Unity – the state of being united or joined as a whole. Unified. Integrated. Coalition. Harmony. Cooperation. Collaboration.
Unity is something I have been working hard to create within the LGBT community since 1995. Sometimes my efforts have been successful and other times I’ve been troubled by the divisions I see with LGBT leaders and organizations. We can no longer afford to be burdened by the divide & conquer mentally of those who oppose us.
There are, so far as I can tell, four major LGBT organizations in Hampton Roads: Hampton Roads Business OutReach (HRBOR) which focuses on the business world; Hampton Roads Pride which works with local cities to help promote equality for citizens and puts on the annual pride fest; Stonewall Sports which hosts LGBT sports leagues; LGBT Life Center which works to help those in need with healthcare, housing, mental health support, and other services. Each group maintains a different area of service but are all working towards a similar goal. Why then is it so difficult for these groups to work together? Our community would have much more power by being a united force than by serving our own interests at the detriment of our other organizations.
There is power in a unified voice. When I meet with local leaders in the public and private sectors, many are confused as to who we are? “Didn’t you put on the festival at Town Point Park?” “Don’t you serve people living with HIV?” “I’ve heard about you. The head of your organization is <insert name of other orgs director>.”
When we approach the larger community together we are more likely to get the things done that we spend so much time fighting and working for. When we are fighting for housing protection, our social services agency can lean on the work that HR Pride has done with the local cities. When we are working to create equality in the workplace for LGBT employees, why not stand tall with the hundreds of people gathered to play kickball every week – they all have jobs!
I challenge each of the organizations listed above to open up a seat on their boards for members of the other groups. I’m proclaiming now that each of you has a seat at HRBOR’s table. I want your participation. I want to hear your voice. I want to be united with you so that we can all achieve the goals we work so very hard for.
Christian Strange, a native of Virginia Beach, is the current President of Hampton Roads Business Outreach (HRBOR) and is an executive with Dollar Bank resides in Norfolk with his husband and two children.