We must keep creating conversation opportunities

Diversity Richmond hosted a reception and community conversation for newly appointed Richmond City Police LGBTQ Liaison, Captain Angela Greene.

I recently had breakfast with a colleague and we spent quite a while discussing our community. When the topic of our recent police reception came up, she shared with me that there were a number of people in the crowd that night who had not had favorable experiences with law enforcement, but who attended anyway. They were there to ask questions and begin the process of building trust.

Our community is a diverse one, to say the least. Our journeys vary, and as different as each may be, we all have one thing in common. We all know what it is like to live in fear of the possible repercussions of being honest about who we are. Some people have faced much harsher judgements than others, but our pains and pasts can unite us.

And as my colleague also shared, those who do not look upon law enforcement favorably rarely have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with police officers in a safe environment. So, she added, "We need to continue to create those conversation opportunities." And we shall.

Through the hectic pace of the day-to-day management of this wonderful place we call Diversity Richmond, we sometimes get vivid reminders of why we are here. Our police community conversation was such a reminder. And we will continue, with your help, building bridges, fighting injustices and battling ignorance.

Thank you for your on-going support.
Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

To support the work of Diversity Richmond, make a donation or volunteer through www.DiversityRichmond.org or mail a check to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220. All contributions are tax deductible.

Diversity Richmond hosted a reception and community conversation for newly appointed Richmond City Police LGBTQ Liaison, Captain Angela Greene. Capt. Greene and Chief Alfred Durham are ever-present within our community and are working to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly.

Positive proof that things are changing for the better

If there is any population of our community that faces hardcore, bigoted, legal discrimination, it is transgender men and women. However, our faith in justice was restored recently when a Richmond transgender woman was fired due to her sexual identity and was not only later re-hired, but the manager who fired her was terminated.

Georgia Carter was hired by a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, but after returning home from the interview she received a phone call from KFC telling her she did not have the job due to her being transgender, citing bathroom concerns. Word spread about her situation following an interview with WRIC TV 8.

When corporate KFC learned of the incident, they contacted Ms. Carter, offered her an immediate position with any local KFC and then fired the employee who terminated her job. KFC stated the manager was terminated "for violating the franchisee's anti-discrimination policy which is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation." KFC is also conducting training at the restaurant "to keep this from happening again."

As we know, certain Virginia legislators do not believe that this sort of thing happens — therefore no need for legal protection. What happened to Ms. Carter is perfectly legal in Virginia. It is only because of the responsible corporate leadership of Kentucky Fried Chicken that justice prevailed. Virginia law was actually on the side of the employee who fired Ms. Carter.

Thank you, Georgia Carter, for standing up for transgender people -- actually for all people who face injustices. And thank you, Kentucky Fried Chicken, for being on the right side. You are a corporate example to follow. Too bad certain Virginia politicos are not on your payroll.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director


When folks of my generation came out, there was a certain amount of separation between the gay men and the gay or lesbian women. We were, to a certain extent, traveling different paths. Women were often already discriminated against in the workplace, be it salaries or promotions so their battles incorporated more than their sexual orientations. There were not that many events that rallied the two genders as one. Women had their groups and we men had ours.

Then came AIDS. If there was one positive from that nightmare, it was that it helped unite our community. Women were on the forefront of the movement, leading AIDS organizations, recruiting volunteers, raising money, caring for the sick.

I have often wondered if AIDS had been a “lesbian disease,” if we gay men would have rallied to the cause as did the women. I would like to think so, but I really do not know.

What prompted me to visit this issue was a Diversity Richmond fundraiser that I attended recently. Another article in this newsletter talks of the success of the Eileen Edmonds event. There were about 75 people there, with maybe 6 of the crowd being men.

As I stood there and watched people mingle, laughing, sharing stories, renewing acquaintances, I felt so proud. While I am not a woman, I knew I was watching my community at its best.

I was also especially pleased as two women who recently moved to Richmond had stopped by our offices a few days prior and were able to attend Eileen's event. What better welcome could they have received?

There will probably always be a need for “women's space,” but thankfully many of the walls came tumbling down years ago. And much of that is due to women reaching across our aisles and setting the examples of what love is really all about.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

What's Love Got to Do With it?

When marriage equality was first being debated and when states were having ballot initiatives, we were constantly learning legal terms. It frequently occurred to me that the word "love" was often left out of the deliberations, when there was no more critical word than "love," as that was the reason we were having the debates in the first place.

We want to marry because we love each other. Actually, we had been conducting services of union for years, long before marriage was on the horizon. It did not really matter to us whether a religion or a government recognized our unions. That's not why we were exchanging vows.

Here we are months following the Supreme Court decision and we are still seeing legislation being introduced in attempts to diminish our marriages. Once again, some Virginia General Assembly members are determined to implement restrictions on our rights and freedoms.

One particular bill would have us obtain our marriage licenses from the Division of Motor Vehicles instead of through court clerks. The Family Foundation declared that a "win-win" as we could still get our licenses and clerks who don't believe in same-sex marriage would not have to go against their faith beliefs.

