The Center Brings DIFFA’s Popular Picnic by Design Event to Las Vegas for Second Year at Symphony Park April 30

In partnership with Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA), The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) will host the second annual Picnic by Design, themed “Parasols in the Park,” at Symphony Park on Saturday, April 30. Local designers are creating over-the-top picnic baskets and tables to be purchased online at www.thecenterlv.org/picnic and then enjoyed with delicious food and fine wine in the shadow of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts (361 Symphony Park Ave.). Songstress Toscha Comeaux, Gary Fowler, Rick Arroyo and male quartet These Guys will provide live entertainment throughout the evening. Lawn games and a VIP cocktail hour begin at 4:30 p.m. with the buffet-style dinner and live entertainment to follow at 5:30 p.m. All proceeds will benefit The Center and DIFFA.

“Our vision was to create a fun event that exudes a casual elegance and celebrates design,” said Cray Bauxmont-Flynn, Picnic By Design Chair. “We were aiming to target a cross-platform demographic of talented individuals and it was important for us to keep ticket costs low and bring in new awareness to DIFFA and The Center. In past events only interior designers and architects have participated — for the picnic, we invited floral designers, graphic designers, culinary masters, event designers and producers, set designers, stylists and photographers to participate, bringing a whole new audience to the event!”

"We are very excited to have such a committed and dynamic group of creative individuals and sponsors on board for Picnic By Design 2016," said Bauxmont-Flynn. “With this group of talented individuals DIFFA and The Center will be able to raise significant funds to provide preventive HIV/AIDS education and direct care services — the fight is not over.”

Along with Bauxmont-Flynn, International Market Centers President and CEO Robert Maricich serves as Honorary Chair. Cory Sadler, a member of The Center’s Associate Board, serves as co-chair. A number of nationally recognized Star-Chefs and name brands have signed on as participants and sponsors of the event.

For more information about Picnic by Design’s mission and ways to support the event, or to purchase tickets to the event, please visit www.thecenterlv.org/picnic. Designer picnic baskets that serve two are $300 each, and designer picnic tables that seat and serve eight are $1,500 each. Exclusive celebrity chef tables will also be available. For $125 per person, guests may also enjoy the dinner and activities without purchasing a basket or table. All guests must be 21 and older.

Making Love Last...

One of the folks who comes to The Center was musing about the role of CEO. “You’re like the mayor of Gayville!” he quipped. Well, he’s not far from the truth. This job at The Center puts me at the hub and cross section of so much activity and so many peoples’ lives. It truly is a joy and a privilege to be at the service of so many wonderful people.

One of the extraordinary learnings of this role is getting to know so many LGBTQ couples. Despite the pioneering years of the movement, and despite the lack of role models, so many people have partnered for mutual love and respect. Indeed, being partnered is still a wondrous miracle. And, I’ve been so pleased to learn of LGBTQ couples who have been partnered for 10, 20, even 30+ years. In my relationship with Douglas, my partner, we have partnered for 19+ years and I’m still amazed. How do these folks make it all work?

In a recent article that I read about relationships and longevity, Denise Henry, writing about all types of relationships in Lifescript, notes five distinct tips for making love last:

Play together.
I was surprised to learn that early in relationships, romance has a tendency to cause you and your partner to simply “goof off” with one another. Then life abruptly sets in with the maturing of a relationship. Life then has a larger tendency to steal away the fun and spontaneity of relationships. In order for love to last, couples need to plan simple and creative fun activities. It’s the “glue” to relationships according to Henry. It creates a positivity around relationships. It’s common for couples to forget about dating and playful activities with one another. Making time for play makes a lot of sense in a world in which more and more responsibility challenges us with the obligatory and the mundane.

Make an effort to see the best in your partner.
We’re all human beings, and I’m sure each one of us could start a laundry list of the shortcomings of our partner. Henry suggests that instead of stewing over the failures and weaknesses of your partner, why not try to see your partner’s goodness and success? It’s a plain fact: the way that we see one another affects the way we behave toward each other. Seeing your partner’s goodness and seeing the best in your partner breeds a type of reciprocity. They naturally look for your goodness and the best in you when you are accentuating it in them. It contributes to the positivity of your relationship.

