In coordination with the U.S. Department of State, the International Leadership Visitor Program and Global Ties Arizona, a group of scholars and grass root activists from the nation of Poland spent a week in the desert state to discuss ongoing efforts of groups advocating change for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities. The theme of this program was engaging LGBTI allies to better the understanding of LGBT communities.
One of the first meetings our visitor’s from Poland attended was with the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of America (ACLU). The Executive Director of this organization discussed ACLU’s LGBT Project which fights discrimination and seeks to move public opinion on LGBT rights through the courts, legislatures and public education and how the mission is to foster a society in which all enjoy the basic rights of equality, privacy and person autonomy.
Members of PFLAG, a National organization advocating for sexual and gender minorities, discussed how the organization offers support for family members and friends of sexual and gender minorities within the Native American communities of Arizona. PFLAG maintains chapters around the nation. Scholars from Poland were surprised that efforts were being focused on Native American communities and related their experiences with peoples from various nations versus those with ethnic differences.
A group named One-n-Ten maintains a mission to serve LGBTQ youth and young adults ages 14-24. One-n-Ten enhances LGBTQ lives by providing empowering social and service programs that promote self?expression, self?acceptance, leadership development and healthy life choices.A representative from the group presented an overview of their programs promoting education, employment, and empowerment as well as health and wellness and housing for homeless LGBTQ youth.
A lobbyists from the group named Queer Undocumented Immigration Project (QUIP) focused on lobbying policymakers to fight for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, as well as other issues that affect members of the community in a discussion of LGBT rights for Arizona citizens.
The local Arizona board for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) along with a member from the Executive Committee of GLSEN National Board of Directors, discussed GLSEN’s mission at the local, state and national levels. The representative from this group elected to host the Polish in her home to discuss issues facing her organization and the GLS community as a whole. She discussed local trainings and resources as well as GLSEN’s Sports Project which aims to promote equality and inclusiveness amongst student athletes.
In a meeting with the Phoenix Police Department LGBTQ Advisory Board members, members discussed their role as community liaisons to the LGBTQ community and their work to keep the
community safe by maintaining open dialogue between the police department and the LGBTQ community.
The Polish delegation also met with Arizona State Senator Katie Hobbs. Senator Hobbs is a long-time activist for the LGBT community in our state and discussed the challenges surrounding advancing LGBTI legislation in Arizona. Being that Arizona is known as one of the most conservative states in America, Senator Hobbs detailed the importance of social issues in the state and discussed various pieces of legislation supporting LGBT communities.
One of the last items on the Polish Delegation’s agenda was an evening of conversation and good food at the home of Global Ties AZ member, Ms. Wendy Anderton. Wendy serves as Secretary on the Global Ties Arizona Board of Directors and has hosted international visitors in her home over the past several years. The group enjoyed authentic American cuisines and casual conversation about fun things to do in the Valley of the Sun.
Overall, this group of leaders developed a keen understanding of efforts in Arizona’s LGBT community. Through meetings at the State’s Capitol and conversations with well-known activists in our state, the Delegation from Poland will now take the knowledge learned here to better the coalition for LGBT rights in their home nation.