I often write a Travel Thursday posts about one of my wonderful trips, going to Tel Aviv Pride, Puerto Vallarta Pride, visiting Scottsdale, Arizona, spending time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, enjoying a weekend in Key West, and so on (I do love my job!), but I also write about my staycations here, where I live, in Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, Florida. My trips are amazing, but staying home and enjoying what I have here is just as great. When friends visit me from out of state, they always ask, what is it like to live in a Gay Mecca? I guess when you live here, you don’t think about it.
Besides being a place that has 15 gay bars within 5 blocks, quick access to one of the best beaches in the world, and a climate with about 2 days of winter and the rest of the year it’s all summer, Wilton Manors, Florida just knows how to embrace the gay as well as embrace life.
Instead of telling you about the Stonewall Pride that happened last weekend, I wanted to mention the two great activities I attended tonight, on a school night, on a whim. The first was the 25th Anniversary of the Pride Center. I am currently not a member, but have known about the The Pride Center at Equality Park since I moved here back in 2013.
What was great about this Pride Center event was that it welcomed current and possible future members (one of them being me) to enjoy a nice night out, sponsored by Hunter’s Fort Lauderdale and Temptations Catering. The emcee of the event made it a point to tell all that the 2-hour open bar and hors d’oeuvres were all donated by the two businesses.
What may not have been designed as the main event of the evening and something that did cause my eyes to water up was the speech given by the new Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis. The words, those amazing words about how love and policies start local, the praise he gave the Pride Center for being an integral part of the community of Wilton Manors and For Lauderdale, and how lucky we are to have such a great political local core that supports us as LGBTQ+ citizens, I was kicking myself all shades of black and blue for not recording his speech. I need to know when Dean Trantalis is running for something next so I can vote for him as much as possible.
The Founders Circle Reception lasted from 6 to 8 PM, but we wanted to find a place to watch the Ru Paul’s Drag Race finale. We didn’t have to go far as we walked into the smaller side bar at Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar and the RPDR reunion episode was on the 6 or 8 television screens. While at Hunter’s, my friend and I discussed what place had the best food on the drive (Wilton Drive). A place I always forget is Georgie’s. Needless to say, the great food and drinks at Alibi helped us get through a stressful RPDR Finale (#teamkameron).
So besides the great organizations like the Pride Center, and the successful watering and food holes like Georgie’s Alibi Monkey bar, what else is great about this Gay Mecca of Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida is that you just don’t think about being gay as an issue while here. It’s a label you do not need to wear. It’s that rainbow ribbon around your heart that you do not need to show OR hide while being present. I’m not sure of the last time I felt I was gay or it clicked I was gay while being out in public. Geesh, that sounds odd, but yes, being gay is part of who I am, but it’s not something I have to prove, project, protect while here. I’m just me, a man that lives in this town and goes to bars and goes to restaurants and goes to Bed, Bath, & Beyond, goes to open houses, and drives a sweet three miles to work. Life is f&$king great!
Of course, living in a Gay Mecca, make sure you have time to enjoy it. At any time of the day or night, you can just say, hey, let’s go have fun and you’ll have it, and you won’t have to worry if you left your gay card at home.
Thanks Wilton Manors and Greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole for being a wonderful and accepting place to call home for the past 5 years and hopefully many many more.
I know this may sound a little banal to some, but I do realize how good we have it here and often think about our LGBTQ+ citizens here in the US and those around the world whom cannot hang out together, that cannot be seen together. We have it so good here. As mentioned, I can go one mile and be at 15 gay bars and do things from be political or social or drink or watch a gay television show with complete strangers in a gay bar.
So what is it like living in a Gay Mecca? I don't have a good answer to that, but it may be just like how straight people live every day, without worrying that someone may judge you by whom you love or whom you have relations with. Living in a Gay Mecca is living care free and full of LGBTQ+ adventure. Let me know if you want to use my guest room some time.
The Pride Center at Equality Park Mission:
We provide a welcoming, safe space — an inclusive home that celebrates, nurtures and empowers the LGBTQ communities and our friends and neighbors in South Florida.
The Pride Center meets the distinct health, social, educational, socio-economic and safety needs for the LGBTQ community and our allies.
Last year, more than 35,000 adult and youth attended activities at The Center. The Center hosts more than 65 regularly-meeting groups each month. Support, social and educational groups focus on seniors, youth, women, men, transgender individuals, recovery, health, the arts, athletics, spirituality, games and more. Outreach activities over the past year directly impacted over 125,000 residents and visitors to South Florida.
Stop in and learn about all we provide: a community Flea Market; women’s health initiatives; parenting workshops; transgender education series; family outreach days; Bingo; unique exercise classes; cultural competency trainings; a playground for children and families; Wicked Manors; healthcare navigation; financial investment series; art gallery openings; Bingo; couples counseling; a rentable auditorium; social media outreach; Diversity Honors with the Harvey Milk Foundation; a beautiful courtyard; music, movies and live theater presentations; a variety of health fairs; and a spectrum of creative symposiums, speakers, forums and events for the entire community.
The Pride Center is a major site for HIV testing, prevention, outreach, education, healthcare linkage, support, holistic health and counseling. Our popular Senior Services activities include: weekly Coffee and Conversation events with over 200 LGBTQ Seniors; individual linkage services, wellness workshops, daily Enhance Fitness senior exercise classes; SAGEWorks technology and job skills courses; a speaker series; recreational activities; healthy aging seminars; cultural events; and our annual Senior Health Expo. The Center also spearheads the three-county collaboration to organize, develop and market the current online health directory of culturally competent providers for LBTQ women at LBTHealth.org.
We own five-and-a-half acres of property at Equality Park with 30,000 square feet of meeting and office space for individuals, programs and services, as well as synergy among organizations. Our Vision is to be the premier point of connection for our community.
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