Team up for tasks and errands.
I like this tip. Again, this makes a lot of sense. In the busy lives that we live, it’s easy to get caught up in the errands that we have and the limited time that we have to do them. So, our natural instinct is to divide and conquer—assign tasks and errands that your partner can accomplish, while assigning some to yourself. Again, Henry makes a lot of sense by suggesting that we team up for the completion of tasks and errands together. Earlier last year, I attended the vow ceremony of a longstanding gay couple who had been together for nearly 28 years. I remember being taken aback when they both stated that some of their most fulfilling days together in their relationship is when they spend time doing errands together on Saturdays. Rather than do tasks solo, join forces together to get them done. It feeds your relationship with a mutual support and caring.

Kindle the flames.
Is there ever a lack of sex and sexual expression in the LGBTQ community? We are known for a sex-positive movement and sexual creativity abounds in our culture and in our community. Nevertheless, while sexual sparks fly at the beginning of our long term relationships, over the years there is a settling effect and there needs to be a healthy cultivation of sexual expression between long-term couples. I wasn’t aware but many social psychologists cite research that sex is strong early on in long-term relationships due to the release of neurochemicals in the body. It’s easy to keep sex alive and active because of that release. Then, after a period of two years or so, that stage of neurochemicals comes to an end. But sex shouldn’t. Regular date nights and adding new sexual activities compensates for boredom that comes with the familiarity with one another.

And last, did your partner hurt you? Say so.
It’s amazing at times how we might harbor hurt feelings without ever mentioning it to our partner. Then, when there is a flare up, we go right back to that source of hurt and throw it into our partner’s face. They are often surprised to learn of something that has been festering for such a long time. It comes to them like it’s a smack in the face. Research indicates, according to Henry, that when people share true emotions with their partner honestly and without fear of recrimination, they experience calming and bonding effects. Another neuro chemical, oxytocin, kicks in with securing, reassuring, and anxiety-reducing effects. Partners who merely hide their hurt miss out on this important “cement” to their relationship.

So, bring on February and all its Valentine’s Day wonder. Yes, sparks will fly and the frivolity of love and love-making will abound. We’ll certainly get fatter on chocolates. But beyond the Valentine Day experience, hard work and joyful effort take place to make the love of Valentine’s Day work and endure, for many years. Making love work can be a challenge but a joyful work for ones involved. We have plenty of role models to draw from who have been successful in making love work!

Spring 2016 Center Events

 

PrEP: A Consumer’s Point of View Presentation

Saturday, February 20 • 1 to 2:30 p.m. • at The Center

Rob Peterson, Vice President of PFLAG of Bakersfield, will share information and data to help with the process of deciding to use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Peterson will provide resources on assistance programs available that make PrEP an affordable prevention tool for people who are uninsured or whose insurance may not cover PrEP. This presentation is free to attend and open to all. RSVP to prep2016@thecenterlv.org.

 

The Black LGBTQ Community in Southern Nevada: A Panel Discussion

Tuesday, February 23 • 6 to 8 p.m. • at The Center

Believe it or not, there is a black LGBTQ community in Las Vegas. Learn where we came from, who we are, and what our needs and hopes are for 2016. Join us for a discussion with Senator Kelvin Atkinson, Kamora Jones and Donya Monroe, moderated by André C. Wade. This program is made possible by a grant from Nevada Humanities and National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

LGBTQ Career Fair

March 14, July 11 and November 14 • 1 to 4 p.m. • at The Center

The Center will host an LGBTQ Career Fair showcasing numerous local corporations and small businesses eager to share information about their companies and available open positions. Companies present at the career fair have demonstrated ongoing support of the human rights of the LGBTQ community and will provide a welcoming, equal workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees. The career fair is free and open to the public. For more information about the LGBTQ Career Fair, please visit www.thecenterlv.org/careerfair.

 

Homecoming

Saturday, April 2 • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. • at The Center

Friends, supporters and clients of The Center are invited to attend Homecoming, an event celebrating three years of growth and change since moving into the Robert L. Forbuss building downtown. Activities throughout the day include a yard sale to raise money for The Center’s senior programs, an extensive health and wellness fair, raffle prizes, food trucks and a community ice cream social with sundae bar. Free to attend and open to all.

