COVID-19 has been life-changing for everyone, whether they want to admit it or not. Nothing is the same as it was a year ago, and nothing will be for an exceedingly long time still. But something that has affected the LGBTQ+ community in the Chippewa Valley has been the shift in support groups and finding solace in their shared community. Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center is a safe space for many teenagers and adults who identified as LGBTQ+. The center has a plethora of support groups, teen hangouts, and events that allow for people to live freely as they are without fear of harassment. Since we had to shut our doors in March to protect our volunteers and moved everything online, we have found there have been several pros and cons to creating support in a virtual world.
For example, we find that a lot of our teen members are thriving in an online community: They are more familiar with technology and are comfortable navigating the platforms.
ChIPPEWA VALLEY LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY CENTER
The advantages and disadvantages differ depending on individual circumstances. For example, we find that a lot of our teen members are thriving in an online community: They are more familiar with technology and are comfortable navigating the platforms. By contrast, older adults who have struggled interacting online via Zoom or Discord may no longer attend at all. We also have been disconnected from our rural supporters as internet access is limited. In addition, not every person is “out” to their family, friends, and roommates, which makes participating from home more difficult.
Support is crucial for the LGBTQ+ community, so we adapt. We work through a lot of situations, both good and bad; however, we know that this is temporary and in the long run will give us more opportunities to reach those who may not have been able to attend in-person events. That has been the biggest advantage: expanding and learning our options. In December, we hosted a holiday card exchange that had over 30 participants, we have created a pen pal program for elderly people to engage with younger folks, and we’ve increased our library for public use. We are hoping 2021 brings more outreach and opportunities for supporting the LGBTQ+ community in any way possible, and we are hoping to see everyone as soon as possible.
Breana Stanley is president of the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center (www.cvlgbt.org).