North Carolina: Providing a Voice for LGBT Community

My idea of hell is being forced from one cocktail party to another.

Yet, one recent Saturday night, I enjoyed finding myself dressed in a tuxedo, one minute shaking hands with our mayor, and the next congratulating two ladies on their recent marriage.

Tuxedos, long, elegant dresses, fancy and wonderful food, and wine and spirits on a crisp Greensboro spring evening set the scene for one of the swankiest parties ever put on by the Guilford Green Foundation at its annual Gala and Green Party and silent auction.

The foundation's goal is to help build community.

Originally founded to keep Triad Health Project open to care for those most at risk at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Guilford County, the organization has grown into much more.

Functions like the Gala and Green Party, and drag bingo, are more than entertainment.

The money raised is used to fund organizations that make a positive difference in the lives of LGBTQ people and their allies.

GGF's grantees include the Creative Aging Network, Elsewhere, Equality NC, Faith Action, the National Conference for Community and Justice, Youth Focus and area high school, college and university LGBTQ organizations, among others.

Each of these organizations works to better the mental, physical and spiritual lives of those in the LGBT community and beyond.

Brenna Ragghianti, GGF's executive director, says that her foundation "not only grants money to organizations, but also works within our community to build solid partnerships so that we can discover the issues our community members are facing and work to address them in a holistic way."

Many in the LGBTQ community feel like invisible people.

Guilford Green and its grantees shed light on groups that would otherwise be in the dark.

If you think these people are not otherwise invisible, ask yourself how many outside of the LGBT population are aware of the recent deaths of Blake Brockington, an 18-year-old transgender male, or Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender female.

How many know about the disproportionate number of transgender people of color who are murdered each year? What of the 320,000 to 400,000 homeless LGBT youth, left to live and sometimes die on the streets, who are often exploited sexually, mentally and spiritually? How many care?

Guilford Green and its grantees not only shine a light on these matters, they bring aid and assistance. Because, while our neighbors would never think of abandoning a friend or family member, there are many members of the LGBT community who have been rejected by their relatives and have no support system.

For that reason, successful fundraising events are necessary in our community. We are lucky to live in a city where a vast majority welcomes diversity.

As board member Ivee Gee says:

From Deena Hayes-Greene, board chairwoman for the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, to our very own Mayor Nancy Vaughan, this gala is a pure example of a community coming together for an amazing purpose.

That purpose, Matt Hirschy, director of engagement at Equality NC, says Guilford Green, where he serves on the board, is not only about "supporting the LGBT community, but also it is about uniting the community as a whole."

As for Vaughan, although she is the mayor she did not see supporting Guilford Green and equality as a political liability.

"It never crossed my mind that advocating for equality would take away from my political capital," she said. "It was just the right thing to do."

This post was originally published in Greensboro's News and Record