Blog

A Community, Not a Club
Every once in a while we hear someone inadvertently use the word “club,” referencing The Triangle Connection (TC). While we understand what the person is probably intending, we think “club” is not exactly an accurate description of who we are. Instead, we are an all-inclusive community of family and friends offering the opportunities for ALL of us to socialize, educate, include, and be open to who we are as individuals. 

Recently, you may have noticed our slightly tweaked mission statement and the post that fellow TC board member Shannon King provided about our goal of being more inclusive, welcoming, and embracing all orientations. 

There are good clubs with good purposes but clubs have memberships and often vote on an applicant's request for membership. TC doesn’t fit into that category. We are open to all - LGBTQ+, straight, all genders, non-binary, any ethnic background, and all in-between, singles, couples, older, younger, transgender and non-transgender, secure in their identity or struggling; and those who live in Lake County and those beyond. If you have attended only one of our functions or simply follow us on FB: you are part our family and community. We believe our inclusiveness will help us in our goal to become more diverse. ALL are family.


November 2019:
“Diversity is being invited to the party.  Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

 

Lately I have been thinking more and more about our Triangle Community's diversity, as well as our inclusiveness.  My rationale started with this specific question:  “Are we inclusive to females in our community?”  While we are a good and strong community of LGBTQ+ people, the large majority of us who attend functions are white, male, coupled, and 55 plus.  As I talked with several people within Triangle Connection about my concern Robyn Kelly, a longtime community member of Triangle said, "We need to make sure everyone is welcome" and not try to focus on a particular segment of our Triangle population.  So true, Robyn.  Randall Keeton, another active Triangle Connection friend, added that "we want a community where all different kinds of people can thrive" which will lead to more diversity and ultimately more inclusiveness.”

 

Deep down I believe we all want to see this level of diversity and inclusiveness as we grow the Triangle community.  For example, our mission statement addresses our goal of being a "welcoming and inclusive environment for all people."  Your Triangle board is committed to this concept.  Many Triangle people I have spoken with agree this should be a priority.  A more welcoming community will lead to more diversity and an inclusive community.  This is how our group’s effectiveness will expand. 

 

Board member Bruce Endsley reminded us in a July article for Triangle, "We are open for all:  LGBTQ, straight, all genders, non-binary, any ethic group, singles, couples, older, younger, transgender and non-transgender, secure in their identity or struggling, those who live in Lake County and those beyond.”  Bea Palmer, a longtime participant within Triangle Connection, recently said to me, “We always feel welcome at events.  We enjoy the guys, but it would be great if we had more woman, too.”  Another Triangle Connection person community, Mari Cruz said to me recently, "We are improving on being more inclusive, but we have "to be more welcoming to grow and expand; not just women but all people."

 

I am not pointing fingers and blaming.  Instead, I am looking internally as a white, male, coupled, and 55+ person within Triangle Connection.  I realize my identify group is the dominate segment within our family at most functions.  Since there are lots of other people who look similar to me, I wonder if I can see what transgender people, female, brown or black, younger, single, non-binary and others feel when they walk into one of our events.  It’s clear we have good intentions of being more diverse and inclusive, but others may see walls we don't even realize exist.  As Mari said, "We are born into our identify groups but they don't have to separate us."  Good point, Mari.  Not reaching out more to all people and more effectively will hurt our efforts to grow our community and will also limit our long-term and overall effectiveness.  We want to be a resource for everyone, including straight allies.  They need us as much as we need them.

 

The good news is we have new people becoming part of our Triangle Connection community regularly.  Yes!  We are growing.  Tina Manning and Michele Matheson are new to our Triangle Connections. Tina said to me, “We came into the group because of Jack and Bruce.  They were originally clients of our business and we became friends.  They invited us to Friday night cocktails by saying, ‘We’d love you to join us,’ and indicated that Triangle was trying to bring in new friends and improve diversity in general.”  Tina added, “We’ve enjoyed being around the group. The best thing about Friday cocktails is how warm and welcoming people are.  We were not ignored.  People reach out and we already feel like we’re part of the family.  It would also be great if we could help others in the area know Triangle is here for them.  Recently we took a friend of ours to a Meet & Greet and she really enjoyed it.  She may never have attended a function had we not invited her, like Jack and Bruce did for us.”

