Why We Should Be Anti-Celebrating Thanksgiving

By Sidney Wegener

Sidney is a first year Master’s Candidate studying Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Their academic interests include lesbianism and lesbian history in American from the 1920s to the 1930s. They are currently pursuing many different avenues for research in U.S. history pertaining to women’s and queer studies and looking forward to working on a thesis related to the linguistic and social evolution of female sexuality.

Often, on the last Thursday of November, American families gather around the dinner table to eat and appreciate the blessings in their lives. For many, Thanksgiving is a favorite “holiday.” In the twenty-first century, it may be depicted as a happy family eating lots of food and soon rushing off for Black Friday sales. However, this picture is painted for those who have the money to afford a supermarket turkey, a home to gather in, and the privilege of blissfully living on stolen land. For hundreds of Native American nations and tribes, this holiday is a reminder of the genocide committed against them by European colonizers, which began almost four hundred years ago. A new tradition of anti-celebrating Thanksgiving is long overdue. Here’s why.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Not a Native American holiday. This means that participating in traditional American festivities constitutes a celebration of the English settler invasion of North America. European immigration directly resulted in the murder and rape of thousands upon thousands of Native people, pillaging their homes and resources, and eventually forcing them to live on, what are now known, as “reservations.” While you might be grateful for the food on your table, you may be forgetting how it got there. Twenty-first century American traditions of celebrating Thanksgiving and getting ready for Black Friday sales are ultimately due to a long chain of events caused by European settlers and white American corruption.

For nearly fifty years, the United American Indians of New England have mobilized a rally and day of mourning on November twenty-second. They explain the significance of this day by stating:

“Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience.” (Native Hope)

Those of us who are not native to North America are generally unaware of the flip side of this Thanksgiving coin. Children in schools are taught that the pilgrims and the Native people met harmoniously and offered each other new resources and mutual support. Many even celebrate the idealized generosity of Native people by making paper headdresses and reenacting the romanticized relations. It is probably not appropriate to tell elementary-aged children about the numerous massacres which white immigrants waged against tribes such as the Pequot, or the disease epidemics which nearly wiped out whole native populations. However, teaching a false history is devastating to how the majority of American children understand Thanksgiving. These children grow up to be adults. Adults who buy supermarket turkeys, decorate their homes with pumpkins, and go Black Friday shopping. While not all families have the economic resources to participate in traditional American Thanksgiving celebrations, everyone has the capability to change the way they think about this national holiday. For many tribal nations within the United States, this is a day of solemn remembrance. 

This is Native American Heritage Month. November 23rd is Native American Heritage Day. And Thanksgiving, which falls on November 28th this year, is an opportunity to change the way that non-Native Americans honor the history of English settlers’ immigration and invasion of North America. Native Hope is an organization built upon preserving the pan-tribal histories, stories, and traditions, while spreading awareness of the misconceptions many Americans are taught. This organization suggests ways Native and non-Native people can celebrate (or anti-celebrate) Thanksgiving:

“We remember the generosity of the Wampanoag tribe to the helpless settlers.

We remember the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who lost their lives at the hands of colonialists and the genocide of whole tribes.

We remember the vibrant and powerful Native descendants, families, and communities that persist to this day throughout the culture and the country.

We remember people like Sharice Davids and Debra Haaland who just became the first Native American women elected to Congress.” (Native Hope).

I urge all Americans to take further steps to educate ourselves and seek out new ways in which we can honor a collective American history. Those who have the means to participate in American Thanksgiving traditions will hopefully consider ways in which they can anti-celebrate in awareness and spirit, without giving up the family time and food. If you are lacking inspiration or want more information, a few sources to get started are listed below.

Native Hope. “What Does Thanksgiving Mean to Native Americans?”

United Native Americans of New England“Native American Girls Describe the REAL History Behind Thanksgiving.” YouTube. November 23, 2016.

