Holidays for LGBTQ youth can be tense and intense, filled with family confrontations, awkwardness, and outright hostility.
“It’s awful,” says David Mettille, coordinator for student affairs and advisor for the Alliance, a student organization for the campus LGBTQ community.
And while some write off the holidays forever, David decided to go in another direction. He not only welcomes and anticipates Christmas, he decorates seventeen trees—seventeen!—in the Victorian house, he shares with his husband, Teege, dean of admissions and financial aid, and their son Logan.
And then he throws open the front door for an annual event he and Teege started when they moved here in 2013, called the Rainbow Dinner. David decorates; Teege makes his famous Oreo truffles.
“I want all students to have and feel joy, to have that warm, holiday feeling with one’s chosen family,” he said.
The first year, David hoped for forty people; they got eighty. They’ve peaked at 105 people.
The event has become one of the most anticipated parties of the year. Students, faculty, staff, and their families throw off their shoes and traipse through the rooms of the house searching for all seventeen Christmas trees, treating it like a treasure hunt. They eat and drink and rub elbows with the mayor of Ashland, who lives down the street, and other Ashland dignitaries.
“People bring friends from out of town just to show them that this is the type of welcoming place where we live,” David said.
The Rainbow Dinner has expanded beyond the LGBTQ family. Coaches have brought their teams and last year when the LumberJill’s hockey team had to miss because they were on the road, they baked and sent over a rainbow cake.
“We’re not only creating happy holiday memories, we’re educating the majority of students on how to be allies,” David said.