 

Tina added, “Sometimes you need women to get more women involved.”  In looking at our TC Facebook followers, a definite trend is we are attracting more females.  Eighty percent of our new FB followers are women and on FB, we actually have more women followers than men.  It appears that females are observing TC through FB and this is a good sign about our long-term diversity.  “Historically a lot of the LGBTQ+ bars were segregated,” Michelle added.  “Especially in Chicago.  That’s the way it was, but not the way it has to be.”  When you look at our nearly 500 FB followers, 600 people who receive our email addresses, and realizing some of the above two overlap, we figure we have about 750+ friends at Triangle Connection. Being a truly integrated community of ALL 750 will bring us strength as we look at even furthering our inclusiveness.

 

I hear from people like Jane Rutter and Gary Brozenich, a straight couple who moved to Eustis about ten years ago from New York State who love our community.  Jane was telling me about how when they moved here there was a common bond at that time - the quest for marriage equality - that pulled the Triangle Connection group into a diverse family.  "Gary and I are a straight couple but immediately felt included.  The group's solidarity led to strong friendships and walls didn't exist," Jane explained.  I believe history can repeat itself.  A Triangle Connection without walls will lead to more diversity, which will lead to more inclusiveness.”    

 

Bea Palmer commented further, “While we really enjoy the group, but having more women in the mix would make it even more inviting for women to easily join in.  We met some new women recently at a Meet & Greets and are now friends on FB.  To include more new people of all identities, Bea suggests we “mix it up with more activities such live music or a DJ.”  Bea continued by saying, “The drinks and dinners are fine but more of a variety would be great and it would probably lead to more people who are different from the usual mix.”  A better mix of activities would lead to a better mix of people.

 

Bea also said we would love to see more single people join our activities, so in looking at a variety of functions what would the singles want to see” is a question the community should also consider.  “A few singles joining us would probably lead to more single people, Bea added.  “Rainbow’s weekly dance at the Bonifay Club draws a nice mix of single and coupled people.  I’d like to see something of that nature here in Lake County” so we don’t have to drive all the way to the Villages to enjoy a different type of activity.

 

And the desire to be more inclusive to people of color must also be part of our vision for a long-term and successful Triangle Connection community.  As I ponder this subject and I think you’ll agree, we have much work to do.

 

To quote Randall Keeton once again, "Diversity is what you have.  Inclusion is what you do."


January 2020:

TC’s Year in Review Report. 


Your Triangle Connection board of director team is providing you a summary below, recapping Triangle work for 2019.


1. As we began our early work this year the TC board recognized several of our organization’s pioneers. Four long-term officers retired as board members and officers at the first of the year and we thank them again for their many years of service, leadership, vision, and hard work: Scot Cornwall, Bill Opperman, Dale Gruber, and Bruce Freeman. By the end of the year we had a board consisting of four women and six men leading the TC community.


2. With a strong foundation that has evolved over the last 15 plus years, we worked to fine-tune our organization/community of friends and family, making sure we continue down an appropriate long-term path. To guide us, early in the year we tweaked the TC mission statement to better align with long-term strategies for growth, diversity, and inclusiveness. The revised mission was well communicated to all of our friends via Facebook, emails, and our website.


3. Over the year, the community grew with new people. As examples, TC Facebook followers increased from 300 to 535 people in 2019 and expanded internationally with a few people outside the U.S.; our email distribution list grew from 500 to 610 by year end; Meet & Greet female attendance, which had dropped to only a handful, saw many new women in attendance by mid to late-2019; and at Meet & Greets in general we now regularly see new faces. We feel all of our community’s emphasis on growth, diversity, and inclusion are starting to pay off. If you have attended an M&G function lately, we hope you noticed the differences, including the wonderful new faces.


