As we look forward to 2017, we want to reflect on the past to renew our resolve for the future. For many in the LGBTQ community, 2016 was a challenging year; but we must accept the challenges so we can feel the exhilaration of victory ahead of us. And to accept a challenge is to make a commitment to bring out the best in ourselves and in others, including our adversaries.
Despite the unimaginable loss in Orlando, the next day, GALAS participated in the annual LA PRIDE where we all dodged a bullet thanks to the diligent work of West Hollywood authorities who arrested a 20 year-old male armed to his teeth on his way to the parade. In a year where the LGBTQ community was fighting “bathroom bills” in North Carolina, we also sent 56 openly gay athletes to the Olympics and had a first openly lesbian Miss America contestant – from Missouri. In the year of electing Donald Trump and Mike Pence, Oregon elected Kate Brown as governor, the highest ranking LGBTQ person in the United States. Our work is nowhere near complete, but we must look to the future with optimism.
GALAS had a remarkable year in 2016. The election of a new Board of Directors in June ushered in a new era for GALAS. After a successful Thanksgiving Celebration fundraiser, GALAS donated $1,000 to PINK Armenia (first LGBTQ NGO in Armenia) for the inaugural funding of urgently needed LGBTQ community center in Yerevan. In December, GALAS partnered with AYF (Armenian Youth Federation), the youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, for the screening of “Listen to Me”, a documentary produced by PINK Armenia about the struggles of the LGBTQ individuals in Armenia. The partnership with AYF is an unprecedented alliance between a culturally and politically active, global Armenian organization and the LGBTQ community. GALAS welcomes this alliance and pledges to work with AYF to advance equality in Armenian communities worldwide.
With wider aim, GALAS understands the need for organizations that focus their efforts locally. While organizations like PINK Armenia are in the trenches fighting for LGBTQ equality in Armenia, GALAS is fortunate to find itself in a relatively safe environment, with luxury of hindsight, continuing to fight against bigotry by affecting change in ways local organizations may not be able to. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the entertainment/media capital of the world, the second largest Armenian community outside of Armenia, we must use our talents, resources and experience in innovative and effective ways where we already have a natural advantage. Through witnessing societal change in the United States in the last few decades, we know the formula for advancing equality – it is through visibility and positive representation of LGBTQ individuals in the media and everyday life. With your help and with new alliances, GALAS is determined to continue its quest in creating stronger, more inclusive Armenian communities worldwide. Happy 2017 from GALAS family to you and your loved ones!