The importance of empathy cannot be overstated for those of us in the LGBTQ community. Empathy for ourselves around the struggles we’ve faced for self-acceptance leads to lasting healing; empathy for LGBTQ people who are different from us creates true community; and finally, even empathy for those who still struggle to be our allies can help us heal and cease to allow homophobia and transphobia to damage our right to live openly.
Carol Ann, one of the RCC’s most dedicated community members and volunteers, is emblematic of the importance of learning to live with empathy within our LGBTQ Community. When Carol Ann first walked into our center, she was questioning her sexuality, had no LGBTQ community to speak of, and felt terribly shy and uncomfortable. Having heard about the Rainbow Community Center, she felt determined to sit with her feelings of discomfort, and try to connect with others.
“I was always a square peg in a round hole—I needed a place where I could fit in and be myself. I embraced those uncomfortable feelings, and all of a sudden that fear and shyness went away, because people went out of their way to make me feel welcome.”
She found herself within a community that she hadn’t previously had much exposure to. She learned to listen to the stories of those surrounding her, and not make assumptions about people. Carol Ann began attending Rainbow’s senior lunches, the women’s empowerment group and the women’s coffee klatch. She also came to our joint youth & senior events—including our karaoke parties. Now she is a regular volunteer at many RCC events and our weekly Food Pantry. After months of involvement, Carol Ann found the right identity for herself—she chose to identify as a lesbian and it was time to come out. She says that this experience was made easier by her connections with those around her, many of whom were different than herself.
“I just listened to people’s stories and it was easy to empathize with them because they suffered a lot. I was amazed at their courage and strength.”
When asked about the most important lessons she’s learned at the RCC, Carol Ann stressed the importance of listening, and accepting people for who they really are.
“Take it easy on people, we have all been through a lot,” she said. “Give people a chance to talk about themselves—be a good listener. It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, and judge people by the way they dress or look. I’ve learned not to do that.”
The LGBTQ community is full of folks with varied life experiences, and different histories, present lives, and futures. When we pause and remind ourselves to focus on empathy for ourselves and those around us, connection begins and the spirit of community can grow. We encourage you all this holiday season to empathize with yourself and the varied struggles you’ve had over time, and to extend that to your fellow LGBTQ community members.
A donation to our End-of-Year Campaign means helping to create the type of vibrant LGBTQ community that we would all benefit from; it means remembering our struggle as LGBTQ youth, and reaching out to support youth today; it means imagining what we will need as LGBTQ seniors, and supporting the seniors of today; and it means contributing to a Community Center that creates a safe haven for those who need your help, compassion and connection.
We hope that you will join with RCC’s many amazing and loyal donors, staff, board members and volunteers to help sustain local programs for LGBTQ seniors, LGBTQ youth, People Living with HIV/AIDS, and community members in need of mental health services.
Our community feels your year-end generosity throughout the year. Please help us continue to sustain the connections that hold us up, and hold us together by donating and spreading the word!
To make a contribution, click the donation button below! Together we can can build a culture of empathy for our LGBTQ youth, seniors, people living with HIV, and all our families.
Your donation helps us continue providing important services to vulnerable LGBTQ people.
$ 10 will buy a week’s worth of snacks for our youth program
$ 25 provide one Food Pantry client with food for week.
$ 50 help at-risk youth prepare for their futures through new school-based social support opportunities
$ 75 subsidize a counseling session for a low-income counseling client in need of support
$ 100 cover one night of HIV testing, creating opportunity for ten community members to get tested and know their status
$ 250 cover catering costs for one of our bimonthly Senior Luncheons
$ 500 will help us host one of our quarterly countywide dances for LGBTQ youth
$ 1000 support our Annual Pride Picnic, a yearly opportunity for our community to unite with great pride and celebrate together
Spread the word
Reach out and personally ask your friends, family, and community to make a donation in support of the Rainbow Community Center! Pass on the link to our donation page (https://www.giveoutday.org/c/GO/a/rainbowcc) Whether you make a gift this year, or help by spreading the word to your friends on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc – your support will makes all the difference.