Out Montclair: To celebrate, support our LGBTQ+ community (Town square)
By PETER YACOBELLIS
For Montclair Local
I grew up in a time when homosexuality meant shame, confusion and isolation. As a result, I spent a lot of my life without a community, without a village to help me nurture and live my truth.
My experience isn’t unique – it’s one shared by countless other people in town. Many of us have found our way from isolation to community thanks in large part to the internet, LGBTQ+ organizations and, frankly, bars and nightclubs. But I reckon that this last year of isolation has in many ways brought back or exacerbated that sense of loneliness and isolation for some.
Montclair has a strong reputation for being a welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve been host to the headquarters of Garden State Equality and countless efforts by faith and civic organizations that have and continue to run incredible programming and events. On the governing side, we are pursuing an aggressive strategy to codify those values into our local laws and policies this year.
But even with that strong foundation, some notable locals and I have sensed a strong desire for there to be some kind of communitywide organization that gives people a safe space where we and our allies can come together and celebrate who we are — one that can offer educational and recreational activities and events to support and promote inclusivity and community. Imagine public educational programs, a Montclair Pride Festival, special outings for seniors, youth programming and recreational and other events.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve engaged leaders from all across Montclair to gauge interest in this endeavor. To my delight, there has been an overwhelming response, and a beautiful, diverse advisory board with a broad range of talent has formed. It’s on behalf of that advisory board that I share the official launch of Out Montclair — a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit to support all of these efforts.
We encourage everyone to visit our website, outmontclair.org, to sign up for our emails, pledge a contribution and learn a little bit more about us.
In the coming days, we’ll announce our very first event, which will be an educational session for the public on gender and pronoun terminology on April 27, in partnership with Garden State Equality and the Trans Affirming Alliance.
Whether you’re a member of this community, questioning or an ally, we want you to know that all are welcome. We hope you’ll join us.
Peter Yacobellis is the president of Out Montclair and also serves as councilor at large on the Montclair Township Council. He has served as an LGBTQ+ issue adviser to high-profile elected officials and as an advocate for LGBTQ+ equality since his own personal experiences with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and conversion therapy in the late 1990s.
Montclair Local's Opinion section is an open forum for civil discussion in which we invite readers to discuss town matters, articles published in Montclair, or previously published letters. Views expressed and published in this section are solely those of the writers, and do not represent the views of Montclair Local.
Letters to the editor: To submit a letter to the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail "Letters to the Editor," 309 Orange Road, Montclair, NJ, 07042 (email is preferred). Submissions must include the name, address and phone number of the writer for verification. Only the writer's name and town of residence will be published. Montclair Local does not publish anonymous opinion pieces.
Letters must be no more than 500 words in length, and must be received by 5 p.m. Monday to be eligible for potential publication in that week's Thursday print issue. Letters may be edited by Montclair Local for grammar and style. While our goal is to publish most letters we receive, Montclair Local reserves the right to decline publication of a letter for any reason, including but not limited to concerns about unproven or defamatory statements, inappropriate language, topic matter far afield of the particular interests of Montclair residents, or available space.
Town Square: Montclair Local also accepts longer-form opinion essays from residents aiming to generate discussion on topics specific to the community, under our "Town
Square" banner. "Town Square" essays should be no more than 750 words in length, and topics should be submitted to email@example.com at least seven days prior to publication.