Finding our own family is a blessing, it allows us to surround ourselves by those who can relate to what we are going through, have similar ideals to us, and can support us when we need it. Finding that family can be a little more difficult and it only magnifies when you live in a smaller city. So what options do you have and how can you find those people to bring into your life? Let’s see what options you may have.
The first challenge most people will face is the size of their town. If you live in San Francisco, you already have an advantage that small town from middle America may not. The community is well established and defined. So, for the small town kids you have to look a little harder. Maybe your school has a GSA (Gay Student Alliance) group. This is the group that will give you a safe place while you are in school. Judgement free and understanding, it will probably be the first place so many will turn. We are a people that have become very dependent on our smart devices, so the internet is another good place to turn. Yes, you do have to be extremely careful using it, want a reason why we can look at the guy who was using Grinder to lure gay men over to assualt and kill them for a perfect reason why. So err on the side of caution with the internet and don’t give out any information that can be used to target you, at least until you have learned more about them and met in a very public place. Hopefully, you will also have found some solid friends that you can turn to until you can grow your circle even larger.
Once you get to medium to larger sized cities, your options start to grow. If you are a student or an adult looking to offer support, try looking for the closest PFLAG group. PFLAG stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, and yes they do support queer, bisexuals, transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. They have stopped using the above definition as of 2014 to be a much more inclusive group, but the name still brings attention. This group has also been around since 1972 so it has a firm base of support under it and has been instrumental in helping to change laws since their beginning. There is also GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) This group offers to help bridge the divide between LGBTQ and straight peers. Both of these groups are advocates for school age children and adults that offer support.
Once you are in college, there are also more University GSAs that can be there to help. By the time you are in college, your identity has started to change and evolve and you have other interests that you can start building your family with. Those groups are too many to list, as so many are campus specific. There you will also start to find safe space groups, also Then you can start reaching out into the community for church affiliated, health and wellness groups and even cause based.
Here in Cleveland, like many other larger cities, we have our own LGBT center. The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland is an awesome repository of useful information. Their Resources page list all of the major groups you can find in our city, so I will only touch on a few in this article. Be sure to check out their Resource page.
G2H2, Gay Guys/Girls Happy Hour, is a social group that meets the third Friday of each month at different venues each month in the Cleveland area. Their roots cae from the Guerrilla Gay Bar scene where a group of LGBTQ people would work with a local bar to create a safe space for the night. It was a means to show the LGBTQ community bars that were or could be safe spaces. Many cities around the country have the same idea and use it as a means to show that we do not have to stay to our gay bars and, in fact, to create a society of tolerance by showing up to non traditional gay spaces for an evening out. G2H2 has evolved more into a networking event outside of the gay bar setting.
Black Space Productions and The Eight Ball Club work with the black and international communities to offer outreach and support. Black Space Productions advocates for creating safe spaces for queer and trans people of color. Their Facebook page offers information about meetups and events to help create those needed safe spaces. The Eight Ball Club is a black and international group that tries to connect young black/international youth with older black LGBT people through mentorship and knowledge.
There is also A Place for Us which is a cutting edge facility located on the border of Cleveland and Lakewood providing LGBTQ-friendly sendior housing. As we age, we sometimes fall out of the groups we used to belong to and that can leave us facing depression and feelings of disconnection. There are single and two person rooms that provide modern conveniences, a library, workout facility and planned resident activities to keep you engaged.
It is hard knowing all of the resources for finding our new families. There are few places that list all of what a city may have to offer and even fewer people who know where to look. We are fortunate, like many larger cities, to have a center that compiles these resources for us. These are examples of groups that allow you to meet people in a like minded setting, as opposed to just frequenting a bar. This takes away the social stigma of chatting someone up and allows you to share your passions and feelings to create stronger bonds with people. If you are feeling like you are disconnected and need places to turn, check out what some of these groups have to offer. They may also be able to help point you into directions you didn’t know were there. If all else fails, start your own. After all, our family is what we make it to be.