By PETER YACOBELLIS
For Montclair Local
I grew up in a time when homosexuality meant shame, confusion and isolation. As a result, I spent a lot of my life without a community, without a village to help me nurture and live my truth.
My experience isn’t unique – it’s one shared by countless other people in town. Many of us have found our way from isolation to community thanks in large part to the internet, LGBTQ+ organizations and, frankly, bars and nightclubs. But I reckon that this last year of isolation has in many ways brought back or exacerbated that sense of loneliness and isolation for some.
Montclair has a strong reputation for being a welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve been host to the headquarters of Garden State Equality and countless efforts by faith and civic organizations that have and continue to run incredible programming and events. On the governing side, we are pursuing an aggressive strategy to codify those values into our local laws and policies this year.
But even with that strong foundation, some notable locals and I have sensed a strong desire for there to be some kind of communitywide organization that gives people a safe space where we and our allies can come together and celebrate who we are — one that can offer educational and recreational activities and events to support and promote inclusivity and community. Imagine public educational programs, a Montclair Pride Festival, special outings for seniors, youth programming and recreational and other events.
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Over the last several weeks, I’ve engaged leaders from all across Montclair to gauge interest in this endeavor. To my delight, there has been an overwhelming response, and a beautiful, diverse advisory board with a broad range of talent has formed. It’s on behalf of that advisory board that I share the official launch of Out Montclair — a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit to support all of these efforts.
We encourage everyone to visit our website, outmontclair.org, to sign up for our emails, pledge a contribution and learn a little bit more about us.
In the coming days, we’ll announce our very first event, which will be an educational session for the public on gender and pronoun terminology on April 27, in partnership with Garden State Equality and the Trans Affirming Alliance.
Whether you’re a member of this community, questioning or an ally, we want you to know that all are welcome. We hope you’ll join us.
Peter Yacobellis is the president of Out Montclair and also serves as councilor at large on the Montclair Township Council. He has served as an LGBTQ+ issue adviser to high-profile elected officials and as an advocate for LGBTQ+ equality since his own personal experiences with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and conversion therapy in the late 1990s.
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