A safe haven for the LGBTQ community
The Rainbow Center Community Center remains committed to its goal of assisting the LGBTQ community, whether it be providing services to victims of hate crimes or gathering the community together.
The UWT Gender and Sexuality Alliance isn’t the only resource for the LGBTQ community in the South Puget Sound. For over two decades, the Rainbow Center in Tacoma has served as a hub of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, two-spirit and allied community.
The Center has daily open hours where those interested can utilize their resources such as libraries and computers as well as Wi-Fi access. In addition, they help support advocacy services for victims of crimes, provide outreach and education programs and offer a safe space for those who wish to be a part of a community with like-minded individuals. Through this base, they find ways to advocate for members of LGBTQ2SA to the outer ward.
“The mission of Rainbow Center is to educate, advocate, and celebrate with and for the LGBTQ2SA Community of the South Puget Sound,” said Executive Director Troy Christensen. “We accomplish these goals by having three departments that focus on our priorities — education, advocacy and celebration.”
When it comes to helping educate others on LGBTQ cultural competency, they provide formal training to thousands of people each year on how one can be to be an excellent ally to LGBTQ2SA people. This is usually done through employers who want to raise their awareness and skill levels of their employees.
In terms of advocacy, the center provides services to help people who have been victims of bigotry, such as hate crimes, discrimination or harassment. They also advocate policies for the LGBTQ2SA on a legislative level.
“We provide services to help people navigate the legal, healthcare, and other systems to find justice,” Christensen said. “We also perform legislative advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure the rights and protections of LGBTQ2SA people are in place.”
Christensen then explained that the RC was established in 1997 to provide a gathering space and safe resource referral. 24 years later, they continue to work together to create a community that embraces a safer and happier culture for the LGBTQ2SA community and their allies.
“It was started by a group of people, 24 years ago, who could see a future where every LGBTQ2SA person can live as their true, authentic self, without the fear of harassment or discrimination,” he said.
Despite all the services they provide, they remain a non-profit foundation, funded mainly by those who think the RC is doing the right thing.
“Rainbow Center is a non-profit, social service and civil rights organization that is supported by individual and corporate donations, foundation philanthropy, and government grants,” Christensen said.
“People donate because they believe in our mission. They see the injustices that continue to occur, and envision a community where these injustices no longer occur- or at least no longer occur without consequence,” he explained further.
Over 100 people make use of the RC every week. With most visitors coming from Pierce, King, Kitsap and Thurston counties, each year they provide direct services to 1,000 individuals and greet around 4,000 visits.
The RC also provides meeting spaces for several community partners and usually hosts the annual Tacoma Pride Festival. This year, taking place in the middle of summer per usual, the Pride Festival will occur on July 10. However, like most large in-person gatherings as of late, the event’s details will be changed to match the Washington state governor’s health mandates.
“This event usually sees 15-20,000 people at a street festival downtown,” Christensen said. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, we will not have the large celebration this year. Instead, we will have 50-60 smaller events throughout the community.”
Anyone wishing for more information on the Pride Festival may get their info at www.tacomapride.org. Those who want to learn more about the RC or are interested in a work or volunteer opportunity may check out www.rainbowcntr.org.