I wonder if the Family Foundation would also prefer we drink out of separate water fountains and sit in particular seats on a bus.

The Supreme Court of the United States declared that gay and lesbian people are no longer second class citizens when it comes to marriage. The opposition declared the institution of marriage was being destroyed. Pray tell, how has that happened? It hasn't.
The battle continues and it can be exhausting, but, we will win. We have the truth on our side while the resistance has fear tactics and distortions.

Please continue to voice your opinions through contacting your legislators. And when you write, remind them that love has everything to do with it.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

With more harmful and discriminatory bills than Virginia's LGBT community has ever faced before, this year it will take everyone to stand up for equality and stop the anti-LGBT legislation. So far, none of the 9 anti-LGBT bills have been defeated yet. These blatantly prejudiced bills seek to harm gay and transgender Virginians in a number of ways, from discriminating against LGBT families to prohibiting transgender people and youth from using the appropriate restrooms in schools and government buildings. Your voice will make a difference ... contact your legislators today using the following link!

I wasn't in therapy until I met my boyfriend

meh.Have you ever loathed Valentine's Day? While many look forward to celebrating the annual day for lovers, countless numbers of people dread February 14th. If one is single, especially not by choice, watching others celebrate their love-lives can be painful.

I can remember as a "twenty-something" believing that if I only had a man in my life, that my existence would be just perfect. Oh, the ignorance of youth.

A healthy couple is comprised of two healthy single people. And becoming that healthy single person is not easy. It takes work, lots of self-examination and a willingness to take brutal honest looks inside. The hardest part can be making changes following that authentic examination.

Being a healthy single person is something many people in relationships have never been. And oftentimes, their relationships pay a toll because of that. As a good friend said recently, "I wasn't in therapy till I met my boyfriend." Getting help along the way is a wise move.

So, if you are single, celebrate you. Take pride in "becoming" what many people in relationships are not. As a wise person once said, "Becoming is superior to being."

LGBT people already face more than our share of self-esteem issues. Being single should not be one of them. That's not healthy, but being content and at peace certainly is. ~ BH

It is critical that we contact our legislators

The article in the link below tells of a recent news conference that Equality Virginia and the ACLU conducted to address the record number of anti-LGBT bills that are being introduced in this year's General Assembly.

Never has it been more important to contact our legislators. Even if you know your representative is not on our side, it is still important that they hear your opinion. The opposition needs to know that they are in the minority.

The opposition cannot toss anything at us that we cannot handle because we have the truth on our side. They have lies, misrepresentations and fear tactics. Their attitudes must not go unchallenged.

We cannot leave it up to someone else to take care of our rights and freedoms. That is our responsibility.
Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Meet some Virginians who would be effected by nine proposed anti-LGBTQ bills currently before the GA

Include activism in your New Year's resolutions

Our community has experienced much celebration, but that does not mean our work is done. All one needs to do is read a few news articles to realize that real threats still face us. Some Virginia lawmakers are gearing up for the next General Assembly session with hate-filled bills that target the LGBT community.

Our victories have not been won by accident. They were accomplished because people took roles in speaking out. I implore everyone to become an activist. There are many degrees of involvement and surely everyone can find their niche.

Frontline people are always needed to meet with legislators, write letters, serve on LGBT boards or coordinate events. Quiet activism can be providing financial support to organizations that work on our behalf.

Nonchalant behavior allows the opposition to win. And I can promise you that while we celebrated, the opposition's energy grew through their anger and frustration. They cannot produce anything that we cannot handle, but we must be ready to defend our freedoms.

Being involved in our movement is a rewarding, life-altering experience. It enriches. It enlivens and it paves the way for justice to solidly remain, and not be threatened with the change of elected administrations.

We would love to have you as a member of the Diversity Richmond family. If not us, take a look at one of our other many very worthwhile LGBT organizations here in River City. There is a place for everyone. We define community.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director


We recently received a grant from the Richmond Christmas Mother, the annual holiday campaign of the Richmond Times Dispatch, to provide a home style dinner for LGBT folks who may not be with family over the holidays. It was not but a few years ago that such funding was unheard of.

Our board members dedicated the funds to a project that was already underway: Trans Town Hall and Dinner, an opportunity to celebrate the transgender community, break bread together and talk about what's good and what needs to change.

In planning the dinner, I was reminded that many LGBT folks cannot "go home." Family get-togethers for LGBT people have been the topic of many support groups and counseling sessions. While holiday-family stress is nothing unique to our community, we can have our special challenges.

Our community is a strong one. We have proven that many times. How about we all promise to "reach out" a little extra over the next few weeks? Make that call, send that email, reminding people how important they are to us.

We have been each other's family forever. We invented the concept of creating our own families. Celebrate what you have when you have your friends.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

We need your help, please

This has been an exciting year for Diversity Richmond. Our rebranding campaign made the headlines and won acclaim by the community. We expanded the thrift store, made significant updates to the facility and within the next few weeks, the building exterior will be a beautiful reflection of the work we do. Because of our efforts that allowed us to donate over $865,000 to LGBT nonprofits, we were recognized as the Foundation Philanthropy of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. We formed an art gallery committee of some of Richmond's most notable artists, and they have reinvigorated our gallery. Shows are booked through 2016.

