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

No hero

This editorial ran in the 9/11/2015 edition of The Free Press, and is reprinted here with permission from the publication. It is followed by Bill Harrison’s response printed in the 9/25/2015 edition, also reprinted with permission.

Kim Davis is neither a hero nor a martyr in our book.

The sobbing, pious and defiant Kentucky county clerk gained national attention after spending five days in jail rather than issuing marriage licenses to same sex-couples.

Her actions defying a federal court order were both imprudent and ill-advised, despite her claims that “God’s moral law conflicts with (her) job duties” as a public servant in Rowan County, Ky., population 23,600.

Ms. Davis puts us in the mind of the Massive Resistance racists in Virginia who, like Ms. Davis, held elective offices and led the effort to shut down public schools in localities across the state rather than comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s order in 1954 to desegregate public schools.

Their stubborn and blind allegiance to hatred caused many schoolchildren — African-American and white — to suffer without an education. More than 50 years later, Virginia and her people are still paying the price in many ways.

Like those haters, Ms. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to anybody in Rowan County rather than provide them to gay and lesbian couples.

Read more

“Our only job on this planet is to love each other”

Sylvia DeVoss

Sylvia DeVoss is an artist who is changing photography one click at a time! A mom and grandmom dedicated to her family, friends and all humans equally.

We saw Sylvia DeVoss's open letter on social media and were so inspired, we asked for permission to reprint it.

August 23rd would have been my 40th wedding anniversary. I married this really cool guy in Maymont Park. Many friends and family from both sides were there. It was so hot, and we were so young. Of course we didn't know we were young. We thought we were grown-ups.

I also thought I was heterosexual. Or at least I prayed I was. I knew shortly after our wedding day, it was a huge mistake. And it was entirely my mistake, not his. I tried so long to just fit in. Never felt like I did ... nor did I feel any connection to our friends' wives when we would get together for cookouts or other gatherings. I use to watch them and try to understand how they were happy.

I tried to be a good wife ... but I sucked.

We separated and found out we were pregnant, in that order, on the same day ... and I was petrified for the baby's future. How in the hell was I going to raise a child when I couldn't even be a wife?

We got thru the separation and pregnancy with tons of drama and hurt that comes with the territory. We had a daughter who we both loved with all our hearts. We were cruel to each other for a couple of years until we figured out how to both love our daughter and not mix that up with our crap.

At some point we became friends again ... only better than when we first met. History together does that, I think!

When I first came out ... (to myself), I had planned on ending my life. It wasn't something I could live with. I didn't feel worthy of taking air from this planet as I felt others would put it to better use. I was a grandmother when I realized I was gay ... and slowly started accepting it. That was around 10 years ago and I have worked on my life so much since.

I'm so very thankful for having gotten married, having a daughter and going through everything I've been through because my life truly rocks. There have been many key people that have carried me through some mighty dark times ... folks that I can never fully repay.

No one on this earth could, would, or should judge another about anything. I have judged myself more harshly than the best of preachers could possibly fathom.

I don't have any remarkable words of wisdom to bestow upon you all at this point. I just wanted to say ... with all my heart and soul ... I am positive our only job on this planet is to love each other.

Really, really feel it's that simple.

Happy anniversary to my ex! Thank you for all you have done for every one of your kids and friends.

Love, Sylvia

Pride in the new age

Pride in the new age

Dear Friends:

Boy, have things changed. In 1979 when we had our first "Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival," about 80 people attended a celebration in Byrd Park. The police made several trips through the park that day, maybe for our security, but I remember feeling intimidated. Marriage was not even a thought. The issues were fear of being outed and losing our families, our jobs, or both.

In a couple of weeks, our annual celebration will take place on Brown's Island and about 20,000 folks are expected to celebrate LGBT lives and progress. The police will be there, but to staff booths in an effort to recruit police officers. The year prior, the Richmond police chief addressed the crowd. Last year the governor spoke.

The stage will feature nationally recognized entertainers, the grounds will be filled with hundreds of vendors and at the west end of the park will be a huge area dedicated to youth.

Yes, we realize obstacles every day that we must resolve, but on September 12th, join us as we celebrate. And lots we have to cheer about.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director

Transformations underway, and we could use your help

There is much going on at your community center. For example, a few months ago we organized a committee to guide us in marketing our underutilized art gallery. Led by local artist, Michael Pierce, the committee now includes several well-respected artists and art patrons who have laid the groundwork for a number of phenomenal shows. Stay tuned.

Our building study is underway with Mark Burkett as volunteer project manager. We are researching everything from exterior and interior painting to asbestos removal, new flooring and better lighting. We are creating a facility in which our community can be proud. Check out the rendering below of our building by Lisa Cumbey to get an idea of the direction we are headed.

Our kitchen, located in the meeting hall, is also getting a make-over so we can better market the space for special events. We already have numerous events scheduled in the hall and the addition of a working kitchen will greatly increase the marketability of the space.

SAGE is partnering with Senior Connections to soon begin a weekly lunch for seniors. Remaining active is critical for mental and physical well-being and we are very proud of this partnership. SAGE, under the leadership of Robyn Bentley, is also working with local retirement and assisted living facilities in facilitating cultural competency classes. Service providers need to be aware and sensitive to the issues of LGBT seniors, making residents feel safe and welcomed.

This is but a sample of what is going on. We need you to help us transform dreams into realities. If you would like to help, please contact me.


Bill Harrison
President and Executive Director