This past year was a doozy.
When I look back on the last year and a half, it’s hard for me to comprehend how much happened. Covid-19 brought back the painful memories of the late 1980s when the AIDS epidemic ravaged our community. We came together as we did 40 years ago to fight the AIDS crisis—it’s unbelievable that it remains a fight today to develop a national strategy to end HIV.
In many ways, Covid-19 incited parallel panic as this new, unknown illness alienated us from one another, caused stigma, and stole our loved ones. My heart is heavy, as it was during the AIDS crisis, for those that lost people they cared about and for the loss of incredible talent, love, and what could have been.
There wasn’t a single part of our lives that wasn’t upended over the last year and a half. We were forced to change the way we interact with our friends and loved ones. Businesses shuttered in numbers unseen since the great depression, and tens of millions of people —many in marginalized communities of color and the LGBTQ+ community—found themselves without income or knowing where their next meal would come from. Those businesses that remained open, like LGBT Life Center, had to provide critical services such as food, housing, transportation, and mental health to more people than we ever have, all the while drastically changing the way we do business to keep our employees and clients as safe and healthy as we knew how.
The last year and a half was hard.
Crisis is where LGBT centers find their resilience; crisis is where every member of the LGBTQ+ community has always found their resilience.
Yet somehow, as we did in the 80s, we found a way to love one another; now with the aid of Zoom and FaceTime. While other clinics closed, our staff braved the unknown to continue to provide services and expanded our regular operating hours because we knew someone had to be there. Crisis is where LGBT centers find their resilience; crisis is where every member of the LGBTQ+ community has always found their resilience.
Pride has a special meaning to me this year. I am not only proud of the courage displayed by every member of the LGBTQ+ community who finds ways to be their authentic selves, but I am also proud of this organization for meeting the needs of our neighbors during this global pandemic. I am proud we didn’t lay a single person off; in fact, we grew. I am proud that LGBT Life Center is stronger than we’ve ever been, and I am proud of the resilience in each and every one of us.
This year and a half was hard. We have so much to be proud of.
Happy Pride Hampton Roads,
LGBT Life Center CEO