Over the last seven months, an all-volunteer team of researchers and analysts from Nashville Pride, completed a comprehensive community visioning project to study the LGBTQIA+ community throughout Middle Tennessee. The study engaged more than 2,400 community members focused what is needed to thrive. The desire to learn from our community—no matter their socioeconomic status, race, age, health, orientation, gender, ability, occupation or zip code —was rooted in the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to thrive.
Through the Nashville + Middle Tennessee LGBTQIA+ Community Visioning Project, we learned about the many desires of the diverse and beautiful population of the region. The ideas collected from these engagements were simple, but also revolutionary. In our human diversity, we all deserve acceptance and the opportunity to prosper. No matter what—who you love and where you live should never determine your rights, access to services, or ability to thrive.
Social progress ebbs and flows in every social justice movement—the pendulum that swings in both directions, but ultimately lands on freedom. We LGBTQIA+ people are everywhere, we are born at the same unstoppable pace in every state—North, South, red, blue—and to every household, religious or not. The fact is, there is vitality in the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender-expansive people, especially in the South, where it is often least expected. We are bonded together by the pressure of bigoted policies and legislative threats on a state and national level. We need each other because we are still climbing up from the bottom.
The Community Visioning Project focused on collecting data to assess needs and develop programs and partnerships that would improve the lives of LGBTQIA+ people throughout Middle Tennessee.
The two top line recommendation from members of the community couldn’t be more abundantly clear—nearly 73% of participants wanted to see a better alignment of our resources, advocacy groups, and programs in the region to ensure efficient inbound and outbound communication was a priority. The region has over 35 LGBTQIA+ organizations, and several other groups that offer dedicated services within their programs, and such efficiencies would allow each of our organizations to be more unified and a more powerful resource for change.
Our second top line recommendation was focused around the creation of a community center that is comprehensive in nature and provides a variety of services and acts as a clearinghouse for the needs of LGBTQIA+ people throughout Middle Tennessee. These needs are not only present within Nashville, but also (and in many cases even more so) in the nine-county region surrounding the city. Nashville is not unfamiliar with community centers, but the sustainability of LGBTQIA+ centers in our region has seen its challenges. Numerous issues plagued the most recent facility, OutCentral, which lead to its closure.
A new community space must be built with sustainability in mind. There is a fantastic model for effective service provision in Middle Tennessee with My House Nashville, a partnership between Nashville CARES, Street Works, & Neighborhood Health supporting same gender loving men of color and gay/bisexual men. Details about the program can be found at myhousenashville.org. The need for other models of this type in our region are clearly evident, as over 84% of respondents indicated that having an accessible space that serves all of LGBTQIA+ Middle Tennessee is a critical need.
A series of secondary recommendations, referred to as the ‘bridge between’, must be fulfilled between the primary recommendations to make them effective and sustainable. Those secondary recommendations are focused on community engagement, programming for adults under 26, for those over 55, as well as health navigation services for all members of the community. A comprehensive explanation of these secondary recommendations, as well as the report and other material, can be found at nashvillepride.org/cvp.
Our hope is that a unified attempt to foster action begins to address these recommendations, now that the report is complete. As our region continues to grow, we must work in harmony to ensure that everyone in our region has the opportunity to thrive. Will you join us in the movement for revolutionary change?
Phil Cobucci is the Community Affairs Director for Nashville Pride and the project lead on the Community Visioning Project. Learn more about the Nashville and Middle Tennessee LGBTQIA+ Community Visioning Project at nashvillepride.org/cvp. To contact Phil directly, please email [email protected].