By Leslee White
Equality Clarksville is a non-profit organization made up of LGBT+ community members and heterosexual allies. Their primary mission is to provide education about the LGBT+ community in the Clarksville area. Their message is clear: You are NOT alone. We are all here to help each other.
“A small group of us were interested in uniting the LGBTQ+ community in order to have a voice to provide a safer, more educated place for ourselves, our children and the LGBTQ+ youth here in Clarksville,” said T.L. “Drew” Kreuser, the Event Committee Chair for the organization.
The purpose is to continue to build a genuine community for the LGBT+ population in the area. Through education and support in the community, they intend to offer a safe space for the LGBT+ community to come together, connect with each other, and overcome the stereotypes and hate that can be faced on a daily basis from all directions including within the community itself at times.
“As a single father of five teens and young adults, several of whom who are members of the LGBTQ+ population, I wanted my children to feel as safe and supported when they were in class, on the school bus and at coffee shops and public spaces as much as at home,” Kreuser added.
As a non profit organization, Equality Clarksville uses fundraisers to help make their events happen. They recently raised the money to file for their 501c3 organization recognition. Past events include an anniversary vigil to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and a Flashback Friday Drag Show.
They celebrated National Coming Out Day with a family-friendly Coming Out Day picnic. The leadership team recognizes the importance of being out and the difficulties that a person may face when making the choice to share their sexual orientation with their family and friends.
Chairperson Joydianne Damiani understands the struggle of coming out, too, as the mother of children in the LGBT+ community.
“Many people in the LGBTQ community fear coming out due to the expected negativity from family and friends,” Damiani said.
By hosting a family friendly picnic, Equality Clarksville offers the opportunity to come out to family and friends in a safe and loving environment free from shame, hate and judgement.
Equality Clarksville is working to recognize allies in the community. They are putting together a list of LGBT+-friendly businesses, doctors, therapists and political and civic leaders.
The group is currently setting the groundwork for a Pride march in May 2018.
“At Equality Clarksville, we offer acceptance, tolerance, and love to those who choose to ‘come out’ as a member of or ally to the LGBT community,” Damiani said.
For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page.