It's been such a fulfilling and unexpected journey building a peer coaching organization for the LGBTQ community. Mike Duffy and I came up with the idea of a dynamic organization that combined a close-knit group of caring coaches from all different walks of life with an ecosystem of healthy, platonic events outside of clubs and bars. When we came up with the initial concept, we were driven by the positive experiences and lessons we learned from others as we aspired to grow as "good gay people."
Mike brought a story of rewarding relationships and life wisdom passed to him from elders when he was a bartender in NYC, and my story was about not feeling like I knew any other gay kids in 1998 and having Youth Pride and Outwrite Books to offer that bridge to others before there were smartphones or apps. We both recounted how despite the progress that had been made with gay marriage, in the military, etc., many of the underpinnings to provide interactions, support, care and camaraderie were being lost. With all the innovations and technology for hypersexualized connections, the more simple and lasting connections outside of immediate and small friend circles were more difficult to cultivate. More notably, our efforts as a community to help and support those coming out at any age and stage of life were less defined. It’s been rewarding to consistently find that we are supporting a mix of young people, elders and a number of dads previously in heterosexual marriages in their journeys to come out and live happy lives.
When we launched publicly in January 2016, we had over 80 people attend the first meeting and more interest to be a coach than we had expected. Similarly, we quickly started interacting with all facets of the community while we were still building out our processes and procedures. We agreed that the Rainbros brand was too narrow, didn't include all the scenarios that were presented to us, and were glad to have to navigate the limitations of the brand so quickly.
In October 2017, I asked the board's permission to start a discernment process for what our new brand could be. We formed a working committee of 8 and brought in a spectrum of people across the organization, both coaches and coachees, to hear how they perceived the brand identity and how that matched our core efforts. More importantly, we also did small group sessions with people who were not a part of Rainbros.
We consulted people across ethnicities and parts of the trans and lesbian communities. We heard what they thought of the needs for coaching and what a place for healthy, accepting events could look like. It was a meaningful process of listening, learning and brainstorming. In the end we were able to find unanimous consensus around the word “belong.” It's the universal desire. Everyone simply wants to belong. Whether it's coaching, supporting the community or a social event, the united theme is searching for, discovering and accepting a sense that you belong at work, with a family or amongst peers and friends.
We also know that without finding that sense of belonging, one cannot easily accept, appreciate and enjoy other parts of their life. It's also nicely universal in terms of identity. All contributing members of the groups we asked feedback from supported the essence of the brand being in line with where we all want to go. Where is that you may ask? The next steps and vision for the organization are to adapt and offer our working models to other managing coaches in the trans and lesbian communities. Also, we are planning our first additional locations to expand the program. Those are likely to be Savannah and Athens.
We are officially launching the new brand at the Fall quarterly meeting on October 19th at 7pm, and we are planning to have many new faces from more facets of the community. Our digital rebranding will occur before, but the quarterly meeting will be the formal switchover. We have already been working with people in the trans community via coaching and we hope to expand that. Work in the lesbian community will be new. For each community, we will support them in building a team of coaches and recruit a managing coach to oversee their team of coaches. I'm excited to learn and listen more to everyone's needs and adapting what's worked well for them throughout this process. We feel that the model of combining healthy social lives and activities with coaching deepens personal growth while increasing happiness in life.
It takes a village to foster all generations of our community and we will need everyone's help to get there over time. Special thanks to all who have helped with the rebrand efforts. You're appreciated.
James Brian Yancey