A few short weeks after I was appointed the CEO of The Center, I was visited by Gary Vrooman of the Lambda Business Association. Gary, a veteran in the LGBTQ community, spoke fondly of the many years that he had been involved in LGBTQ affairs. He was a pioneer of the movement in Southern California.
He came to me with a suggestion. “It is time,” he said, “that we all come together in a larger way to serve the LGBTQ community in Southern Nevada. It is time that we bring all LGBTQ organizations together.” He spoke firsthand of other communities in Southern California promoting a wider and broader collaboration. The gay and lesbian community centers in those areas were the catalyst of that collaboration. They were the hub of that collaboration.
I have never let go of Gary’s vision for a better community here in Southern Nevada. In my perception, the LGBTQ community here is made up of a variety of diverse well-intentioned organizations, serving a variety of needs and providing a variety of services. But in many ways as I soon perceived, many of these organizations did their good work in silos. There was very little cross-communication. I did not see the type of community-building collaboration that Vrooman envisioned. That was a role of The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada since our mission is to serve and advocate for all without exception.
The life of a community ebbs and flows with the passage of time, and our LGBTQ community here in Southern Nevada is no exception. This community has deep roots in LGBTQ lives that existed far before any of us and existed in many other places. And, it has never been more profoundly affected since the beginning of our LGBTQ Movement — from Stonewall in 1969 to the present.
Today, our community enjoys new freedoms and recognition that it has never enjoyed before. In addition to these new freedoms, our community enjoys a high degree of visibility.
Given this extraordinary growth, you can’t continue to grow as a community based on the paradigms and obsolete practices of the past. New growth requires new ways of acting. The growth of the LGBTQ community in Southern Nevada requires new modes of communication and collaboration if we are to serve our community best.
So, on Wednesday, March 23, at my invitation to a wide variety of organizations, about 20 nonprofit leaders came together to discuss our health, our need for growth, and the general welfare of the LGBTQ community. Ultimately, we envisioned that a Community Council of some sort would come together on a periodic basis (perhaps every six months), to review the health, growth, and welfare of our community and to iron out issues that need to be addressed as a whole. We believe the times call for creating such an organization to effect greater support of our community as well as collaboratively advance the causes and issues that would support our LGBTQ movement in Southern Nevada. We believe that a lot of harm can come about by mistrust and a lack of communication. It is time that we take a proactive role in supporting and advancing our community.
The idea was widely and enthusiastically supported and accepted. There was not one voice of opposition raised. Instead, one organizational leader voiced the need for a community-wide coalition to take place. And, as a first tool to mirror that collaboration, Cory Burgess of The Center demonstrated some new technology that was launched on April 1 at www.lgbtq.vegas. It is a community-wide calendar targeted to the entire LGBTQ population here in Las Vegas. It is a tool meant to assist in coordinating event calendars among organizations as well as to promote LGBTQ activities to our community and beyond.
The Community Coalition is in its organizing and infancy phase. There was consensus and agreement that we would come together again to talk about our mission, vision, and values. The planning work is underway to bring additional organizations and membership onboard.
If you are a 501(c)(3) organization that serves the LGBTQ community in some fashion, we invite your participation. We’re trying to get as many organizational leaders involved as possible to be representative of the entire community. Please join us in making our Southern Nevada LGBTQ community healthier and stronger. Your thoughts and suggestions are appreciated!