By Michelle Wing
Do gays, lesbians and trans- gender people feel safe in Napa County? Do they receive adequate services from nonprofit agencies? Are they fully included in the fab- ric of daily life, whether at school or on the job?
These are some of the ques- tions that will be addressed at the town hall meeting scheduled Oct. 11 in Napa, a day that also hap- pens to be National Coming Out Day.
The Napa LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning) Community Forum is what organizers hope will be a first step in establishing direction for the creation of a healthier Napa Valley for LGBTQ residents.
Ian Stanley, Napa LBGTQ pro- gram director, said, “The ultimate goal is that we bring visibility to LGBTQ people in the valley and their hopes in the community. That doesn’t often get talked about, because we are in small
pockets all over, and we are often invisible.”
Stanley said there are an esti- mated 11,000 LGBTQ people in Napa County, most of whom remain “in the closet,” keeping their sexual orientation a secret in at least some aspect of their lives –choosing not to “come out” to an employer, or their parents, or their faith leader, or some other impor- tant part of their social network.
Stanley also said 76 percent of nonprofit agencies surveyed in Napa Valley agreed that the needs of LGBTQ people are not being adequately met.
Other troubling statistics point- ed out by the Napa LGBTQ Pro- gram are that lesbian, gay and bi- sexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and they are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol – in large part due to the isolation and self-es- teem issues which often occur as a result of living in intolerant school and home settings.
Back in early spring 2010, what started as a support group for LGBTQ youth began moving to-
wards the development of an LG- BTQ Community Initiative.
Stanley said the three focuses of the initiative are:
• engaging the community through a representative advisory committee that calls town hall meetings and other gatherings to identify community hopes and prioritize action steps;
• training health and service providers through workshops and technical assistance to deepen awareness and skills in working with LGBTQ people in nonprof- its, schools, community groups, health and mental health services, government, faith communities, the business community and the hospitality industry; and
• developing quality program- ming to support and offer resourc- es to the most underserved groups – youth, senior citizens, and trans- gender people.
So far, Stanley said, 15 LG- BTQ youth, adults and senior citi- zens from across the county have formed an advisory committee, and 60 young people have been participating in a monthly support group.
Additionally, over 100 profes- sionals from 32 agencies have par- ticipated in “LGBTQ best practic- es” trainings.”
One of the group’s goals is to eventually open Napa’s first LG- BTQ Community Center.
The Community Forum will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 11 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room at McPherson Elementary School, 2670 Yajome St., Napa.
The free event will include door prizes and appetizers. All LGBTQ people are invited, even if they are not “out.”
Straight allies are also wel- come. It will be a safe space and a “hate-free zone.”
The forum is sponsored by the Napa LGBTQ Project, On the Move, Spectrum LGBT Center of the North Bay and the County of Napa.
Reservations are requested. Go to www.napaLGBTQproject.org to fill out the short form.
For more information or to reg- ister by phone, call Ian Stanley at (707) 251-9432.