 

Picnic by Design: “Parasols in the Park”

Saturday, April 30 • 4:30 to 9 p.m. • at Symphony Park

In partnership with Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA), The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada (The Center) will host the second annual Picnic by Design fundraising event, themed “Parasols in the Park,” at Symphony Park on Saturday, April 30. Creative individuals and firms from all fields are invited to design over-the-top picnic baskets and tables to be purchased online at www.thecenterlv.org/picnic and then enjoyed with delicious food and fine wine in the shadow of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts (361 Symphony Park Ave.). UNLV Jazz Ensemble, songstress Toscha Comeaux and male quartet These Guys will provide live entertainment throughout the evening. Lawn games and a VIP cocktail hour begin at 4:30 p.m. with the buffet-style dinner and live entertainment to follow at 5:30 p.m. All proceeds will benefit The Center and DIFFA.

The Center Looks Toward the Future

This October, The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada (known to most simply as The Center) will celebrate 22 years of serving the LGBTQ community of Las Vegas. As one committee of board and staff has been preparing to honor this anniversary at the annual Honorarium event, another has been actively polling the community to compile demographics and learn of current needs and desires. The data collected through three short in-person surveys and one longer online survey is being used to craft a three-year strategic plan for The Center’s expansion of programs and services.

Among those working tirelessly to take The Center to the next level are CEO Michael Dimengo, Director of Operations André Wade and Director of Development Walter Reed, all of whom have joined the staff within the past year and offer a fresh perspective on the organization with new goals and new ideas. Each has been eager to listen to our community and learn what they want and need from The Center.

“There have been key learnings that I have acquired since becoming a part of The Center.,” Dimengo says. “First, I am grateful to have learned the needs and desires of many members of the transgender community. Members of the transgender community are some of the most misunderstood persons. In meeting with many of them and learning their stories, they have commanded my respect. I also believe that the misunderstandings of the transgender community emanate right from others in our LGBTQ community. All of us need to take time to learn about each other. We are part of this rich rainbow of diversity. It is mutual respect and appreciation that binds us together. We need to take time to learn from one another.

“One clear demonstration of this is how a variety of lesbian leaders talked to me about their experiences of primary healthcare and preventive healthcare services. One woman after the next told me discouraging stories of discrimination and disrespect as they encountered medical professionals in the community where they were obtaining assistance. It’s sad. Healthcare for the lesbian community is an acute need. It has motivated me to seek additional resources and do additional planning to address the healthcare needs of our lesbian community first, while addressing the needs of healthcare among our other constituent populations.

“Another key learning for me among the many things that I have learned is centered around our youth. I’m particularly delighted every time I meet with the members of our QVolution youth program or meet with members of our Vegas MPowerment Project. I’m energized by our young people’s energy and ideas. I see so much hope and promise for them. But, at the same time, not until I came here to The Center did I learn about the challenges that these young people are experiencing in the lack of acceptance that some endure, in the bullying that they have to contend with, in the disenfranchisement that many experience from their families and close relatives. Not until I came to The Center did I learn of the gravity of youth homelessness—that LGBTQ youth homelessness is a significant piece of all youth homelessness in our community. Something has to be done to address that.”

As director of operations, Wade oversees the program managers who work closely every day with the hundreds of LGBTQ individuals who attend regular group meetings at The Center. Many come in at other times seeking help with housing, clothing, financial assistance, connection to medical care and often life-saving advice. He has learned through his team the challenges the community faces and the obstacles his own staff have to overcome to adequately serve this population.

“Something I intrinsically knew [prior to joining the staff], but now better understand, is how much The Center means to the community at-large. And that The Center is the ‘go-to’ for all things LGBTQ; therefore, we have to be nimble in our ability to respond to the various and diverse needs of the community. I’ve definitely come to understand that we are a small and mighty bunch who need a few more hours in the day to accomplish more. But we do what we can!” Wade says.

As The Center develops goals and courses of action for the future, Wade says, “We have a lot of great things happening, but we recognize that there are a lot of people in need. We’d like to be able to provide more services in house, and refer out less, so that we can decrease the time frame from referring someone to a particular service to them accessing the service. We believe that moving in the space of health care is one road we may travel down. We’d like to ensure that more LGBTQ (with an emphasis on the T and the L) have access to culturally competent and sensitive healthcare services by us providing those services ourselves. Additionally, we believe addressing the youth homelessness issue by way of a shelter or housing component will position us to serve more people in emergency need, especially when other shelter and/or housing are full or people are unwilling to access particular shelter and/or housing due to lack of LGBTQ competency.

“Additionally, we want to ensure that we can provide well-rounded services such as mental health, those that support economic well-being, family-centered services and services that continuously focus on the needs of the transgender and gender non-conforming population. Lastly, we want to make sure that all of our programs and services are accessible to communities of color. We hope to, through collaboration with others, build programs and services for the African-American, Latin@ and other people of color communities.”