Domestic Violence Is Not Straight Violence

By Sidney Wegener

Sidney is a first year Master’s Candidate studying Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Their academic interests include lesbianism and lesbian history in American from the 1920’s to the 1930’s. They are currently pursuing many different avenues for research in U.S. history pertaining to women’s and queer studies and looking forward to working on a thesis related to the linguistic and social evolution of female sexuality.


Content warning: This article consists of narrative, rhetoric, and statistics that may be triggering for some readers as it discusses the queer experiences of domestic/sexual violence.


I sat and quietly listened, my heart pounding, while one of my close friends in high school told me about the fight she and her girlfriend had gotten into the night beforehand. I was doing my best not to stare at her bruised and swollen left eye. This was my first relatively close encounter with domestic violence. I remember, when I was younger, hearing about how sometimes “bad boyfriends or husbands beat their women.” However, all of the rhetoric I had ever heard, or read, about abusive partnerships consisted of a single story: men abusing women. I am writing this article for the purpose of displacing this narrative because domestic violence is not limited to cisgendered, heterosexual relationships.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides the following statistics on queer/trans relationship abuse:

  • 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have expereinced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner
  • 26% of gay men and 37.3% of bisexual men have expereinced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner
  • Transgender victims are more likely to expereince intimate partner violence in public
  • LGBTQ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical violence, compared to those who do not identify as Black/African American
  • LGBTQ victims on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance (public assistance refers to state/government forms of support for individuals in need and/or disabled)

These are only a few statistics which counter the widespread presumption that domestic abuse occurs only among cisgendered/straight partnerships. While these statistics primarily address monogamous relationship dynamics, it is crucial to take into account the array of different genders, races, classes, and sexual orientations which experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence. Domestic and sexual violence can occur on seperate grounds as well as overlap with eachother. Domestic violence can also come in many different forms, not all of which are readily recognizable in queer relationships. For example, if one partner threatens to “out” their significant other as non-cisgendered or non-heterosexual, the act constitutes as one of abuse between intimate partners. In addition to this, misuse of pronouns in intimate partnerships also operates as a form of emotional/verbal abuse. Parallel to the assumption that domestic violence transpires only between couples consisting of a man and a woman, gender plays a critical role in how abuse (sexual, verbal, physical, financial, or otherwise) is defined, perceived, and treated by the victim’s loved ones and the public. 

LGBTQIA+ people who find themselves experiencing domestic or sexual violence face many more obstacles in finding support and protection from the party responsible for the abuse. Often, sexual violence or abuse that takes place between same-sex and/or transgender couples is taken even less seriously than that which occurs betweeen cisgender/heterosexual couples. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “In 2012, fewer than 5% of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence sought orders of protection”.  This statistic reflects that there are numerous reasons why queer/transgender victims do not report their experiences, often pertaining to anti-queer/trans legislature or lack of support. 

Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month as well as LGBTQIA+ History Month, I found that this article is a particularly important one to write. In a world where systemic violence is inflicted upon LGBTQIA+ bodies daily, I would like to call attention to intimate partner violence which persists within our own community. Beyond that, it is crucial to disrupt the ongoing narrative that domestic abuse/sexual violence is a strictly cisgender/straight phenomenon. By bringing statistics on the realities of queer/trans relationship abuse and violence to light, I hope that cisgendered and straight allies can be more aware of and compassionate toward their queer/trans loved one’s expereinces. In addition to this, I would like to emphasize the importance of validating the violence experienced among members of the LGBTQIA+ community in all forms.

If you are located in a state that is anti-trans and/or anti-homosexual, lacking support from your community, or if you are unsure of whether or not you have experienced sexual and/or domestic violence; seeking help as an abuse victim, and member of the LGBTQIA+ community, involves facing many different obstacles. However, reporting the person responsible for the abuse and/or violence is a critical way in which victims can be validated and protected by community and law. Below are some resources for those who have experienced, are expereincing, or know someone who is a victim of queer domestic and/or sexual violence. Reach out, report, and support because Domestic Violence Awareness Month means standing up against intimate partner violence in all forms and for all people.

