Lesbian social network founded by Dallas woman has grown to more than 1,800 members and expanded to several other cities in two years
ANNA WAUGH | News Editor
Two years ago, Tiff Khris Cochran wanted to make some lesbian friends. Now she has more than 1,800.
After Cochran’s marriage ended in 2011, she realized her few friends were scattered around North Texas, so she created a Facebook page for The SOLID Network — short for “Socially Open Lesbians in Dallas” — as an avenue for lesbians to meet one another.
“That’s what it started as and then it quickly became so much more,” Cochran said.
Cochran remembers asking her friends to join the group in hopes of reaching a few hundred.
The group grew in a matter of months to several hundred, with members using the network to seek advice, plan social gatherings and bond.
“People started talking online and started having events, and it just continued to grow,” Cochran said.
Amy Poole was among the group’s first members. After serving in the military for several years, she moved to Texas and was looking for a group in which to get involved. She said SOLID has a family feel much like the military with members who listen, offer advice and care about one another from the beginning.
“It’s a sense of community,” she said. “It’s really neat because it’s a safe place to go.”
SOLID members plan events regularly and the group has a monthly talk series focused on empowerment issues for women like building confidence, self-improvement and navigating coming out. Art exhibits, happy hours, game nights and volunteer days are other events the group has staged. The group launched affirming faith events earlier this year as an opportunity for church leaders to speak about their beliefs.
The original focus was on lesbians, but Cochran said she later decided to open the network to bisexual, transgender and even straight women because she wanted the group to focus on female relationships. And while the group is closed to men, they are welcome at several of the group’s events.
“I came to realize that lesbian includes bisexual women. It also includes women who are transgender,” she said. “But the primary focus is for women-to-women relationships where they can have a safe place where they can discuss things involved with being a lesbian within the community.”
Cochran said the group’s diversity has helped change the views of some of the women about stereotypes and cliques within the lesbian community.
She said education within the group to create solidarity has always been a focus of events and discussions.
“What I’ve learned is even within our own community we have to learn to educate ourselves about who we are and embrace one another as a whole and not L and G and B and T, but LGBT,” she said. “I wanted to get to a place where we have the solidarity that we need so that people don’t feel like they don’t have anywhere else to go.”
The group’s more than 1,830 members have built a community that extends beyond online, building friendships as they empower each other.
Karyn Choi joined the group about a year ago after hearing about it from a friend. She said its members genuinely care about the women in the group — and negative posts and people aren’t tolerated.
Members helped take her to the doctor after she was in a car accident.
Others have helped complete strangers move and left food and medicine on doorsteps when a woman posted that she was too sick to leave her home.
“I see it as more of a family because, yes, we have our drama, but we’re also supportive of each other,” Choi said.
Members come from all age groups and backgrounds, something Patricia Durham, one of original members, values.
“What I love about the group is I have met people I probably would not have met,” she said. “I have made friends and met people from all walks of life.”
Durham said the group helped her grow as a person and become less shy. She said she’s amazed by the kindness of SOLID members, who treat one another as extended family.
“A lot of them that you don’t even know support you,” she said.
Carolina Azevedo joined the group a year ago and enjoys the online discussions. The group is closed, so non-members can view basic info but not discussions or events.
“It’s a really safe place to communicate things you feel or get advice,” she said.
Azevedo said the calendar allows women to post events or places they want to go and offer to make it a group event, so they will know other people going.
She said events go on every holiday for members who don’t have family in the area or a place to celebrate.
“It’s really a neat family situation,” she said.
SOLID’s outreach has expanded beyond Dallas, with Austin and San Antonio chapters forming less than a year after the local chapter launched. Cochran has helped start chapters in other states as well, with groups in Portland, Seattle and Denver she launched with her connections in those states.
Denver’s chapter started last year when Cochran visited its Pride celebration and saw the energy the city’s LGBT community had. She helped get the conversation about the group started and reached out to local leaders.
“What makes The SOLID Network special is that it’s not just a Facebook group,” Cochran said. “What we’re doing in Dallas is what I’d like to replicate in other cities.”
As the network launched other chapters, Cochran changed the name to stand for “Socially Open Lesbians in Demand.” SOLID launched a blog and is working on a new website, which Cochran wants to eventually function as the main discussion forum with an event calendar and resource links.
She’s also working on a YouTube channel for members to post videos.
While Cochran’s desire to make more lesbian friends has provided an entire network of family-like support to Dallas women and beyond, she knows SOLID’s success will only continue because of its members.
“It’s really a sisterhood,” Cochran said. “I may have started the group, but it’s the women in the group and the community feel that makes it what it is and keeps it growing.”
Fundraiser set Aug. 25
The group is having a fundraiser for legal expenses to make it a nonprofit organization from 4-7 p.m. Aug. 25 at Eden Lounge. For more info, visit Facebook.com/Groups/SolidWomen or TheSolidNetwork.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2013.