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Ask Michael: Pride and community
Ask Michael: Pride and community
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

June is the month when people in our community focus on and celebrate Pride. Pride represents a lot of different things for different people. For many of us, it is a time of celebration and it highlights struggles we've been through, challenges we still face, and the accomplishments we have made. Equally as important, it is about community - the coming together of various groups that represent who we are as GLBTQ and those who love and support us.

It is positive time where we can focus on health. Health because we are working towards accepting ourselves and being seen as an important, contributing segment of society. It is a time where people who are struggling with their sexuality can be invited to take that positive step in loving and accepting themselves as LGBTQ. It is a time when people can rekindle old friendships and connections, strengthen current relationships, and make new friendships. It is a time when we recognize the leaders in the community that really put forward the face on what it really means to be Gay: men and women who make a difference in our lives and who are the face of what is fantastic about being BLGTQ and why we have Pride! Women and men who really work hard to demonstrate what being Gay is: having partnerships and families, being leaders in the business sector, generously giving back to the community, and hoping to make a difference in the lives of all.

It is in this vein that I'd like to recognize a small portion of the leaders in our community because they epitomize what I am describing (and yes, I recognize that there are many more who I will not be able to mention yet who are equally as influential and due recognition).

Louise Chernin, Executive Director of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), is a true leader in the business community. She, Brian Silkworth (of Silkworth and Associates), Jerome Bader, and others in the GSBA plan an annual event called the "Scholarship Dinner." It is a gala affair where GLBTQ men and women, and their loved ones, receive scholarships to pursue their goals towards higher education. I was at the scholarship dinner on May 9 and was touched and inspired by the scholarship recipients as well as the generous donors who are business leaders in this community. Those who work so hard on this event and the multitudes of others who donate truly make a difference in the lives of GLBTQ men and women. They are setting a strong foundation for the future of our community.

QSquared Men is an organization that does a lot to bring men in the community together in healthy ways. They have an annual camp and put on other events promote inclusiveness and education. The reviews are excellent. You can find them at qsquared.org.

Rod Maplestone and Giulio Pellegrini, both of Night Shift, are two hardworking, energetic and creative men who value community and who plan events that bring GLBTQ men and women together. Their last event, "Glitterbomb," sponsored by QSquared Men, was an excellent event with the goal of bringing people together and to raise funds for other important events. It was fun and had great energy! Watch for more Night Shift events (created by Giulio and Rod) in the future. Their intent and hearts are definitely in the right place. These are two men who represent the values that make our community strong and cohesive.

Gay City Health Project, overseen by Fred Swanson, Executive Director, provides education, support, testing, and sponsorship for events in the community. He has a dedicated, talented staff that does a lot of great for the people in our community. You can find them at 206-860-6969 or www.gaycity.org. They have been an important part of peoples' lives especially regarding HIV education, testing, and support.

David Richart and his staff at LifeLong AIDS, 206-957-1737, continue to work with the GLBTQ members of our community who are impacted by HIV/AIDS. Their services are invaluable and the need is still great. HIV/AIDS is still impacting our community and these great people provide help and support when some of our men and women need them most. You can also find out more about LifeLong AIDS at www.lifelongaidsalliance.org.

There are many caring and skilled counselors at Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities, 206 323-1768. This agency, under the direction of Ann McGettigan, has helped many GLBTQ men, women, and families over the years with mental health counseling and chemical dependency services. They are such a necessary part of our community and change the course of peoples' lives through their hard work.

Martin's Off Madison, 206-325-7000, is a wonderful restaurant to go to because of its friendly, welcoming atmosphere. The owner, Martin Palmer, contributes to the community in many ways through hosting events and donating to important causes. Martin and his staff - Alfred, Chase, Ginger, Riley, Matthew (and about 10 others that I don't know) - are warm, friendly, funny, and welcoming. They exemplify what a welcoming, inclusive neighborhood social spot is about: great food, great people, great laughs, and a strong sense of the importance of community. Martin has a Cabaret and early brunch availability during Pride.

Finally, to Jesse Chipps, Natalia Ospina, Jeff Natter - all of whom work through the Department of Health for the Seattle/King County HIV/AIDS Advisory Council - and the 40-some volunteers (of which I am one) - patients, doctors, social workers, community members - who spend endless hours doing the very best they can to allocate money in the best possible way for people living with HIV/AIDS. The work these volunteers do, the caring and dedication they exhibit, and the decisions they make have great impact and they take their responsibilities with high regard.

This is what Pride is about: The countless men and women who stand with integrity in who they are and work to make the LGBTQ community a stronger, inclusive, healthy, welcoming place for all. Men and women who epitomize what being a sexual minority is: hard working, loving, compassionate, dedicated, community stewards, and in-service of others. All of these people I've highlighted represent the faces of the multitudes of GLBTQ communities around this country and around the world who work every day to make a difference in our lives. Men and women who contribute to the betterment of humankind and the world. It is people like these that engender my Pride! This is what being GLBTQ is about! Thank you all! Happy Pride! Be safe and have fun.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and he writes a bimonthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.
 

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