Tommy Dorfman visits Ali Forney Center Bea Arthur Residence

Watch Tommy Dorfman Give Back to LGBTQ+ Youth for the Holidays

As our beloved mother RuPaul is famous for saying on her hit show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, “As gay people, we get to choose our family.” This concept of “chosen family” is central to so many queer folks’ lives, but often becomes more of a central theme around the holidays. When it seems everyone around us is busying themselves with gift-giving, arranging travel, and glorious homecomings (all meticulously documented on social media), it’s easy to forget that not everybody has a mother, dad, or traditional family unit that loves and accepts them. But that also doesn’t mean one has to celebrate alone.

According to a widely-cited study by the Williams Institute, 40% of homeless youth in the United States identify as LGBTQ+. Perhaps more heartbreaking, though, is the study’s revelation that 43% of these young people were forced out of their homes by their own parents. This news is especially hard to swallow, especially considering that, according to The Family Project, LGBTQ+ youth rejected by their parents are “more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide.” Having a family (no matter the definition of the word) who loves and supports you can often be a key to one’s survival.

That makes the work of local organizations, like New York City’s Ali Forney Center, absolutely vital. AFC (as its known for short) was launched in 2002 as six beds in a church basement, but has since grown to become America’s “largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in the country,” according to its website. Not only do their employees provide emergency shelter, but also medical and mental health services, meals, and a transitional living program that helps connect youths to employment opportunities for a successful future. They estimate that the Center will serve 1,000 youth this holiday season alone.

Ali Forney is no stranger to celebrities — Troye Sivan and Lady Gaga have famously visited the youth there — but we noticed 13 Reasons Why’s Tommy Dorfman stopped by the Center to prepare a chicken and waffles brunch around Thanksgiving. “[That experience] opened my eyes to the reality of what homelessness is and looks like, and has educated me on how to be a better advocate for our community,” he says. “I cherish the time that I get to spend with the beautiful people who run AFC, and who are a part of the AFC community at large.”

To help continue spreading Tommy’s holiday cheer, we called up our friends at Lyft and driver Robert to ask for some help picking up festive presents — including makeup goodies from MAC Cosmetics and Milk, outerwear and cold weather accessories from American Eagle, and candy from Sugarfina — before dropping them off at the Center’s brand-new Bea Arthur residence uptown. (Yes, it’s named after the iconic Golden Girl.)

You can watch Tommy’s adventure and learn more about the Center in the video above. And if you’re interested in donating or getting involved, you can visit this link. Above all, we hope that you remember to spread love — even in the form of a thoughtful text message — this holiday season. Showing people that you care sometimes goes a longer way than you might think.