Peace Corps and Pride – 2011
Peace Corps and LGBT RPCVs were actively involved in many Gay Pride activities in June. We have reports from five cities: Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington D. C.
Boston: The New England Regional Corps Office sponsored a recruiting and information table at the Boston Pride Festival. Two staff members presided and eight RPCVs sat with the staff to talk about their experiences as Peace Corps Volunteers. 63 Pride participants stopped by the table, and 27 signed up to get more information about Peace Corps. Although there was some rain and cold, there was great participation from the RPCVs. They came out and helped set up early on Saturday morning and stayed throughout the festival to share their life enhancing experiences with budding volunteers. Peace Corps found the Boston Pride Committee highly organized and looks forward to participating in future Pride events.
Chicago: The Chicago Peace Corps office had a contingent in the Chicago Gay Pride parade. 18 people marched in all: five Staff Members, seven RPCVs, long with six friends and family. It was a great day. The Peace Corps marching group had a huge Peace Corps banner, a flag, and several marchers were dressed in country of service traditional costumes. The contingent handed out lots of stickers and post cards promoting an upcoming Diversity Information Session. Marchers got a great reaction from the crowd. Much of it obviously from other RPCVs, shouting out their countries of service: Paraguay, China, Tanzania and others.
New York City:
Approximately 30 people walked, carried flags, beat a drum, and lost their voices shouting “50 More Years, 50 More Years!” behind the Peace Corps banners at New York City’s June Pride March. The marching group consisted of RPCVs who had served in countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean. Nominees on their way to becoming PCVs as well as family and friends were also part of the group. RPCV, Kat, Suriname, grabbed friends and jumped on a bus with 20 giant country of service flags from Peace Corps Headquarters in DC just to join in this year’s historic Pride March. Onlookers clapped, cheered, and shouted “Thank You!” This being New York there were also lots of cheers from the crowd for the Jamaican and Dominican Republic flags that were carried by RPCVs who served in those countries.
The New York Office also held an information session aimed at prospective LGBT applicants. 25 people attended. About half of them joined staff and 8 LGBT RPCVs at the Cubby Hole for a happy hour and lots of questions about the lives of LGBT PCVs in the developing world.
The local Bay Area chapter of LGBT RPCVs held its 20th anniversary Pride Celebration on Bill and Tony’s deck in the Castro, the Saturday afternoon before the Pride March. Several women in the group also were part of the Dyke March at nearby Dolores Park early that evening. About 40 people showed up at the barbecue, many longtime members, other’s there for the first time. Lots of good food, drink and conversation. Hard to believe it was 20 years ago that LGBT RPCVs was founded in Washington D.C. and groups there and in San Francisco had their first meetings.
For the D.C. Pride Parade on Saturday June 11, Peace Corps had a very animated group of around 30 RPCVs and PC staff members carrying their country of service flags. The marching contingent also carried Peace Corps banners and had a very welcoming reception from the estimated 100,000 people watching the parade. On Saturday night the Peace Corps marching group was notified that it had won the “Harvey Milk Award for Best Public Sector Contingent.” The group was called up on the main stage during Sunday’s festival to receive the award. Peace Corps also hosted an information table at the festival on the Sunday where there were an estimated 200,000 attendees. LGBT RPCVs sat at the table along with Peace Corps Staff.
Earlier in the month Peace Corps hosted an LGBT RPCV panel in the Rosslyn, VA recruiting office for about 20 participants. Earlier the same day at Peace Corps Headquarters in downtown D.C., transgendered political appointees appointed by the Obama administration came to speak to Peace Corps employees about transgender issues. There were about 100 employees in attendance. The Deputy Director introduced the panelists and there were lots of Q and A’s.
Later in June, Peace Corps’ Office of Diversity Recruitment and National Outreach sponsored a webinar “Have Rainbow, Will Travel: The LGBT Experience in the Peace Corps.” There were 25 participants and six panelists, two lesbian, two gay, and two transgendered RPCVs. They answered so many questions about the challenges and opportunities for LGBT volunteers. There is another panel discussion planned for the fall.
A Special Thanks: So many people on Peace Corps staff and LGBT RPCVs helped to make these 50th Peace Corps anniversary and Gay Pride related events successful. A special thanks to all who worked to make these such a success, particularly Bill and Tony, Jerry, Jeffrey, John, Kat, Kiva, Shari, Stephen – who all helped organize and coordinate activities.