Young activists call meeting to form coalition of LGBT organizations

Posted on 18 Jun 2009 at 7:46pm
By John Wright News Editor

Organizers hope to hold regular meetings, set up community Web Site


Beau Heyen, left, and Elizabeth Pax are working together to create a coalition that will improve cohesion and communication between existing LGBT organizations in Dallas.

Dallas Voice ‘Future Pioneers’
WHEN: 3 to 5 p.m., Saturday, June 20
WHERE: Woody’s, 4011 Cedar Springs Road
INFORMATION: For more info, go to http://www.face book.com/ group.php?gid=93184042060.

It’s been called the "holy grail" of LGBT activism — getting all local organizations to work together in some sort of formal coalition to communicate about issues, ideas, events and initiatives.

Some say it’s unattainable due to things like conflicting personalities and varying missions. Others note that it’s been tried before with limited success, while still others say they believe LGBT groups in Dallas already collaborate effectively when necessary.

But now some young activists are out to prove those naysayers wrong with a new project called COE, which stands for both "Coordinating Our Efforts" and "Calendar of Events."

Elizabeth Pax, an organizer for Queer LiberAction, and Beau Heyen, co-chair of GLSEN, said they hope to establish a committee made up of representatives from a wide variety of local LGBT groups — a "Pride coalition," if you will.

The committee would meet regularly, host quarterly mixers and oversee a Web site that includes a comprehensive, interactive listing of LGBT community events and organizations.

"We have a great community here in Dallas," said Pax, who like many young activists first got involved in the wake of the November 2008 elections. "We have one of the biggest gay and lesbian communities in the country. However, up until this point, it seems like we don’t have a lot of cohesion. We’re not really communicating with each other like we should be.

"I finally got sick of hearing people say, ‘We need to work together,’" she added. "If everyone wants to work together, why don’t we just work together?"

Toward that end, Pax recently proposed a meeting of "Future Pioneers," 36 people including herself who’d been identified as likely future LGBT leaders in the 25th anniversary edition of Dallas Voice. But then Pax said she learned of a similar effort that was already under way, led by Heyen, who also happens to be a "Future Pioneer."

"They’ve been waiting for the right time to unleash this idea," Pax said. "When I found out there was already ground work laid, I was like, ‘That’s awesome. I’m totally on board.’"

Pax, Heyen and other "Future Pioneers," as well as anyone else who’s interested, will meet for the first time at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 20, at Woody’s to further discuss the COE proposal.

Pax stressed that the meeting is open to everyone and is not limited to "Future Pioneers." She said she envisions the coalition as a sort of gay United Nations. And while it may be a lofty goal, she responded to detractors as follows:

"My point to them would be, we’re all LGBT and allies, and yes, we have very big differences, and yes, we have very different ways of looking at things. However, why are we fighting each other when we should be fighting our common enemy?

"I’m a Democrat and yet I have no problem whatsoever working with Republicans," she said.

"I’m not a person of faith, and yet I have absolutely no problem working with people of faith. I think if we’re all fighting the same fight, our other fights can be put to the side temporarily.

"Who knows, maybe the Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans, maybe there is something that they would agree on or want to do together, but they would never know it because they never talk to each other."

Heyen said he’s been discussing the COE proposal with various local LGBT leaders since shortly after he moved to Dallas two years ago. But he said he’s struggled with how to roll it out without giving preference to any one group. The "Future Pioneers," he said, presented a perfect opportunity.

"We didn’t want bias involved," Heyen said. "We wanted it to be this new thing that came out that was only for this purpose. That way everyone has an equal footing."

Heyen said he hopes COE will eventually identify a "new leader" who’s not involved with an existing group — either a volunteer or a part-time employee — to manage the project and the Web site.

A Web site with a comprehensive calendar would allow organizations to avoid scheduling events at the same time as one another, Heyen said. It could also function like a dating Web site, allowing people to enter profiles and hooking them up with groups that match their interests.

"There are constantly new people coming to Dallas," Heyen said. "There are constantly people searching for somewhere to belong. Let’s get them plugged in and make it as easy as possible."

Heyen said he understands the COE project will be a challenge, but he feels the time is right to tackle it.

"We have this kind of new push in our community to get involved, and I think it’s going to be that catalyst we need, that people are finally ready," he said.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2009.

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