Andre Wade was recently named the executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada. Formerly its director of operations, Wade has spent his career working for nonprofits and within the social service sector, focusing specifically on LGBT youth. He takes the lead of the organization at a time of change within the Center and the country.
What are things the Center does that people don’t really know about? What’s your best-kept secret?
I think our best-kept secret is the training, education and advocacy work that we do. We provide training and education to organizations and companies on LGBTQ competency issues. Also, we provide technical assistance around policies and procedures. We’ve been able to help law enforcement, child welfare providers, mental health providers and the school district to enhance their efforts.
Outside of running programs, we advocate for the needs of clients who need help navigating different systems or simply need support when dealing with school, work or family issues. And on a larger scale, we provide testimony on local issues like comprehensive sex education and statewide bills being considered by the Legislature.
Where do you want to take the Center?
A couple years ago, we talked about being more social service driven. We recognized people who were coming here for social-support programing still had a lot of needs we weren’t necessarily in the position to address. We were referring out to resources in the community, but there was this anxiety about whether people could safely care for the (LGBT) people we were referring. So, we have this vision of providing them with more things in-house.
Before he left, Michael Dimengo (the former executive director) was working on opening a second location in Henderson. Are there still plans to open it?
We’ve decided to put that project on hold and focus on what’s happening at the current Center.
As LGBT issues become more mainstream, there has been a lot of criticism of the community for excluding the stories or experiences of people of color, in particular trans people of color. How has the Center responded to those criticisms?
The first few steps we took to address this in some way was starting a black LGBTQ group last March. We’ve had two LGBTQ Black History Month events and we’ve had different groups come and host events here. We need to open up the space and let people know we’re here to serve that community. We also have plans to have a Latinx (gender-neutral alternative for Latino/Latina) group form here. Again, these are first steps. We have had the criticism that the Center hasn’t been doing a great job of outreaching to people or communities of color.
I think some other next steps would be having those conversations around social justice and race. We had a panel on the black LGBTQ community of Southern Nevada where a lot of these topics came up. We are aware we need to have more conversations. We haven’t gotten there, but we have definitely talked about it and recognized it. We could do more once we have more funding and attract the talent that has the expertise and background in those issues. We also need the support of other people in the community to lead these efforts. When it comes to the people of color communities and trans communities, it’s a lot of different coalitions that need to be formed.
What is the importance of a person of color importance having such an impactful role at the Center?
If you’re at the table and one of the few or the only person of color sitting around the table, you have a responsibility to make sure other people’s voices are heard. If you’re planning an event you have to make sure you’re making it inclusive for all people.
As a whole, the LGBTQ community has voiced concerns about its future under President Trump. Have you seen a change in the mood or atmosphere at the Center with the new administration?
I have. People are expressing anxiety, angst, nervousness and fear around this new administration. People are seeing some of the policy proposals or legislation being passed or making its way through Congress that’s making them more nervous and solidifying their fears. Not only are people afraid in real time about their overall well-being and lives, they are also worried about how their programs will be affected by funding.
The LGBTQ community as a whole was excited when it came to policy and funding. In the past, there was language around grantees needing to have policies in place to care for the LGBTQ community when it goes after grants. Some of that could easily be rolled back, so there is concern that a lot of those things we achieved over the past eight years can go away. It calls for a need of advocacy every day and all day no matter what victories we have. We have to continue to be on point and be ready to fight.