When I was asked to share my experience volunteering with the Borderland Rainbow Center, I thought back to my first interaction with the BRC. Through the Queer Student Alliance organization at UTEP, I participated in their Queer Prom (which, by the way, was way more fun and empowering than my actual prom). From there, I got connected to the BRC and the various programs they host regarding sexual health & education, mental and emotional enrichment programs, as well as all the queer positive social events they have in their space.
As a member of the queer community in El Paso, the direct impacts of educational and enrichment programs on the LGBTQ community is so clear to see and feel. At surface level, anyone can observe the empowerment of an LGBTQ support group. They can understand the immediate impact of having a food pantry for all community members in need.
When you dig a bit deeper to try to understand the impact the BRC in its entirety, the scope of impact becomes much larger. The BRC sows seeds that not only directly benefit the LGBTQ community, they sow seeds that align the LGBTQ community and its causes with other important causes in the El Paso community. These seeds not only strengthen the visibility of our community, but also create allies and build coalitions. Such actions also solidify the role LGBTQ people have as community leaders in El Paso.
In the community organizing world, there is a term called ‘Intersectionality’. Essentially, this term describes the overlapping system of disadvantages that affect communities who exist in multiple categories including; race, gender, sexual identity, socio-economic levels, etc… While the principles of intersectionality are normally used as a tool to describe or explore complex intersecting problems, the BRC has taken the idea of intersectionality and used it as a tool to explore intersectional solutions to intersectional problems. They bring together seemingly different people, who are working on seemingly different causes together under the same rainbow roof to work on solutions that uplift all in our community.
The best examples of this practice are BRC’s weekly food pantry and their refugee relief efforts. These BRC programs are model examples of what it means to create solutions that connect food insecurity and immigration/human rights. While I am tempted to delve into the organizing principles of each program, I will refrain from the lecture and instead talk about the success of the programs, because that’s where the real magic is.
While each program’s organizing principles are intriguing, I want to talk instead about the success of the programs, because that’s where the real magic is.
The BRC and Queer El Pasoans have proven that solutions exist and can be easily implemented. Too often local, state, and national leaders appear debilitated when working on solutions to these systemic issues such as food insecurity and treating refugees/asylum seekers with humanity. Where many government agencies have dropped the ball on food problems, The food pantry provides healthy and nutritious pantry items to hundreds of low income people, (primarily women) on a weekly basis. The refugee relief has provided over 10,000 hot meals and 4,500 travel meals to asylum seekers and refugees at less than $1 per meal. Working with Annunciation House, refugee relief provided food and collected supplies. Both programs are run by LGBTQ volunteers in the space provided by the BRC. They are just two examples of how far the impact of the BRC extends. There is no way to accurately quantify the impact that the BRC has had on those who are touched by their many programs. The fact that LGBTQ people in El Paso are leading the efforts to address that which seems unaddressable makes me so proud to be part of these solutions and even prouder to do it as a queer person.