We appreciate the responses to our apology last week. Thanks for continuing to follow our pages. We sincerely appreciate all of the engagement. I read once that Spring is a season of “awkward regeneration,” and that description has always stuck with me. We are going through some big changes right now, and it’s not always pretty. But it’s important, and we will be stronger on the other side of this. When we say that we are scaling back and reducing our hours, it may seem that we are in a low place. To be honest and vulnerable, yes! This does feel scary. But the truth is, stepping back from the frenzy, looking at the big picture, sifting through our goals, the community’s needs, and the challenges we face, creating some systems and processes for how we operate, and making sure we are all locked in and aligned with our mission - that is very important, tough work. But we are going to do this right.
We see all of the wonderful things queer people are doing all over the metro. We see the art galleries and the pride fests and the student-led protests and the grassroots community organizations. We play kickball, we go to drag bingo, we read zines, we talk to teachers whose GSAs are bustling with activity. We aren’t the only queer organization in town, and isn’t that a beautiful thing? But we also know that people need KC Center for Inclusion. They need the resources, a hub for all of the services in our city that are spread across multiple agencies, and they are desperate for a sense of belonging in a community. They call, they walk in, and they email us with questions about gender and sexuality, looking for support and resources, often bearing tremendous emotional burdens. We are committed to learning and being more inclusive, but we also know that to shut everything down at KCCI would be failing those who truly need this space and these resources, right now.
Last week, we sent two people home with gender affirming binders. We talked to a parent whose child just came out, and we offered them resources and reassurance that their instincts - to support their child no matter what - were going to carry them through this time of awkward regeneration. One person showed up needing something printed, and walked away with information about a support group. We have 100 kids signed up to attend an inclusive, queer prom. KCAI students came and hung art up, beautiful and strange artwork exploring themes of ecology and queerness and how those intertwine. We had a picnic and met a bunch of LGBTQ+ parents and their kids. A bunch of people got together in one of our rooms and played a tabletop game. We created posts for social media, we swept the floor, we greeted visitors, we sat and texted back and forth with a Deaf person who came in looking for information. We put the library books back on the shelf. We ordered more pronoun pins and printer cartridges and swag for the prom. We had countless conversations in email, Messenger, Slack, Zoom, and in person. We signed up for classes and trainings and researched different things we wanted to learn about.
In spite of the messes, there is a lot of important and beautiful work happening here. I talked to one volunteer who said that when she was new to Kansas City, KCCI’s support group meetings, events, and the people she met here changed her life in deep and meaningful ways. She is also among those who is angry and troubled at the lack of inclusivity and accessibility in our space. We need people like her to tell us like it is. Because in spite of our failings, we think that what we are doing matters, and we aren’t going to let it fall apart when there are still people who need it. I think at this point, most of our board members fall right in that middle spot on the Venn diagram. Our lives have been enriched by KCCI. We’ve also been hurt by KCCI, been drained by our involvement here, been frustrated at how much work it is. One of our board members has health issues that make stairs challenging, and wasn’t a part of any decision leading us to this space, yet shares in the responsibility to make it better. We have an obligation to make this better, so we’ll keep trying.
Someone on Facebook read our apology post and asked a great question: What took us so long?
Well, we’ve been busy. We had a strategic planning meeting in March, and you should have seen the whiteboards and post-it notes scattered around the room at the end of that day. We took some time to ask ourselves a variation on this exact question. Why, if we all came here seeking community and meaningful work and joy and fun and friendship, WHY are we all so depleted and frustrated by this work? And can it be fixed?
We aren’t sure. We are finding out. We have been talking about accessibility in meetings since July, and there just hasn’t been a clear path forward. We are less than a year into a five year lease. Our money situation is pretty dire; our board members have been seeking funding. We have been trying to pay the rent and keep our lights on and our staff paid, and it’s hard to do much else when you’re in survival mode. We get asked to do things, and we say yes! And every yes ends up being a no to something else, because there is only so much energy in a human being and only so many hours in a day. We need to figure out what we should be saying yes and no to. We’ve had an unusual number of big changes and things to contend with. Board members have had to step away. New board members had a steep learning curve and have been doing their best to learn all the things. Staff moved on. New staff came in. Volunteers, by nature, eventually move on, and we have to recruit and train and support new ones. We’ve planned and hosted two new support groups, a board game night, a drop in art night, an inclusive sex ed class, a meditation class, STD and HIV testing, an LGBT ASL class, teen events, gender marker and name change clinics, and a clothing closet. We’ve had illnesses, custody cases, new jobs, moving, blizzards, bad news, hate mail, panic attacks, car accidents, weddings, sick pets, and surgeries. And all of the little dramas you might expect from a place that welcomes all sorts of people through its doors, promising them a couch, a TV, a granola bar, and a listening ear. None of these are excuses for the ways we’ve failed to respond to the community’s needs in a public way, but we haven’t always known where to begin. We know it’s not okay. We have to do better.
Here’s what we have accomplished this week, and what we have coming up in the next week.
Staff, board, and volunteers have a Mandt training class coming up later this month. You can read about Mandt training here: https://www.mandtsystem.com/
Staff is taking a Queer ASL Class online beginning this month. They are also putting together a task force to tackle the issue of how to sustainably, consistently provide and fund ASL interpretation during our drop in hours and all of our events. We know that for this professional service, we need to set aside a sizeable portion of our budget to make it work. We are committed to figuring this out.
The Center Coordinator is enrolled in a training provided by St. Louis’ Queer+ Support Helpline, which will lead to them providing over the phone peer counseling to queer people in Missouri. This is a volunteer-run community organization in St. Louis that has been very successful. I am eager to learn from them and know that KCCI will benefit from their knowledge and experience.
Beginning next week, the following reduced hours will be in effect. This change is temporary as we seek training, improve our processes, and shift our programming offsite.
Sundays: Open volunteer work sessions will take place from 10-1. These are for current volunteers who wish to help with things like Pride, website updates, cleaning up our Google Drive, creating materials for outreach and/or social media, and improving our resources. The sessions will be led by the Center Coordinator but determined by whoever shows up and what they want to work on. We will explain more about how to sign up before the first work session on 5/15.
Sundays 1-5: Weekly Drop In hours at KCCI. Our staff and board member, along with any volunteers who wish to join, are present in the Center to help people access community resources, including binders. **This will be the one time a week that the Center will be open to the public.**
Tuesdays and Thursdays: the phone will be answered between 4-6 for anyone seeking community resources.
Current active volunteers, such as ambassadors, can continue to be present at KCCI during their usual times, and can help with emails and various projects we are working on. They are also going to be receiving more in depth training so we can increase our drop in hours in a safe, sustainable, and more accessible way.
We are available by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) as always.