Introduction to the LGBT Center
The Mary Renault Society meeting on June 22, 2012, was held at the (relatively new) LGBT Center of Raleigh at 411 Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh. Our presenter, Jim Manchester, not only is the MRS website programmer but also a volunteer with the Center, for which he did much of the work in setting up and maintaining its website.
He began by pointing out the artwork on the walls. The Center hosts the work of a different LGBT artist each monthas a part of the First Friday Art and Wine Reception program; last month it was Jim Fatata (a former MRS member), and Rebecca Chapin is this month’s artist. She began with the premise that light is measured in wavelengths, as is sound; she assigned notes to colors, and the result is the framed works on the wall (which you were supposed to be able to hear with your smart phone, though David DeMarini tried unsuccessfully to use his phone to play Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer).
Jim then noted that the Center has nine different initiatives, which are major efforts, and a host of lesser activities and services under its umbrella (called ‘programs’). An initiative probably has more than one meeting a month; programs may be less frequent.
The initiatives are:
- Gay N Gray (resources and social interaction, including lunch in the neighborhood last Thursday of each month)
- Library (available whenever the Center is open: Mon-Fri noon to 8 pm, Sat & Sun noon to 6 pm)
- HealthWorks (has a vast array of links, services, and resources, not to mention Thursday HIV/STD Testing 6 to 8 pm; Third Sunday)
- Youth and Family
- M Club
- Women’s Initiative (last Saturday)
- N.A.I.L. - No Accidents in Life (first Sunday)
- Transgender Initiative (second and fourth Monday evenings)
- Bi(sexual) Interest Group
There was a Gay & Grey dance in Durham just before our meeting.
The library, which we looked at before dinner, has 2000 volumes in its collection (duplicates from the 3000 originally donated to the Center were dispersed); it’s the largest gay & lesbian collection nearby, in the largest community center in the south. $5.00 buys a card to check out books; another $5.00 lets you check out DVDs. Jim hopes that, as people replace DVDs with Blu-Ray, that the replaced movies will be contributed to the Center.
The Health Works initiative was a creation of Triangle Community Works, whose members then created the Center (which has absorbed TCW). The goal was to give a healthy perspective to issues of health for gays. These are vetted; the psychological services list of references requires that therapists not ever be inclined to “cure” people. At 4:00 on Sunday, July 15, there will be a seminar on understanding depression, especially relevant to those who have an aversion to organized counseling.
The Youth and Family program has many facets, including the Youth Coffee House, the Triangle Gay-Straight Alliance Committee, and ASPYRE Weekend (a youth leadership camp). Originally they thought 2-3 high school people might be interested in the Youth Coffee House—–the 2-3 showed up, along with their parents; now there are maybe 17 kids who come, who are going to meet twice a month on Thursday afternoons.
M Club is for males 18-30 who meet 3-4 times a month. It is probably the most active group in the Center—but they go all over rather than just hold meetings at the Center.
The Women’s Initiative started in Durham (where they are still more active).
The No Accidents in Life group originally was for people 15-30; now it’s 15 and up. This group is a response to how to make it better for us.
The Center for a long time had nothing for transsexuals or bisexuals. A notice was put up on the website 6 weeks in advance of the first meeting for transexuals … and 15 people came. They scheduled events for alternate Mondays regularly, beginning with a pizza event – and 37 people showed up at the first of these. There are now regular support group meetings and a “T-Time (pot luck) Supper Club.”
Last month something similar happed for bisexuals. Instead of an expected 5, 17 people showed up. With Kinsey’s roughly 30% of the population who are bisexual, prospects are good.
The list of programs is long and growing; Jim highlighted a few.
- OutRaleigh Festival
- ‘Raleigh Is Coming Out’ Awards Dinner
- Raleigh Rainbow Reading Group
- Jazz Night
- Center OpenMic
- ‘Skills to Succeed’ Workshops and Jobs Fair
- Affirming Faith Forum
The OutRaleigh Festival is a family-friendly Pride event. It’s different from NC Pride in Durham in that it has no adult-oriented features; it is clearly family-oriented. It will probably be on May 4th next year.
The annual Awards Dinner, on October 7, is just before the National Coming Out Day on October 11.
The Raleigh Rainbow Reading Group is a group of gay men who meet to talk about books, movies, TV, and anything in the entertainment world that has a gay connection.
“Jazz Night” is generally R&B music.
Center OpenMic – a group of gay storytellers. Meetings usually begin with a theme, after which anything is open game; as few as 14-15 come; sometimes the whole room is full.
The Affirming Faith Forum meets monthly on the last Friday of the month; people of any faith imaginable gather (including some atheists).
In addition there are coalitions the Center has formed with other organizations to do stuff.
The Center tries to raise money for any of its groups that need it; but otherwise each group runs itself.
The LGBT Center website is full of information. The work the Center does is amazing; it is making a difference in people’s lives. Just by being here it provides a place where people can come and be safe. And it’s a great way to meet people.
The Center does not have members, but it does take contributions, and volunteers are always needed. The Center’s phone at 919.832.4484 has a message phone if the time you call isn’t right.