In addition to writing and being an overall crazy fangirl, I am also an activist. This week, I’ve donned that hat again. This is the outcome, as of this afternoon.
This letter was written and signed in response to the failed leadership of the Utah Pride Center in regard to community programs. This information is being delivered to the Pride Center tonight by community representatives. This letter is specific to Utah’s Bi Community and we do not speak for other groups in this letter.
November 13, 2013
To Whom It May Concern:
Over the past few years, the bi community has felt increasingly disenfranchised by the overall leadership of the Utah Pride Center. Specifically, by the culture surrounding the Center and the lack of concerted effort to connect to and assist bi community organizers with their processes.
While there are a lot of anecdotal frustrations that can be vented, the following points stick out:
1) Since the departure of Jennifer Nuttall, there has been a great deal of turnover with staff assigned to assist with coordination for the 1 to 5 Club. During this time, some staff were assigned to assist with the group but the group was also not a part of their grant. As a result, we were made a low priority and often flat out ignored in lieu of funded priorities. This is not to detract from the efforts made by current staff to reach out to the bi community and make sure that the community is connected. Danielle has kept in contact with the group and makes sure that referrals are directed. While the bi group itself has weathered some leadership issues over the last couple of years, part of those issues directly stem from a lack of connectedness to the Pride Center. Without engaged and passionate staff wanting to help bring light to a community that is as underserved as ours, there is only so much we can do.
2) When I first began working with the Utah Pride Center in regards to creating a bisexual presence at the Pride Festival, the 1 to 5 Club was offered extensive table space for meeting materials and information. We were also active volunteers with the festival, disseminating information on the Center along with our own group. This was a wonderful opportunity for us as our group is not able to afford a booth at Pride. During this time, the 1 to 5 Club was often the only Pride Center Group running the Pride Center Booth and yet over the years, the space allowed for Center activities has shrunk to the point where organizers have heard that the festival does not know where to put our information. Funded groups again received priority while media attention of the issues within the bi community is rising at an ever faster rate. Our lack of being able to afford a booth at Pride only led to less information being handed out and this proved to be a slap in the face for the group who proudly marched and stood with other community groups.
3) The Utah Pride Center was one of the first community centers in the country to devote a whole month of Bi Activities to the community. This was a wonderful chance to speak up and bring a sense of unity to an often invisible community. The month gave us a chance to wave our flag, both literally and figuratively, yet despite the Pride Center owning a Bi Pride Flag and promising to fly it during Bi Awareness Month, that promise never came to fruition. Worse, when that flag was found in the Pride Center offices, it was turned over to current 1 to 5 leadership, stating that “they didn’t know what to do with it.” As priorities at the center turned more to funded groups and away from the community groups, support for Bi Awareness Month dwindled. Again, leadership would like to thank Danielle for her work to support the 1 to 5 Club during this time, but her resources and availability are limited.
4) Over the course of the eight years the 1 to 5 Club has existed, it has been impossible to nail down regular meeting times and days. This is not due to Club leadership but instead to the Pride Center consistently moving our room availability around for more popular or time sensitive groups. We were bumped from Thursdays to Wednesdays to Tuesdays before choosing to settle on Mondays, where we were roped into a tight schedule that often did not allow for extended conversation and did not work with many people’s schedules. As a result of this, attendance at the meetings dwindled to group leadership only as it was impossible for people and media to keep up with the changing schedules. Currently, the group does not meet at the center although we would like to see the support structure in place to resume a regular set of meetings.
5) In 2011, The San Francisco Human Rights Commission released a survey detailing the problems of the bisexual community at large. This survey discussed, among other things, higher depression and suicidal ideation rates among the bisexual community compared to the gay community. This survey was not only a list of statistics but a call to action among GLBT leadership to change the way we are treating our bisexual family. While I know the survey was disseminated among current staff at the center at the time and Executive Director Valerie Larabee stated there would be action taken for further education and work with the bi community. There was, however, no action taken despite pleas from the bi community to meet with the board and staff regarding the survey so that we could further encourage the Center’s partnership in making our community safe and healthy for everyone. (Note, the survey is available here: http://www.sf-hrc.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=989)
The list of anecdotal references is endless. I’ve had fellow leaders in the community tell me stories of being shunned at Pride events because they brought their differently-gendered partner. I’ve had times when I’ve sent countless emails to staff only to have none returned. I’ve listened to leadership for the Pride Festival erase the bisexual community from their language when discussing the festival. Also, the group was told by staff that staff was not allowed to attend community meetings. While there is no evidence to back that up regarding policy, I felt it was worth mentioning as it was one of the factors in the widening distance between the 1 to 5 Club and the Pride Center. But most of all, I have felt unwelcome in my own center. I’ve felt a growing distance that unless there is a financial motive to keep the bi community healthy and active, there is no need for the Pride Center to make us a priority.
No movement succeeds without allies. The bi community is in desperate need of support from the Pride Center.
Co-founder, Utah’s 1 to 5 Club
Erica Head, Current Leadership
Stephanie Novak, Current Leadership
Desi Clark, Former Leadership
Rachel Langshall, Former Leadership
Alexander Langshall, Former Leadership
Joni Weiss, Current Group Member; Former Leadership
Please note: there is more to this story and the 1 to 5 Club is hardly the only community group that has expressed displeasure over the situation at the Utah Pride Center. Visit GaySaltLake.com to read the reports of other community groups and their issues with Pride Center Leadership. Executive Director Valarie Larabee did tender her resignation this afternoon.