On the Fringe
For the last four or five months, I’ve been working with a couple of guys in our community, Kenny and Josh, to put together a queer community center. About a month ago we added a fourth person to our ranks, Cerrin, who would be our bookkeeper/financial person.
For about a year, we had a location that was wonderful, open for parties, open for classes, open for whatever. It was not, however, handled in ways it should have been, and we were actually raided by the Fire Marshall, accompanied by, I swear, 11 squad cars, during a party. The building closed and we were never inside again. Some people lost some items, and the community as a whole lost a certain amount of trust.
Last night was our first public kick off. Much of the community knew about a month ago that there was something in the works and we got a lot of questions individually, and even more offers of help. “What can we do?”
We knew, though, that the prior experience was going to be something we would have to overcome, and people would need to feel as though all the finances were transparent, and all the codes and regulations were met.
We thought that the best way to make that possible, and also to make it clear that we had nothing to hide was by kicking it off with an open forum wherein people could ask whatever question of us that they wanted, and we would answer honestly and with no topics off limited.
We also met the night before and asked the questions of ourselves we expected would come up, and thought through the answers. We wanted to create a FAQ sheet with those questions and answers because transparency was so important.
We knew that the first question would be where, to which the answer was, we don’t know yet, and the second one would be, where is the money going to, and the answer was, to the center and you will be able to confirm that at any time, our financials will be available, and that the third one would be, are we going to follow all the codes and regulations, and the answer would be, absolutely.
We talked about other things, too, but mostly we talked about what we expected to be asked. We had set a time and a date, a Friday night at the same venue which housed the munch for the first 12 years and has continued to do so off and on for the last three years.
We put out notices on Fetlife and Facebook. We talked it up, too.
I thought we might have 65 people. It was a Friday night, after all, always a harder night than a Saturday.
Josh expected 80 or so.
At one point we had the people in the room count off, and we got up to 98. There were at least a dozen people who came afterwards, and probably a few that just happened to be in the bathroom or outside smoking when the count was made.
I would guess we probably had 110-115 people. There was literally standing room only, with about 20 people or more standing for most of the two hour meeting, every chair taken and extras brought down, people sitting on the floor, and Kenny and I gave up our seats because we were standing anyway.
We didn’t get many questions we DIDN’T anticipate at all, although one that I we didn’t ask that did come up was the use of real names. One woman clearly had a problem with that and seemed not to get that in order to make it safe for everyone, there would be some necessary access to real names and government issued ID. She seemed to be the only person who had a significant issue with it.
Because of some of the regulations we will be following, we have to have verification of age, and be able to prove that we have, but they will not be public record, nor will they be available to anyone other than a very limited number of Board of Director’s members, and then only when there’s a purpose in the access.
We answered questions for probably an hour and a half, maybe more. We began by introducing ourselves and what our mission was. I was proud of one of my unrehearsed phrases. I was saying that we wanted to have a “queer community center,” and queer referred to a number of alternate and marginalized communities, and after defining it, I said, “If you’re here, you’re queer, get used to it.” It got a laugh.
We’ll be working on our fundraising next, we’ve set a goal of $10k to be able to open the doors, to actually pay for a place and have enough to open it and start selling memberships which will then support the center going forward.
Our first big fundraising event will be in October, the first weekend, and will, not coincidentally, coincide with the 15th anniversary of the Louisville Munch. I’ll be talking more about it, and I’m sure blogging more about it, but that will be later.
Right now, I’m just really glad we had the turnout we did, that people were willing to sit for three hours in a HOT basement – I was fanning myself and sweaty and I rarely am hot, I’m perpetually chilly – and some were willing to stand for the whole time, just to be there.
There were people there I hadn’t seen before, and that’s something that’s very gratifying. In order for it to be viable as an ongoing project, it has to be supported by and supportive of more than just the kink community, and to have other communities there, even if not so nearly well-represented, is a very hopeful sign.
At one point, we thought we had found a venue, an old paper factory, and we had been toying with names, like “The Margin,” because we would have a lot of options for some of the plans we had. We talked about contributing writer, who would be our “Marginal Writers,” and we wanted to serve communities that had been marginalized.
Then it turned out that the paper factory wasn’t really most of the things our liaison had said it was and it didn’t work out, but we liked the idea of The Margin, because of the idea of marginal communities, but then we started talking about being on the fringes of society, and the the idea of having been elements of society that were underserved, and Fringe Elements was born.
That was the name that we used for our corporate presence, and the name we’re working under right now, but we all know we’re not married to it, either, so we’ll probably see what people have to say about names.
Then we went upstairs because had I stayed downstairs another five minutes I was going to actually suffocate. I made my way up the stairs, asked a few people to send me emails or catch me at another time because everyone wanted to speak to us, to share an idea, to ask another question. In the meantime, the heavens had opened. It was pouring. It felt wonderful, as summer rain often does when you’re hot and sticky from too many people in one room.
The only issue, however, was that slave drew and I rode the scooter to the meeting.
Heavens had opened.
Rain was pouring.
I was actually willing to give it a try because I was so hot anyway, but ended up relenting and letting Russ and Johnathan bring me home, for which I ended up being grateful.
slave drew got home about 15 minutes after I did, not as drenched as one would have expected, but still, I ended up being glad for the ride.
And I am still ridiculously tired, and I’m still a little hoarse, from having had to talk to 110 people in a room with lousy acoustics, loud enough to be heard over the dull roar.