A non-profit organization like The Center — which serves the public six days a week — relies on a variety of grants to sustain its individual programs and, in large part, personal donations both large and small to cover day-to-day operating costs. Reed knows firsthand that raising such funds is an ongoing challenge. His goal is to convert the financial support for the Opening New Doors capital campaign into The Rainbow Circle, a sustaining fundraising program that would support all of the activities of The Center.

“I believe the new three-year plan will identify areas, like the transgender community, that need more services. I think it will also show that to sustain the current and expanding level of services offered at The Center, we must develop new revenue streams around the programs and continue to develop a sustaining gifts program that ensures the stability of The Center,” Reed says.

“We have to be grateful because it was a strategic plan of some of our past leaders that put The Center on the trajectory of opening up its new home and its new building in March 2013,” Dimengo says. “As they did so, I believe one ‘unintended consequence’ was the enormous programmatic growth that we have experienced since opening our doors here. Last year alone, we saw a 62 percent increase in program participants over 2013. For continuity sake, we need to set operational goals that will harness that growth and manage it appropriately. We need to continue to develop our programing in service to the community.”

The Center invites any and all residents of and visitors to Southern Nevada to visit its facility at 401 S. Maryland Pkwy. in downtown Las Vegas and get involved in its ongoing programs and help further its goals. More information about meetings, activities, volunteer opportunities and ways to contribute can be found online at www.thecenterlv.org.

Pride Comes Alive! (and then some!)

I don't think any of us quite expected it. June 26, 7 a.m. here on the West Coast and 10 a.m. on the East Coast. We had been holding our breath for weeks, even months, when we heard that Obergefell vs. Hodges would be heard by The Supreme Court—raising the judicial question whether marriage equality should be recognized throughout the land. Then, at that moment, the Supreme Court of the United States announced its sweeping decision in favor of marriage equality across all 50 states of the union. Our community had been jolted. Life has not been the same!

As many people as I talked to, they described the occurrence as somewhat surreal. Over and over again, pursed on the lips of many peers was, “I never thought I would ever see this day come.” Then suddenly, in an almost incredulous fashion, the decision was handed down. Could there have been a better moment? After decades of struggle, PRIDE came alive in an entirely new way. We as LGBTQ have achieved a new level of societal recognition. We shall not be the same.

The rest of the day seemed like a carnival at The Center. Staff were embracing one another. Everything imaginable with rainbow colors was pulled out of closets. The media whirred with one interview after the next. The sheer joy at The Center was heartfelt. There were tears and laughter, hugs and high-fives, then more tears and laughter. It was hard to identify the moment.

And social media lit up like a rainbow Christmas tree. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many other platforms carried one expression of joy and disbelief after another. There were somber moments, reflective moments, patriotic moments, as well as unwavering commitment to move it all forward. Folks related that they felt “recognized.” They felt “American” for once. One message of joy and hope after the next was spread. This uncanny world of social media will never be the same again.

And then, they turned out in the evening—in extraordinary numbers. All came to celebrate. Many came to witness history. They were all present: LGBTQ young and old, in a variety of races and ethnic groups. The sons and daughters of LGBTQ were present. So were allies. It was a family to behold in all its diversity and richness. Many came to remember the past. Others came to savor this moment in history. Still others, so PROUD of what happened to them earlier in the day, vowed to expend their efforts to end other forms of discrimination and separation felt by our community. It was a celebration of community.

Miriam Webster’s dictionary defines pride as “…a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people.” Indeed, in one sweeping judgement, a new respect came to our land. Yes, it won’t quiet the detractors or silence the arguments. It won’t erase bigotry or eliminate all the shadows of discrimination and separation. But it brought us a new light for our nation—a light of inclusion. It brought us new recognition and a new respect for LGBTQ. Upon this platform of victory and hope, we will build even further.

That weekend because of a few health challenges, I was required to lay a little bit low. And throughout the whole weekend, I witnessed the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in one of the most colorful and energetic gay PRIDE weekends all throughout the United States. PRIDE New York celebrated! PRIDE San Francisco. PRIDE Chicago and almost every major city across the nation. This was our moment of recognition. Life in these United States will never be the same. It was a PRIDE moment……and then some!

Michael Dimengo
Chief Executive Officer
mdimengo@thecenterlv.org