Colette Roberts Honored by Howard County Women’s Org.

Colette Roberts, the co-founder of the PFLAG-Columbia/Howard County chapter and who led the organization for 15 years, will be inducted into the Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame. She will be joining four other women inductees at a ceremony held by the Howard County Commission for Women. Her immediate reaction was, “I’m shocked and honored to be selected.”

Roberts had been instrumental in helping the chapter become a model for the other 500 PFLAG chapters nationally to emulate. Through her work in the areas of support, education and advocacy—the chapter’s mission components—Roberts met with local elected officials and succeeded in gaining legislation and policy changes that helped LGBT families in the county.

She also handled many emotional phone calls with some coming at all hours of the night from parents who could not deal with their child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and from LGBT kids who were experiencing a hostile environment at home and established a successful youth group and parents support group.

The event will take place on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, MD.

Dimitria Blackwell Wins Miss Hippo Contest

On Jan. 9, Dimitria Blackwell (a.k.a. Paul Liller) captured the title of Miss Gay Hippo Maryland America 2015. The reigning 2014 Miss Hippo, Shawnna Alexander, who was honored during the festivities, gave up her title as a result of the 2015 contest that took place in a packed Club Hippo that had an “Into the Jungle” theme.

“Being Miss Hippo has been a dream ever since I began my journey in female impersonation,” Liller said. “I look forward to working with my promoters and the staff and management of the Hippo to make my reign something to be proud of! Thanks to everyone for all the love and support, and I look forward to seeing you at a bar near you soon!”

FreeState Releases Resource Guide for LGBTQ Youth

FreeState Legal Project, a Baltimore-based non-profit that provides free legal advice and services to low-income LGBTQ individuals, released its 2015 Resource Guide for LGBTQ+ Youth in Maryland. The guide provides a comprehensive list of services and programs aimed at LGBTQ+ youth; an expanded second version will be released in the summer.

Organized by jurisdiction with statewide services displayed in the front, the guide offers such sections as Health & Wellness, Legal Advocacy, Community Centers, Support Groups and Places of Worship within each jurisdiction. These listings contain a brief description for each resource, contact information and website. Over 80 resources are included, and the guide offers a tool for organizations to survey youth about how LGBTQ+ affirming their community is.

The guide’s Introduction points out that “research has found that accepting families and communities are crucial to an LGBTQ+ youth’s positive social, academic and emotional development. However, we know that familial and social rejection occurs at a deeply concerning rate.” This statewide resource guide, according to FreeState, is part of the answer, to ensure that all young people have access to safe spaces.

“LGBTQ+ youth need affirming community members, advocates, teachers, youth workers, therapists and allies,” said Saida Agostini, Director of LGBTQ+ Resources, FreeState Legal Project, in a statement. “We are very excited about the number of affirming resources we found in our research, but know many more are needed.”

FreeState mailed the guide to about 70 schools statewide with link to access the guide as well as over 30 other agencies across the state committed to working with youth.
To download the guide, and find out more about the resources FreeState Legal Project offers, visit freestatelegal.org.

Equality Organization Planned for North Baltimore

In an effort to provide needed services and programs to residents in Charles Village and Waverly, a new non-profit called the North Baltimore Equality (NBEq) Center is being planned. Using the catchy theme “Let’s be Bmore Equal,” the goal, according to founder Kelly Neel, is “to bring a small community center environment with programming and resources through partnerships for all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, etc. with a focus on LGBTQ individuals, in addition to programming and services for all underserved populations.”

On the new website bmoreequal.org, an additional explanation is offered stating, “While our main focus is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community, we also provide support to the broader community by offering low-cost access to technology, programs, events and educational workshops that boost involvement in the arts and environment, and provide skills for healthy, smart, sustainable living. All we ask is that those who choose to use our services make a conscious effort to treat everyone they meet kindly and equitably and strive to “Bmore Equal”.

Before any plans are set in concrete, Neel is requesting the community to complete a brief survey on the website. Respondents are asked to choose among a series of potential community programs ranging from adult education/job readiness to bicycle safety. People can write in their own choices as well.

For community services, among the available choices are a drop-in center, a media center and studio space available for artists and performers for a nominal hourly rate. Again, the public can add others as they see fit.

In addition, several support groups were proposed including a youth group, a transgender support group, LGBTQ-friendly Alcoholics Anonymous among others.

The website offers a Project Outline, an About page, a Volunteer Application page as well as the survey. The Project Outline provides the organization’s leadership structure and responsibilities as well as details concerning the proposed programs and services.

Neel, who was the interim executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) before resigning this past September, acknowledges that NBEq intends to offer programs and services that have historically been operated by the GLCCB. She points out that these services are needed throughout the city, not just in Mount Vernon and that GLCCB executive director Joel Tinsley-Hall is “100 per cent on board.” Neel is seeking the GLCCB to be a partner in this endeavor along with other community organizations.

“I see the NBEq Center as a way to bring together the various LGBTQ organizations in Baltimore City to collaboratively tackle the issues our community faces,” Neel said. “If we are all working in partnership towards the same goals, it is much more attractive to potential funding groups and foundations. Applying for grants jointly and in partnership allows the funders’ dollars to travel further; killing two birds with one stone, or in a more PETA friendly terms, allowing two organizations to serve their community through one grant.” A first year budget is estimated between $60,000 and $65,000.

The area in which NBEq intends to serve contains the most concentrated population of LGBT folks of anywhere in the Baltimore vicinity. However, Neel intends to offer programs and services throughout the city and beyond if this project is successful.

To keep up with developments, follow NBEq on Twitter @bmore_equal or on Facebook at facebook.com/bmoreequal. Questions can be emailed to thecenter@bmoreequal.org.

Gay Life February 2015

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