Vive les Differences

The LGBTCCCC (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Collaborative of the Central Coast) held a summit recently to define concrete strategies for improving the lives of LGBT individuals in the region.

The coalition of researchers and community leaders met at the Santa Barbara County Administration Buildings in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria on Saturday, February 6. The coalition’s mission got underway three years ago when Laury Oaks and Tania Israel, both professors at UCSB, first put together a survey looking at the various strengths and vulnerabilities of the LGBT community in this region.

When Oaks and Israel met with community members to look at the survey reports, research, and other data, key areas of concern came to the surface. “We focused on three areas of action, identified through the survey, that seem to be the most prominent threats,” said Israel. “These are safety—ending violence, harassment, and discrimination against LGBT people; diversity—building an LGBT community that is truly inclusive of all its segments; and social venues—creating more LGBT-friendly social and recreational spaces.”

At the February 6 meeting, members of Pacific Pride, Just Communities, P.U.E.B.L.O, UCSB faculty and students, and a variety of other community participants brainstormed methods and techniques for increasing diversity understanding in the Santa Barbara community.

One of the coalition’s goals is to develop a community center. This will serve as a safe house for LGBT gatherings and other social recreation, as well as a place to educate families of LGBTs. “Santa Barbara does not have a gay bar, bookstore or coffee shop where LGBT people can come together,” according to Israel.

Addressing LGBT stereotypes is another of the many important goals identified during the summit.

A committee was assembled to create a monthly calendar of educational events, which will be available to the public, the purpose being to raise awareness through evoking thought and creating dialog. “Conversation isn’t just about expanding understanding; it is part of making a difference in humankind,” said Jarrod Schwartz, executive director of Just Communities. “This is a vital process that can be seen as enhancing society and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human progress.”

“Non-LGBTs need to be educated,” said Israel, “and LGBT people need a supportive environment,” said Israel.

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