The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

January 26, 2013

Moving from denial to acceptance: LGBT member says connection the key

ENID, Okla. — Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles covering LGBT issues in the Enid community.

In many communities, the work of LGBT organizations is seen only on pre-designated “Pride” days, at specified marches and festivals.

Enid Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Coalition is taking its work beyond “Enid Pride,” to promote acceptance and equality for all throughout the year.

The group’s founding and current members are split about evenly between LGBT and straight members of the community, from a wide range of professions, backgrounds and socio-economic levels.

The Enid LGBT Coalition was incorporated as an organization in 2011.

Founding member Kristi Balden said Enid has had several different organizations formed to support the LGBT community since the 1980s.

She said what sets Enid LGBT Coalition apart is the group is working to not just represent LGBT people, but to improve relations between LGBT people and the community as a whole, and to promote acceptance for all diversity groups.

“There have been many different groups who tried different things, but the other groups really had their own agenda starting out,” Balden said. “We started with the desire to find out what people wanted, and then create an organization based on serving those needs.

“We started, really over the course of several months, by having literally hundreds of conversations with LGBT people and people in the community, to discern from the general public and the LGBT community what the needs really were.”

She said the surveys revealed the community as a whole wanted to see an organization more focused on service, and less focused on pushing an agenda.

“There was an overwhelming sense that most previous organizations were self-serving, and were asking for something from the community,” Balden said. “Instead of asking for services and things, we really wanted to be the people who provided help to others.”

Balden said interacting with the general public as a service organization is far more effective than just organizing marches and pushing an agenda.

“We’ve never put forth any legislative agenda or anything like that,” Balden said. “We’re just here to help our community and the LGBT and diversity communities.”

Balden said that desire to help others is reflected in the Enid LGBT Coalition mission, “to serve the needs of our diverse community by building connections and by encouraging acceptance of all.”

“LGBT is in our name, but it is not in our mission statement, because our mission is about building acceptance for a diverse community,” Balden said.

“You can’t force people into acceptance,” she said. “The lowest end of the spectrum we’d like to see is tolerance, and the ideal is acceptance. But, you can’t force people into that. You have to grow acceptance organically with personal relationships.”

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