Throughout the Triangle, groups are using music to create safe spaces for the local LGBTQ+ community away from discrimination or judgment.
Kristen Stinnett is the artistic director for the Common Woman Chorus, a Durham-based treble chorus made up of woman-identifying, gender-nonconforming and transgender individuals.
Stinnett said the mission of the chorus is to cultivate connection and change through the healing power of music.
“We like to say that we're a place for queer joy, and people absolutely find that here and we hold each other in that space,” Stinnett said.
She said that Common Woman Chorus offers a safe space for LGBTQ+ people. She added that, while other organizations may welcome queer people, the Common Woman Chorus is a safe space specifically for queer people.
“We are a space for queer people,” Stinnett said. “We are queer people and straight allies and cis allies.”
Stinnett said the chorus saves lives because it helps people find community and shares the stories of its singers through music.
She said creating this space centered around LGBTQ+ people has been particularly meaningful to her after the recent nightclub shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Five people were killed and 22 were injured in the shooting.
Ken Dayton, president of the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus, said these safe spaces are important after events like the shooting in Colorado because they allow people to be who they are.
According to their website, the Triangle Gay Men’s Chorus aims to foster a safe space and provide a place for LGBTQ+ people and allies to develop and display their musical talents. The group promotes acceptance, pride and equal rights for all.
Dayton said everybody should feel safe within an organization. No one has to be concerned with how they are going to be treated because everybody is treated equally, whether or not they are part of the LGBTQ+ community, he said.
“We strive to our best limits to make sure that everybody within the Triangle Gay Men's Chorus organization is treated equally and in a fair sense,” Dayton said.
Dayton said he thinks there needs to be more support for LGBTQ+ individuals.
“Everybody is equal,” Dayton said. “There's there's no laws or anything that states one person can do this and one person can do that, or this person can't do that.”
Thuy Tran, a flutist for Triangle Pride Band, said discrimination is the biggest reason why LGBTQ+ safe spaces are important.
Tran said it is hard to feel human when someone who disagrees with her identity might see her as below them solely for that reason.
Tran said she is at the point in her life where she doesn’t feel the need to change people’s minds. Having a place where everyone understands the criticism and discrimination that she faces daily helps to make Triangle Pride Band feel like a safe space, she said.
“It's just nice to know everywhere you look at people who are like you have struggled the same way you have or is an ally and willing to uplift you in the band,” Tran said.
Richard Cassidy, a clarinetist for Triangle Pride Band, said the band provides a place where individuals can go and be themselves without stigma.
The band is a community of like-minded individuals coming together to make beautiful music, he said.
He added that some members of the Triangle Pride Band have families that may not fully recognize their identities and having a community of supportive friends to spend special occasions with is crucial.
“For me, being new to the area, it was like an instant family that I didn't have because I moved to a place that was brand new to me,” Cassidy said. He also said Triangle Pride Band was "a place that I can be myself without fear of rejection or persecution."
Cassidy explained that, while the community needs more LGBTQ+ arts programs, the existing programs need to be more visible. He said during the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts community struggled, so many organizations are currently undergoing a process of regrowth.
“It's kind of hard to be visible when your organization is also kind of regrowing the rebranding itself as well,” Cassidy said.
Dayton said members of the broader community can help these organizations by being more aware of how they contribute to the community.
“I just think it's important that community and support leaders need to be more aggressive in being a part of the LGBTQ community and being more present and aware of what's in their community and the good that it does for their community,” Dayton said. “They always seem to sometimes see the bad side of things, but they don't really see or want to see a lot of the good things that's going on.”
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