The role of gay community groups

19 Dec

Gay community groups are an integral part of the community assuming a variety of duties to improve the lives of their members, families, and friends. There are far more groups than can reasonably or meaningfully be discussed, but they all share common threads. Basically speaking the roles most organizations are founded upon are those of support, advocacy, socialization, health concerns, and education.

Something that is often forgotten about the function of gay community groups is that they are not solely for the benefit of the gay individual. While their immediate aim is to provide some form of service or support to gay community itself the fuller scope reaches out to everyone in the community as we all live together. Matters of education and support are intended to be for everyone gay and straight. Following is a sampling of gay community groups and the roles they play in regards to the community.

While there are many support groups serving the gay community as a whole which can be found in almost all cities in the U.S. at this time, none may be as well known or established as the the national organization Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG for short. PFLAFG’s mission is to support the health and well being of the LGBT community through support, education, and advocacy. The advocacy on behalf of it’s gay members is undeniably valuable. Their efforts have played a major role in fighting for equal rights for the gay community since 1972. PFLAG’s educational initiatives have long been regarded as outstanding in regards to improving awareness of gays in society as well as helping break stereotypes concerning gays to the community as a whole. The impact it has on most people individually however is the support it provides to it’s members dealing with issues like coming out, coping with issues surrounding family and friends, and in many cases helping people struggling with self identity become comfortable with themselves.

Aside from PFLAG there are numerous organizations with grassroots community programs aimed at improving the public image of the gay community through education. Among the most prominent are organizations like: The Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center of New York, Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council of Minneapolis, and the Gay and Lesbian Media Coalition of West Hollywood. These are all foundations which try to help improve the image of the gay community while also serving the needs of individuals. Unlike some twenty years ago, now most schools also have organizations such as Gay/Straight alliances which serve the same goal with the focus on micro environments.

GLAAD (Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is the best known and most prominent organization dealing specifically with the image of the LGBT community. GLAAD is committed to “Promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.” It is not unusual for a gay person experiencing any issue which defames their character or tramples on their rights to make this the first organization they contact after the transgression. As a person whom has dealt with GLAAD personally in my local community I can attest that they will not only fight, but fight long and hard to see that wrongs are righted and if necessary will take a case to court to obtain justice. While the focus of the national headquarters is shifting more towards dealing with the image of gays in the media and entertainment they still offer assistance through local chapters to anyone with a legitimate case that needs it. They may take the task on their own, but more often than not they provide referrals and aid to local human rights organizations or other gay specific legal aid entities.

Lambda Legal is right up their in terms of national exposure as GLAAD, but is focused more on the needs of the individual than GLAAD. Often Lamda Legal is the organization GLAAD makes it’s referrals to. Lambda is Headquartered in New York with regional offices. They are the oldest legal organization serving the gay community in not just litigation but law reform. Lambda further provides assistance via a telephone help line and educational publications. It is good to note that Lambda is often overwhelmed with requests for legal assistance and cannot take every case, but they will help assess your case and advise you of the best avenue to pursue justice although it may take time.

In regard to the health concerns of gay men, Gay Mens Health Crisis (GMHC)is perhaps the leader. Located in New York, GMHC does more than simply pass out condoms, provide HIV tests, and counsel people on safe sex, it fights for legislation and research into HIV/AIDS research which benefits people of all sexual orientations. They hold regular meetings to counsel the gay community (Or anyone that desires to attend) on proper diet, healthy lifestyle choices, and issues of general and gay specific health concerns. GMHC is pivotal in helping any gay person in need of medical care try to find a way to obtain the treatment they need.

Socially there are any number of groups in every state focused on the gay community. Many are informal requiring no registration, just that you show up and participate. Activities are often the same as you would find in any social organization and can range from outings to sports events, dinner an drinks, or charitable events to name a few. The best way to locate information on local groups is either through word of mouth or the Internet.

There are many other types of organizations serving the gay community mirroring the roles of the above mentioned or providing other more specific services. Each is valuable in maintaining awareness, education, and a variety of protections for LGBT persons. While some like Lambda Legal deal with a very specific issue in the community others like PFLAG try to provide help in any area or way possible. Without these organizations the rights we are now enjoying and pursuing would be little more than a pipe dream. Each aids the cause of the other, and we the individuals of the gay community as well.

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