Thanks for an amazing year at RCD

Posted on 29 Dec 2010 at 5:00pm

LGBT, HIV communities should be prepared for new challenges in 2011

What a year! Who could have predicted all the twists and turns it has taken, or the events that galvanized our country and united our communities?

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HELL FREEZES OVER  | A member of the Phelps clan from Westboro Baptist Church protests outside Resource Center Dallas in July. A counterprotest fundraiser organized by RCD netted more than $11,000 to buy a new ice maker for the agency’s hot lunch program. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

So much happened in 2010 involving Resource Center Dallas, and none of it could have occurred without the strong support of the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities in North Texas.

Looking back, I am filled with gratitude and wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you. Here’s what you helped us accomplish:

• Dallas Area Rapid Transit expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include gender identity, in the wake of news stories about the discrimination experienced by a transgender bus driver;

• RCD joined forces with the Kaiser Family Foundation, Dallas County Health and Human Services, and AIDS ARMS to bring the “Greater than AIDS” campaign to Dallas, highlighting services available to people living with HIV/AIDS and promoting HIV prevention;

• DFW International Airport expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, following a request from RCD and Fairness Fort Worth;

• A fundraising counterprotest against a “church” from Kansas brought out hundreds of community members in a rainstorm and netted more than $11,000 to buy a new ice maker for our HIV/AIDS clients’ hot lunch program;

• Following advocacy by RCD, Lambda Legal, LULAC and a coalition of other community groups, the Dallas Independent School District adopted a first-of-its-kind-in-Texas comprehensive, enumerative antibullying policy that covers not only LGBT students, but all students;

• We partnered with 138 community groups, including the Tarrant County Health Department and the Urban League of Greater Dallas, in the “Stomp Out Syphilis” campaign; administered over 3,100 HIV tests; and delivered HIV prevention messages to more than 8,600 people;

• We completed diversity training for all 700-plus employees of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage commission statewide — the first time a state agency conducted this training for all its employees;

• And, we served more than 21,500 weekday lunches and provided about 29,000 visits to our food pantry for our HIV/AIDS clients in 2010 — distributing more than 350 tons of groceries.

These accomplishments, funded while the economy remained sluggish and both the need and demand for our services continued to increase, show the generous nature and support of our communities and allies. Each and every one of you who got involved deserves recognition and a deep, sincere thank you — especially the more than 1,100 people who volunteered at RCD in 2010.

As we stand on the cusp of another year, we do not know what opportunities for change will be presented. Clearly, the political landscape has shifted, and the new realities in Washington and Austin will provide opportunities and challenges for the LGBT and HIV communities.

One key area — funding for ADAP (AIDS drug assistance programs), medical care and social services for people living with HIV — will be an issue for Texas lawmakers already grappling with a large budget deficit.

The movement toward marriage equality will continue in the federal courts, as well as state legislatures. Even though “don’t ask, don’t tell” is coming to an end, work needs to be done so that gay and lesbian members of the military can serve openly — and, there remains a prohibition on openly transgender members of the armed services.

Over the past year, the LGBT and HIV communities responded to issues as they developed. We made phone calls, wrote letters, spoke truth to power, and rallied. We donated our time to organizations quietly and without thought of recognition. We sent our dollars in to provide economic support to organizations that share our values, focus and interests.

What 2010 teaches us is that we must be ready to meet whatever challenges we encounter. Resource Center Dallas will be there, engaged on behalf of not only our communities but all North Texans. We’ll continue to develop partnerships across the region, because the issues of HIV, discrimination and equality don’t respect city limits or county lines. And, we’ll be turning to the communities again for your help and support.

Playwright and author Thornton Wilder reminds us, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”

Throughout this year, you and our work with and for you kept us fully alive and conscious of our shared treasure. For that, and the opportunity you offer us to serve you and our communities, Resource Center and I say thank you. And Happy New Year!

Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

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