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By Michelle Wing

Tribune Senior Staff Writer
Napa County’s gay and lesbian
community came out in record
numbers to the town hall meeting
on Tuesday night in Napa, far
exceeding organizers’ expecta-
tions.
The Napa LGBTQ (Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer
& Questioning) Community
Forum, held at McPherson
Elementary School on National
Coming Out Day, brought 200-
plus people together, representing
a widely diverse cross-section of
the county.
Organizer Ian Stanley, Napa
LBGTQ program director, said,
“When we first started planning
this, we thought we’d only be able
to get 40 people to show up. We
got five times that.”
Included among the crowd was
a contingent of adults from
Calistoga, as well as a group of
teens from Calistoga Junior Senior
High School, accompanied by
Safe Schools coordinator Anne
Williams.
In his opening remarks, Stanley
said, “This is the largest, most
diverse gathering of LGBTQ peo-
ple ever to come together in Napa
County.” The entire room erupted
into cheers.
It was a night of celebration
and kinship, with rainbow-colored
tie-dyed shirts worn by facilita-
tors, and buttons for everyone
stating, “I Made History! Oct. 11,
2011, Napa Community Forum.”
Stanley shared his own story of
growing up in Napa County, going
to school and church here, saying
he didn’t even feel safe enough to
come out to himself until he was
27. He said working with LGBTQ
clients at VOICES Youth Center,
he now focuses on making young
people feel safe. Thinking about
the community as a whole, he
started having visions of building
a community center.
“But what would we do there?”
he asked. “I would like to dream
together.”
During the two-hour forum,
small teams met together and held
brainstorming sessions about what
they wanted to work towards to
build a healthier, safer, better Napa
County for LGBTQ citizens.
Ideas ran the gamut from build-
ing a community center to starting
support groups, working on public
awareness, starting media cam-
paigns, having stickers at busi-
nesses to show they were gay
friendly, mentoring programs for
young adults, social activities,
anti-bullying and harassment poli-
cies at schools, sensitivity training
for employers and professionals,
better access to medical care,
fundraising issues, and more.
At the end of the night, all of
the ideas were placed into general
categories, and using a concept
called “dot-mocracy,” each partic-
ipant was given three bright green
stickers to “vote” with. All 200
people approached the big white
board up front and placed their
stickers near the concepts nearest
and dearest to their hearts.
The top three vote-getters were
1) Awareness; 2) Community
Center; and 3) Schools. These will
be the group’s main focus for the
coming year.
Stanley said, “I think people
are ready to move and to take
action on this.... People really
want to connect with each other.”
Among the attendees were a
number of Napa County politi-
cians and officials, including
Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht,
California State Assemblyman
Michael Allen, Napa Chief of
Police Rich Melton, and Joan
Bennett, vice mayor of American
Canyon.
“This was one of those water-
shed moments in our community,”
Wagenknect said. “Like most of
us, I had very low expectations. I
thought I could be one of 20. It
was very nice to be one of 200.”
“What we would like to think
is that our community is support-
ing all of our citizens and the pos-
sibility of growing up happy and
healthy,” he said, noting that for
many young people, adolescence
is difficult. “But if you’re not sure
about your sexuality, you’re even
more alone.”
Wagenknecht was amazed by
the varied demographics of the
crowd. “It was a remarkable
achievement that Ian pulled off,”
he said.
Fifteen percent in attendance
were from the upvalley, and 65
percent from Napa. Sixty-four per-
cent identified as LGBTQ, and 25
percent identified as straight allies.
Twenty-one percent were over
55, 37 percent were between age
25-54, and 40 percent were under
the age of 24.
The entire evening was offered
in both English and Spanish, and
had a strong ethnic mix, with 48
percent of attendees identifying as
Anglo, 37 percent as Latino.
Fifty percent of participants
were female, 40 percent were
male, and three percent identified
as transgender.
Friday, Oct. 14, 2011
Tribune
Calistoga
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Over 200 at historic LGBTQ meeting
‘This was one of those watershed momemts
in our community... Like most of us, I had low
expectations, and thought I could be one of
20. It was very nice to be one of 200.’
– BRAD WAGENKNECHT,
NAPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS