There is something particularly appropriate in the fact that the LikeME Lighthouse, the Kansas City area’s only LGBT community center, is in Mayor Sly James’ old campaign office.
By KELLY LUCK
Last Saturday was the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Lighthouse. Founded under the auspices of out lesbian country music singer Chely Wright, the center is a gathering place for LGBT Kansas Citians of all stripes on the gender and sexuality spectrum.
Mayor James was on hand to open the festivities. In his remarks, he mentioned the unfortunate tendency of people to divide themselves in arbitrary ways. We all know the litany: which side of the Missouri River, which state, east or west of Troost Avenue, the list goes on.
I have volunteered at the Lighthouse for a few months now, and it has been interesting. We welcome through our doors lesbian couples from rural areas arriving for their weekly-ish trip to the big city, young people from practically around the corner, square dancers, video gamers, seniors, youth, every stripe of humanity.
It’s not for nothing that the LGBT movement has taken as its symbol the rainbow.
Which is not to say the place is strictly social. During my time there, I have helped people find therapists, answered questions, made referrals, even helped people shop for accommodations.
We get older people who have spent their lives in hiding and young people who sometimes still have to hide, even now. They come to the Lighthouse because it is a safe space — somewhere they can let down their guard, if only for a while, and be themselves.
I keep comparing this to my youth, raised in the backwaters of rural Kentucky, where a facility like this was — and to a large degree still is — unthinkable. What would have been different, had I a place like this to go to?
How would I be different? How many lessons would I not have had to learn the hard way?
Regardless of where one stands on LGBT issues, it is not unreasonable to view a place where people can go to feel safe, to heal, to know that they are not alone as a good and admirable thing.
Not alone. What I would have given in my youth to know that.
Just ask the many people we see come through our doors searching for help every day.
Ask the young lady who comes in most weeks because her mother won’t accept her for what she is.
Ask the transgender and intersex people who find themselves in a place where they will not be stared at, judged or attacked.
Ask the mother who, in a teleconference with Mrs. Wright during the anniversary celebration, told of her struggle to help her daughter come to terms with herself and how her very first visit to the Lighthouse had worked wonders for her.
This city — the same as any place of any real size, is full of dividing lines. That is human nature.
But the great thing about people is that we can cross those lines and create safe spots where people can leave their differences at the door. All over this town are community centers, shelters, safe spaces and common areas where dividing lines melt away.
As Chely Wright noted in her videocast Saturday, Kansas Citians of all stripes have many things that bring us together: our legendary music, our famous barbecue, our teams losing every year....
So here’s to the Lighthouse and its mission and to everyone who believes in it as I do. There is no better way to commemorate it than to cross a line in your life that you don’t generally cross.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone and see what’s out there. Get to know people outside your usual circle.
Kelly Luck works in information technology. She lives in Kansas City. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.