Can the Triangle sustain an LGBT community center?
In a recent edition of The Independent Weekly that took a look at queer life in the Triangle, Jim Baxter brought up a great point about whether the time has come and gone for an LGBT community center here. He recalled the several attempts in the past few years and wondered if, in the world of on-line sites and quick accessibility of information, a community center was really necessary now.
That’s a good question. The volunteers of Triangle Community Works have been asking our constituents the same thing for the past six years. In 2003, we held forums in Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Durham to ask if there was any interest in such a thing.
The most well-attended forum was Raleigh, where we had 80 people show up to discuss their interest and what a community center might offer. (The results of all the forums are at www.tcworks.org/center.htm.)
As the chair of TCW, I hear differing points of view from residents of the Triangle. One of the most often heard is: “When I moved here/came out, there was no place to get any kinds of resources. I didn’t know anyone.” Another one is “I can’t believe the capital city of this state doesn’t have a community center.” Yet one more is “It’s so hard to meet people around here.”
There are some members of our community who would never be involved in a community center effort because they’re already involved in their community. They have friends and contacts and lots of things to do. They’re connected, and they know connected people. A community center would probably not hold any interest for them — and for good reason.
And yes, we know about the innovative, networking websites and newspapers in our community. OUTTriangle.com, trianglegrrrls.com, Q-Notes and The Independent are great places to find things to do, to hook up with people and to make new friends.
But what if you don’t know that these resources exist? What if you don’t have access to a computer? Or what if you do, but you’re not the kind of person to host something or, if you’re single, go by yourself? Not all of us are comfortable, brave or open enough to bust onto a new gay scene and announce “I’m here!” Some people would never dare to go to the bar to meet people, and some are turned off by organized religion.
And what about the non-gay residents of the Triangle? I’m always surprised to find out that the only thing they “know” about our community is that we all go to the bars and that we have Pride once a year so we can dress up and have a parade in Durham. Would a community center, loud and proud in the middle of downtown Raleigh, be something that the residents of the Triangle could see and become better educated about the diversity, talents and needs of its queer members?
A community center would be a great place for someone new to the area (or newly out) to get resources, information or maybe just a “Welcome to the Triangle” hug from a volunteer or staff person. It would be an accessible space to have meetings or events. The center could also be a safe space for young people to come when things get bad or they just need a place to hang. It could be a resource for people wanting information to better relate to their LGBT family members or friends. Some suggestions have also included providing office space and networking resources for other LGBT-related organizations to better work together.
Best of all, it would be expressly for gay men, lesbians, bisexual people, transmen and transwomen, same-gender-loving folks, individuals who are questioning, their allies and those who want to be allies. It would be “someplace friendly, someplace safe and someplace ours.”
Has the moment indeed passed? The board of Triangle Community Works wants to know your opinion. We believe that an LGBT community center could be a great asset to the Triangle, but it depends on you and what you think. Please send us an email at email@example.com or call 919-256-3672 to let us know your thoughts.