids, but when she first joined the celebration, she couldn't connect with the children at the center facetoface, I got the presence and actually back then bought the food for them to have for the children and I would just take it to the wherever they were located and give it to the people over the over Rainbow Alley. At the time when the Game Rodeo Association took over catering for their holiday festivities, Linda began to make her appearance as Queer Santa and, despite not looking like the traditional Santa depicted on Christmas cards, were found in them. All the kids loved it. I mean I have had very tall young men come across the stage and they would run and jump in my lap and you know, I just laugh and I just it's something that's very, very dear to me and I love the children. I don't see a lot of the parents, but I can tell you that the ones I do see when I run into when I'm giving out the presence, I will stop and talk to them and chat with them for a few minutes. They're all very appreciative and they're just really happy that the children are there and getting a good meal and getting to see Santa and and no one ever ever says anything about me being female Santa and it's just it's very meaningful to make sure, for one thing, that these children who possibly would not even get a present, get a Christmas...

...present. For a long time we a lot of the children the only present they got was from us. So that was very meaningful to me. Linda says, these presents and meals hold a lot of meaning to many youths at the center. In fact, they've said to me this is the best food I've had all year. You know, that's very moving and so sad for me that they have to do this and go through this. And so I'm really I feel so honored that the the Rodio Association stepped forward and helped us, you know, with that and they do a great job. So it's been it's been very moving to me because I see these children when they come up to me and say this is the best, best dinner I've had. I mean that. That just, you know, breaks your heart to see it. But so but it makes me all so happy that they're getting a good meal when we come back. How Queer Santa has spread holiday cheer during the pandemic and what's next for Rainbow Alley? Welcome back. Today we're making the ULD tide day again and chatting with the one and only Queer Santa, Aka Linda Warren. Linda has been dressing up as Queer Santa for twenty three years and still gets a kick out of spreading holiday cheer and embracing people from all walks of life. But in the face of the pandemic, the annual holiday celebration had to be reimagined into a drive through Santa Experience. I was a little bit nervous about it at first because I was like, okay, we've got to make sure that the children kind of stay away from each other, you know, or whatever, and how we're going to make sure that no one gets in the street, you know, all those things that that you would naturally worry about. But the center did such a great job I didn't have to worry about anything. So all I had to do was get...

...the gift and take take the right give to the car and hand it to the child and wish you will marry Christmas and just if they want to say a few words to me, fine, you know, I would chat with them and it was, it was, it was really much better than anyone would ever think it could have been, and that was that was due to the center stepping forward and help it. It went off without a hitch. In fact, the highest number of people attended the celebration that year and received a gift from Queer Santa, even from behind a mask. I just wanted the children to have fun and I wanted it to be a great time. For this year, the center has something new up their sleeve. Santa is going camping. Okay, not really, but they are celebrating with an event called Camp Christmas. The kids will be able to safely get in the holiday spirit by walking through a wonderland of lights, enjoying festive treats and, of course, visiting with Queer Santa. Linda says the most important factor to this tradition is the Christmas gift list. She always makes sure every kid is getting something they want this year. But what is Linda want? Well, I would wish that every child that is put out of their home because they're gay would be accepted by their families, that they could have a wonderful life together and not have to hide or not have to be afraid, not have to worry about where the ex meals coming from. It's all of that is very important to me. The children are very important to me. So you know, I never see him but once a year, but they're very important and I just don't even know how to express that. It means so much to me to be able to do this and I was really happy when we could, like they could have a meal, you know, but that too will this will this will change. But yeah, that's the main thing with me is the children. According to an estimate by voices of Youth Count lgbtq youth...

...are more than twice as likely to experience homelessness compared to their peers. They also experience greater risk of hardships like a salt trauma and early death due to discrimination, which is why one of the first steps in completing Linda's wish is changing the minds of the parents. Luckily, she says, we're already seeing progress. I will tell you that I think that it is at least a lot better than it was when I was growing up and even after I was grown. But there is not a whole lot that you could say with the children, and it's they I think they do a very good job, much better job than we did when I was growing up with this, and so I think that I think they're they're accepting things and they're they're making it go right for them. Linda is so much more than just Queer Santa. She's a volunteer, a mentor and a shoulder to lean on. So to anyone's struggling with their identity, Linda says their doors are always open. Come to the center on Kovacs, come in and let them help you. Talk to them, talk to the people at Rainbow Alley. They will help them and that's very important that they get help now and know that there's people out there like myself and like rex and the people who work here and and my partner, who love children and want to see everything okay for them and will always work for that to make sure that we can try to help them have what they need and what they want. Also, according to Andy William Song, it's the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is about parties, for hosting marshmallows, for toasting and caroling out in the snow. But what does Christmas mean to Linda? Wow, no one's ever asked me that about me.

I think that it means a lot to me because, for one thing, I normally see my children and my child and my grandchildren at Christmas and get together with friends and that means a lot and and especially now, because we haven't been able to get together. I haven't. I did was able to see my daughter, who came here twice recently in one of my grandchildren, but the rest of them I haven't seen in a year and a half now, almost two years. So I will just be glad when this moves on and we can go. I don't even think we'll be able to go down there this year. We'll have to stay here. So I get my enjoyment now. I'll all the enjoyment I will get for Christmas this year will be with the children here at Rainbow Alley. Linda began an annual fundraiser to help finance the holiday gifts. Each year. She reases about thirty FIVEZERO dollars, but she also stresses that these children need support the other three hundred and sixty four days a year. I would absolutely love for the people to hear this to donate, because it will help us to be able to get what the children need and what they want and also this. It's very important for Christmas, but it's also we have to do things for these children during the year also. You know, they're things that they need and things that they we need to get for them. So we always need that and appreciate very much everything that everyone does. From all of us at pride, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season and from Queer Santa, ha ha ho and marry Christmas. Tried is a production of Straw head media. If you...

...like to show leave us a rating and review on Apple, podcast, spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts, then follow us on Instagram, facebook and twitter at pride and tune in weekly for new episodes. Be Sure to share this episode with your friends and subscribe for more stories from Amazing Queer people. If you'd like to connect with me, you can follow me everywhere at me by chambers. Pride is produced by me Lea by chambers, Maggie Bulls, Ryan Tillotson, Caitlin mcdaniel and Brandon Marlowe, edited by Silvana I'll Calla and Daniel Ferrara. Sound mixing by Sylvana I'll Calla, which is also you're probably like, one of the most famous female Santa's out there. It's kind of a it's a good it's a good title to have it.

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