Statistics Source: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,  https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/domestic-violence-and-the-lgbtq-community

The Anti-Violence Project: serves people who are LGBTQ; Hotline 1-212-714-1141, Bilingual 24/7

FORGE: serves transgender and gender nonconforming survivors of domestic and sexual violence; provides referrals to local counselors, 1-414-559-2123

Northwest Network– serves LGBT survivors of abuse; can provide local referrals: 1-206-568-7777

Being Gay for Halloween

By Sidney Wegener

Sidney is a first year MA candidate studying Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. Their academic interests include lesbianism and lesbian history in American from the 1920’s to the 1930’s. They are currently pursuing many different avenues for research in U.S. history pertaining to women’s and queer studies and looking forward to working on a thesis related to the linguistic and social evolution of female sexuality.

Halloween, 2014, I was a senior in high school. At this point in time, I was already out of the closet; not necessarily by choice, but rather because some kid named Alex stole my phone in AP Environmental Science at the end of my sophomore year and read my text messages with my girlfriend at the time. He spread the news to just about everyone and by the end of the day the entireschool knew: I was a lesbian. My first high school did not find this amusing; my teachers found it intolerable, my coaches found it unathletic, and my “friends” found it shameful. Thankfully, I was able to transfer to a different high school a few towns over, and at this one, it seemed okay to be gay. I brought my girlfriend to homecoming, prom, and one of my basketball teammates, Sarah, was also a lesbian. I was no longer trapped in a nightmare of an institution, populated by a tiny town known for generation after generation settling back down in the same community. Everybody’s grandparents knew everybody’s grandparents, and everybody’s business was everybody’s entertainment. So by the time I was a senior at my second high school, I remember thinking to myself, “wow, this is what it’s like to be free, to be myself”. Looking back now, I laugh at how I felt so freely lesbian that I made myself into a costume. 

In 2014, Halloween was the Friday of Homecoming week. So, naturally, the students, teachers, and administration all wore their costumes for the last spirit day. Sarah and I coordinated our costumes. We both wore lab coats with large name tags reading: “Scientist for Straight Girls Wanting to Experiment”. Walking around campus, I remember thinking to myself how many of my female identified classmates were sporting costumes which seemed, to me at least, pretty sexy for walking from class to class. My second high school was a lot more lenient on the rules, and it showed during spirit week. However, that did not stop an administrative member from intervening in my stroll to chemistry. Despite my lab coat attire being quite fitting for a science class in which we wore protective eye gear, my name tag was inappropriate. When I met up with Sarah before basketball practice, she had also changed her costume and by the end of the day we were both just regular scientists. 

Now, I contemplate what it means to wear a “costume” and where the boundaries lie in terms of what is “appropriate.” I mean, how is it that Kaylee got to walk around in a see through Tinkerbell costume, and my pun on my own sexuality was “distracting”? If it was not a school spirit day designated for wearing a costume I wouldn’t have even been breaking the dress code. In a holiday themed effort to express myself, part of me realized that being gay was not something I could wear, unless it went without being said. Apparently, I was “promoting” homosexuality. Kaylee’s costume didn’t have a label on it reading “sexy, hyper-feminized Disney character”, whereas my costume’s meaning rested solely on a nametag, categorizing what kind of “scientist” I intended to be perceived as. Furthermore, Kaylee was not a Tinkerbell-identified human, while I was (and still am) a raging lesbian. So what is the difference for a high school, that allows everyone to wear costumes, between my “Scientist for Straight Girls Wanting to Experiment” lab coat and Kaylee’s “sexy seventeen year old girl take on Tinkerbell” costume? From where I stand today, it seems that dressing in a sexy costume as a seventeen year old girl in high school is okay, so long as it silently complies to a straight, male gaze. A lab coat, jeans, and a t-shirt are also fine-  until you label the outfit as a costume. Well, a lesbian costume.