In this world, “nothing is certain except death and taxes,” according to Benjamin Franklin. I would add that the only thing certain…is uncertainty. This summer has been an example. Our world felt like it was opening back up, and we started to emerge from our COVID-imposed cocoons. We even started hugging friends again! It felt great. But low vaccination rates brought new waves of infection, and more uncertainty – was it safe to bring groups together in person? Where could we go, and what could we do?
Uncertainty can be paralyzing, but you can see the opposite of that at Resource Center. The staff, Board and volunteers of the Center are constantly coming up with creative ways of serving the community, whether in-person or virtual. The youth program hosted an amazing online talent show that could rival any episode of “American Idol!” FUSE and UBE programs expanded by adding virtual games and movie nights. We’ve increased staffing and services in LGBTQ Health and have the most beautiful and colorful SexyHealth mobile unit ever!
Despite uncertainty, you can count on Resource Center to continue serving individuals affected by HIV and the LGBTQIA+ communities. I’m grateful that your support has made that possible for 38 years, and your continued generosity makes it possible for the future!
COMMUNITIES & FAMILIES: NEURODIVERSE SENSORY ITEMS ADDED TO YOUTH FIRST SUITE
“All youth benefit from a sensory-rich environment. However, for neurodivergent youth, it is a game-changer. Having tools available to meet a wide range of sensory needs makes the difference between an environment where youth feel safe, relaxed and confident or a place where they feel ill at ease and out of place,” says Stacy Wright, President of Stacy’s Sensory Solutions in north Dallas.
Youth First, a program of Resource Center which serves LGBTQIA+ youths aged 12-18, is proud to announce that sensory items are now available for the Center’s neurodivergent members, thanks to a partnership with Stacy’s Sensory Solutions and OneHeartBeating. The space has been equipped to meet the sensory and emotional regulation needs of the diverse queer youth community.
What does neurodivergent mean? Many conditions related to cognitive abilities are described as neurodivergence, including autism, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Highly stimulating environments and demanding social interactions can be especially challenging for neurodivergent individuals, so it helps to have coping support in place such as sensory items and a private sensory room.
Community Programs Director Aloe Johnson says, “Over the course of a year facilitating our Parents of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth support group, I heard the same concern time and time again: ‘my teen is very isolated and really needs Youth First, but they find social situations very overwhelming and would not thrive (or even enter) that environment. Research has revealed a strong connection between the queer and nuerodivergent communities.”
With her expertise in the sensory arena and input from members of Youth First, Stacy developed a comprehensive plan that included a variety of items, including a soft cloud wall, plush pillows, weighted blankets, noise canceling headphones, a calming room and more. Youth First staff also attended training by Neurodiversity Training International and regularly meet with a task force of neurodivergent youth to guide these changes.
Johnson continues, “This renovation has made immense changes in the social and supportive experiences of Youth First participants. My favorite change has been the visible growth of so many of our new and existing members. Having a space and program culture that normalizes self care and accommodation takes the feeling of safety and affirmation to a new level.”
Youth First members have also expressed their excitement about the new sensory items. “All of our new sensory stuff has helped not only to make stimming or repetitive movements easier but to make the space more autism friendly.” says Kamryn, a Youth First member. Atticus, another participant, states, “The space is so inclusive and makes me feel so accepted as an autistic person.” And Jonah adds, “Seeing all of the new stuff made me happy. Having the new sensory stuff is calming especially when I’m overwhelmed. Ahhhhh.”
HEALTH: TAKING SEXYHEALTH ON THE ROAD!
As the number of new HIV cases continues to rise, the Center is dedicated to eliminating accessibility and mobility barriers that prevent people from taking control of their sexual health. The Center is taking HIV prevention services “on the road” with its new SexyHealth mobile unit. The vehicle delivers comprehensive and innovative services in Dallas and surrounding rural areas where sexual health resources are needed most. This initiative addresses the challenges of accessibility, transportation, and stigma in the fight against HIV by providing free, confidential HIV, syphilis, and STI testing and linkage to treatment and care. Safer sex tools such as condoms, lubricants, and PrEP are available as well.
Resource Center CEO Cece Cox said, “SexyHealth is love on wheels! LGBTQIA+ individuals, particularly those who are Black and Latinx, face discrimination and stigma in seeking culturally competent health care. Also, many in Dallas do not have access to transportation. This state-of-the-art SexyHealth mobile van brings compassionate and skilled care into underserved communities, with the goal of improving health.”
The SexyHealth mobile unit sets up at various locations throughout the North Texas area and is available for community events. The unit is accessible via phone and a website for requests to visit a location or event and provide education about safer sex practices, STIs, HIV and safer-sex resources.
To learn more, visit sexyhealth.org
ADVOCACY: LEGISLATION WRAP-UP
The late Molly Ivins once wrote, “You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to.” And this summer, that’s been especially true of the transgender and gender-nonconforming youth of Texas, their families, and allies.