4. Transitioned to rotating the monthly Meet & Greet planning and hosting roles each month to “share the load” among the board team, and we are now asking non-board members to be part of hosting events, too. While it worked well for many years to have constant monthly hosts/planners, the board felt it was time to rotate the planning of these monthly functions starting this year. If you wish to assist in planning a Meet & Greet please let us know.  For 2019 we hope all 11 Meet & Greet events were fun and allowed people to connect and reconnect with people.


5. Planned the 2020 Tea Dance and by the end of the year TC sold 120+ Tea Dance tickets. Noteworthy of our gender diversity and inclusion initiatives, nearly half of the people who purchased tickets are female and many are new to TC.  We are planning other functions we hope everyone enjoys that are a little different from our normal Meet & Greets.  For example, there is a concert with Tret Fure planned for February 15 and about 80% of the ticket sold for this concert have been sold to females.


6. We still recognize we need to work more to be more inclusive to more women, transgender people, non-binary people, younger people, singles, people of color, younger people, allies, and the long list continues. This work must continue into 2020, but in 2019 we made progress.


7. Awarded one William A. Sievert Scholarship award in the spring of 2019 to a fine young man who is now at FSU. Began preparation for the 2020 recipient(s) selection process with a steering committee made up of one board member and one non-board member.


8. Improved the overall finances by 20% through M&G raffle sales in 2019 in order to allow the board to subsidize the 2020 Tea Dance with part of our operating budget. We also paid from the TC budget all administrative costs to manage the scholarship fund through a Trust account, continuing to ensure all scholarship donations go directly to the award recipients.


9. Friday night cocktail attendance at Pisces Rising grew in 2019 after dropping to small crowds in recent years, as low as three people on one evening. We saw strong 2019 growth and some weeks as many as 45 people gathered on the deck and by late 2019 averaging 30 people per week again. It’s important that this 14-year tradition continues as people know there are LGBTQ+ people and allies that they can meet on the deck at Pisces Rising on Friday afternoons. We will soon celebrate our 15-year anniversary of this tradition.


10. Two public transgender educational seminars were attended by nearly 100 people at the W.T. Bland Public Library. Our goal with these two educational opportunities is to expand our service aspect. This work also led to new partnerships with Mt Dora’s public library and Equality Florida.


11. Strengthened existing partnerships with Lake Cares, Rainbow Family & Friends of The Villages, Mt Dora Pride, Orlando Youth Alliance, PFLAG Lady Lake, and various restaurants we work with to hosts Meet & Greets. Specifically our Lake Cares contributions totaled nearly 1,800 pounds of food for those in need. Lake County Pride 2020 is newly formed group we developed a partnership with this year and this organization is planning a pride event for June 2020 in downtown Tavares.


12. Transitioned our email to a newsletter format in mid-2019. The goal was to ensure we keep our communicate activities and news as we continue to send these monthly newsletters to over 600 people. Adding new people to our email distraction list is also a priority.


13. “It’s all about love” was The Daily Commercial newspaper headline in June, featuring TC couples. The front page article featured TC friends who were quoted along with several photos. The article led to new people discovering and joining our community.


14. When we look at our email distribution list and our FB followers, we recognize our community has grown to over 750 people strong. We saw many new faces in 2019. These new faces lead to friendships.


Closing out 2019, the TC board team is proud to support you. We must make sure 2020 is a year where we expand our outreach more to make ensure a vibrant, diverse, inclusive, and fluid organization. As our LGBTQ+ community evolves, so must TC or we cannot remain healthy. Your involvement, participation, and support are vital as this community of friends and family enters this new decade.


Onward,
Your TC Board



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