Glo Harrisburg recently opened and is is Harrisburg’s first community center created specifically to serve men who have sex with men (MSM) and transwomen of color. Complete with a Youth Advisory Board, Glo provides support and resources LGBTQ neighbors and friends seek. Jonathan L. Branch, Peer Engagement Specialist for GLO, shared more about the organizations mission.
Photo Credit: Pexels
What is the importance of having a community center created specifically to serve men who have sex with men of color (MSM) and transwomen of color?
GLO Hbg: For so long we have had to get services in white spaces from service providers that are sometimes well-intended but often so far removed from our communities they don’t understand or appreciate our specific needs. Now we have a place where our voices and experiences are not only shared but centered so the importance of this center is major! Think before this center was created, before we opened these doors there was no place that people like me or my friends could to go and share a safe space and talk about the things that affect us in our communities and be heard by people that are just like us. Statistics say that 1 out of 2 MSM of color will contract HIV in their lifetime. Twenty-four trans women of color have been murdered since the beginning of this year and that's just the ones we know about. Those numbers are scary; that could be any of my friends. There are young, black MSM who are homeless and couch surfing because they got kicked out of their homes for wanting to live their truth. What we are doing here in little old Harrisburg is providing a safe place for MSM and trans women of color to take off the mask that they have to wear for the world so they can survive. We are here to give hope, peace, understanding and most importantly love.
Photo Credit: Facebook.com/GloHbg
Is GLO an acronym and if so, what does it stand for?
GLO Hbg: GLO is actually not an acronym but that is a question we get asked a lot! A Youth Advisory Board (YAB) member came up with the name during one of our meetings months ago. This was when we were still touring sites with our real estate agent; our community partners were still interviewing candidates, trying to staff the building. We were brainstorming what we would call this thing and he just said, “what about GLOW!” Everyone got quiet for a minute and then it was unanimous--the name fit. A few weeks later we decided to drop the “W” and just use the first three letters. The YAB liked “GLO” for a couple of reasons: the whole idea of shining brightly in darkness really spoke to us, and we use the term when referring to someone coming into their own, becoming more confident and “put together” than before AKA “glow’d up.”
How did you become involved in the opening of the center?
GLO Hbg: GLO is made possible by the collaborative effort of Hamilton Health Center, LGBT Center of Central PA, UPMC Pinnacle’s REACCH program and Valley Youth House with funding from the University of Pittsburgh. Those are our community partners and they’ve spent the past year meeting, planning, budgeting, trying to make this a reality for Harrisburg. At the beginning of this year, I was at a doctor’s appointment and one of the providers told me about a focus group for a possible center for trans women of color and MSM of color they were trying to bring to Harrisburg. I knew that I had to give my input and I did just that. After that, I kept speaking into the universe that I would be working for this center. Late August I got a call with a job offer. I have always wanted to work making a difference and that's just what I’m doing. I understand the task that was placed on me and I don’t take it lightly. Planning this grand opening, being able to sit at the table and having my voice heard is something out of a fairy tale book.