After the first special legislative session ended in early August, Governor Abbot called a second session, and for a while it looked like a group of Democratic state house members would stay in Washington, DC, denying the body a quorum to meet. But enough members returned by August 19 that quorum was re-established, and Republicans quickly went to work on their agenda.
Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and his allies pushed a measure that will restrict voting access by limiting voting hours and enacting new ID requirements for vote by mail. Next, they set their sights on a bill that will make it harder to discuss issues of race in the classroom. Both bills were approved with just days remaining in the special session and Gov. Abbott subsequently signed the bills.
Fortunately, due to the huge outcry from our community, they were not so lucky with Senate Bill 2, a measure to prohibit transgender and gender non-conforming student athletes from competing as the gender with which they identify. The bill was heard in a marathon, all-night committee session on August 24 that didn’t end until 6 a.m. the next morning.
But that isn’t the end of the story. After nearly ten months of continuous attacks, the legislature just passed HB 25, a cruel bill that will expand discriminatory rules that mandate participation in school sports by sex assigned at birth. Despite hundreds of advocates from around Texas testifying for more than ten hours, a Texas House committee approved HB 25, in an 8-4 vote. This bill puts vulnerable youth in harm’s way has become law.
State leaders also formulated redistricting plans to redraw the electoral boundaries that will go into effect for the next ten years.
Take a moment to complete our calls to subscribe to our action alerts, and you’ll be in the know as things happen.
GIVE: DALLAS COUPLE DONATES $500,000 TO CENTER’S SENIOR HOUSING PROJECT
Witnessing a real impact in their lifetime is just one of the reasons Steven Rayl and Scot Presley decided to make a $500,000 donation to Resource Center’s $4M affordable senior housing capital campaign for the LGBTQIA+ community. Rayl says, “We originally intended to leave a donation to the Center in our estate plan, but we talked about it and decided that there wasn’t a better time to see the impact of our gift than today.” Presley adds, “We asked ourselves, ‘If you have the means, why don’t more people do this now, while they’re still alive? Why wait? Perhaps this donation will encourage people to act now.'”
The Center launched the project in 2020 to meet the growing demand for affordable housing, care and services for the aging LGBTQIA+ population in Dallas. Rayl and Presley’s donation helped the Center cross the $2M mark of the campaign. In the 24 years they’ve been together, the Dallas couple have participated in and experienced firsthand the growth of Resource Center. Rayl started volunteering at the Center in the ‘90s and served as the Center’s treasurer for 12 years, volunteered on the Ryan White Council for five years and was on the Building Committee for the Center’s community center capital campaign in 2015. Presley has served on the Center’s Marketing Committee and was a co-chair on the Toast To Life.
Rayl has always been interested in building and housing, and says, “Affordable housing is such a need in Dallas not just for the LGBTQIA+ community, but for housing in general. In addition to seeing a greater impact in the community, we also wanted to donate funds so we could enjoy the project during our lifetime instead of after our deaths.” Presley adds, “Being involved in this project could be an alternative to what could happen for the elder LGBTQIA+ community. Having financial needs can also affect mental health, and those needs can lead to homelessness.”
The Center has partnered with Volunteers of America and developer Matthews Southwest and has purchased property in the Oaklawn neighborhood of Dallas, which is historically significant to the LGBTQIA+ community. The senior housing project will consist of an 84-unit building with amenities and open green space on a two-acre site located at Sadler Circle. The site has excellent access to services and transportation, including the Inwood Road DART Station. The overall project budget is approximately $23 million. In addition to funds from the capital campaign, the project is expected to be financed by public funds from state and local sources and private mortgage financing.
While society’s view and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people is changing, fear and stigma remain a factor in affecting the lives of older adults. It affects their relationships with family, earnings and retirement opportunities. Rayl states, “As much progress as we think we have made there’s still more work to do. When you’re in a long-term care facility, you’re dependent on others for your every need. If there’s one staff person that just happens to be discriminatory then we’ve gone backwards. It’s a “second closet” scenario. I would not want to be somewhere I would not feel comfortable being who I am. It’s about people living their senior years in dignity.”
Resource Center CEO Cece Cox says, “We are grateful for the generous support of Steven Rayl and Scot Presley in helping us achieve this vision. This donation will help provide seniors with affirming opportunities for socialization, recreation, and emotional support and will transform the way LGBTQIA+ older adults live, access services, and develop community support for generations to come.”
Presley adds, “When we told Steve’s 94-year-old mother Virginia we were donating to this campaign, she was so pleased and excited. She’s been a good teacher and philanthropic over the years, and even matched our donation for the community center back in 2015. She just loves that we’re able to do this. We have enjoyed being able to financially support the Center over the years, but we’ve also enjoyed being involved and seeing their success along the way. We hope this donation will inspire others to give as well.”
To make a donation to the Center’s affordable LGBTQIA+-friendly senior housing capital campaign, visit https://www.myresourcecenter.org/capital-campaign/ or click HERE.
To request an informational meeting, please contact Chief Development Officer Kristin McLaughlin at 214-540-4421 or visit https://www.myresourcecenter.org/capital-campaign/