A banner year, we must say.

We have also had our challenges. Bingo, which has been a longtime financial benefit to us, took a hit this year. Another nonprofit that rented our event hall for weekly games went out of business. We also decreased our games to one per week. By law, Bingo must be run by volunteers, not paid staff. Recruitment and retention of volunteers is an on-going challenge.

One way we are addressing the issues is by improving the event hall. The kitchen, which has been out of service for years, will soon be in operation. That, plus improving the exterior and updating the event hall will increase our rental business. Already, with minor improvements, the event hall is now booked just about every Saturday for the next few months.

Our next project is to do major work on the store flooring. The carpet is tattered, torn and stained. The plan is to have polished concrete flooring that will require minimal maintenance and repair.

We do an outstanding job of serving the community every day and our facility needs to reflect that service. We are working to make your community center one that we can all be proud of. We need your help in doing that.

Please make a tax-deductible financial donation by going here or by mailing checks to 1407 Sherwood Ave, 23220. If you have questions,

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

It was a “Wow” Day

When we received word that we had been named Foundation Philanthropist of the Year, my heart literally skipped a beat. Our good friend at ROSMY, Beth Panilaitis, along with financial development volunteer, Ann Criswell, had written the most beautiful nomination and gathered letters of support from some of our partner agencies. Their efforts proved successful.

It was just a few years ago that this recognition would not have been possible. But that was yesteryear. This is today. Sometimes I still need reminding.

Thank you, Jon Klein, for making your dream a reality and laying the foundation for Diversity Richmond to become the leader that it is today. Thank you for your vision, your determination, your tenacity, your stubbornness.

Thank you to the executive director who followed Jon -- Jay Squires -- and the many board members, volunteers and staff who have worked tirelessly, often with little support, without ever once losing sight of the ultimate goal: building community and ensuring that LGBT people have a safe place and a strong voice in this city in which they live.

And thank you to our hardworking current board of directors, who are instrumental in making all this happen.

It was a "wow" day and one that is deserved. We are a very strong people and can overcome any adversity placed before us. We just proved that once again.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Every opportunity to help

Dear Friends:

Every so often something happens here at Diversity Richmond that puts everything into its proper perspective. This has to be the most chaotic place I have ever worked and I share that with the utmost affection. So on the really crazy days, it is wonderful when something happens that makes the frustration disappear.

Last week I received an email from a social worker with a local school system. We have partnerships with several schools that allow their students on public assistance to shop for free at Diversity Thrift for clothing.

The email was expressing thanks as the mom of the family was elated at the number of outfits her gift certificate purchased for her family. The social worker had also shared with me previously that the children were being ridiculed at school for always wearing the same clothing.

"In all the months that I have been working with her, never have I seen her so happy," stated the email. "Thank you for making the lives of these children so much better."

Most of us have never known what it is like to be bullied because we do not have clothes to wear, but many of us know very well what it is like to feel intimidated because we are different in other ways. So, to think of these innocent babies being made fun of because of their clothes, ridiculed because they are poor, it did hit home.

And it is because of the generosity of the local LGBT community and our allies that these kids are now safer from harm than they were a few days ago.

While we were working on our rebranding campaign, I was preparing notes for a discussion about who we are and these words came to my mind... "Every day at Diversity Richmond, we grab every opportunity to help in any way we can."

Thank you for helping us do just that.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

To support Diversity Richmond programs, shop and donate to Diversity Thrift, donate on-line or mail checks to 1407 Sherwood Avenue, Richmond, Va. 23220.

A lot more than making beautiful music

Frank Marino

Our community lost a beautiful human being a few days ago. Well known for his work with the Richmond Men's Chorus, the loss of Frank Marino has left a huge void in the lives of many. His voice was that of a baritone angel, only to be complemented by his talent for costume design and choreography. Everybody loved Frank.

It was Frank's wish that his memorial service take place at Diversity Richmond. The day included stories, tears, beautiful music and lots of laughter. Everybody had a Frank story.

As I heard folks talk about Frank, and as I listened to his fellow chorus members sing, it struck me once again what a virtuous community we have. Many of the chorus members are "seasoned men" who have lived through years of lawful discrimination against LGBT people. Like Frank, many of them have their own stories of struggle, of pain, yet there they were ... celebrating life. Celebrating community.

It occurred to me that a lot more goes on with that choir than simply making beautiful music. As I watched them, I felt so proud. No better example of our community's goodness can be found than those men. They, to a large extent, were Frank's family. And he was theirs.

Our community is a resilient one. We have faced injustice and ridicule with dignity and grace. We have led by example. While much of society takes an abundance for granted, we strive to gain basic rights - and we do so with fortitude and determination. Much of the world could learn from us.

Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director