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Friday, August 19, 2022

Pride Community Center celebrates Pride Month

The LGBTQ community and allies build the future and reflect on the past of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida

Attendees of the Pride Center Community meeting picnic and collaborate in groups to discuss their goals for the upcoming year on Saturday, June 12, 2021. The event brought together families and members of the LGBTQ+ community to give their input in rejuvenating the center while helping themselves to a catered breakfast at Westside Park.
Attendees of the Pride Center Community meeting picnic and collaborate in groups to discuss their goals for the upcoming year on Saturday, June 12, 2021. The event brought together families and members of the LGBTQ+ community to give their input in rejuvenating the center while helping themselves to a catered breakfast at Westside Park.

LGBTQ pride flags decorated the pavilion at Westside Park as the sun beat down on bagels, donuts, fruit and coffee arranged on a long table. More than 50 people gathered to discuss the future of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida.

On the fifth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting Saturday morning, the center held a meeting to collaborate with the community to understand the needs and goals of LGBTQ individuals.

Tamára Perry-Lunardo, a 41-year-old bisexual woman, has served as the president of the Pride Community Center for a year and a half. She said the turnout exceeded her expectations, and she was energized by the outcome of the meeting.

“What we were really hoping to get out of it was community input and involvement, and people really stepped up and did exactly that,” she said.

The meeting focused on four specific needs: leadership, facilities, programming and events. The group brainstormed ideas like outdoor sporting events, LGBTQ parenting groups, arts and craft projects and clothing swaps.

The center has been in Gainesville for more than 20 years, meeting for the first time in 2000. Tracy Moorman, a 49-year-old lesbian and UF alumna, helped found the center and served as the co-president for several years.

She worked alongside co-founder and co-president Terry Fleming, and the two became close. She said they called each other their ex-wife and ex-husband because of the connection they felt.

“He passed away last April, 2020, and of course the center just closed down,” she said. 

Moorman said Fleming would want the center to continue, and Saturday’s meeting took place on his 60th birthday.

“We knew it was his birthday and it was Pulse,” she said. “I definitely sense he was with us today. The weather was so nice and the turnout was so good.”

The event was brought together with the help of seven board members. Darin Stoneking, a 52-year-old graphic designer and visual branding consultant, has been part of the board for three months.

Stoneking moved to Gainesville from Chicago two years ago and quickly became involved with the center. He said the LGBTQ spaces in Chicago were huge, and this motivated him to become more involved in Gainesville. Stoneking said he hopes his work will lead to a more inclusive space for everyone.

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“We're trying to repaint,” he said. “This is a community for everybody.”

He said he has become more aware of the complexities of the community and the importance of holding this space and being a voice for others. He said he was surprised by the turnout and recognized the robust community around him.

“There's so many populations,” he said. “The teens, the families, we have a population of older people, larger than any time in the United States’ history. There’s gay and lesbian people older now than there have ever been.”

Stoneking was not the only attendee surprised by the turnout. Rebecca Putman, a 32-year-old bisexual woman and the pastor at Westminister Presbyterian Church, joined the center today for the first time. Putman said she discovered the event after googling ‘Gainesville LGBTQ.’

“I'm relatively new to Gainesville, and my church is open and affirming to the LGBTQ community,” she said. “As a member of the LGBTQ community, I really wanted to find a place to be involved.” 

She moved to Gainesville from upstate New York where she said she was surrounded by prejudice.

“It was really hard there, so coming here and seeing rainbow flags, where people can be out and proud, it's just really exciting for me,” she said.


Contact Joelle Wittig at jwittig@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoelleWittig.


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