It’s officially been a hot minute since LIKEME Lighthouse opened up shop. The LGBT community center at 39th and Main Streets opened in March 2012, and it has been serving queer Kansas Citians ever since. To celebrate and raise money, Chely Wright — the Lighthouse’s founder and an out country music star — is bringing a big comedy show to town Nov. 13 for one night only.
Wright chatted with Camp about her reflections on the LIKEME Lighthouse’s first year and the comedy show.
Camp: So, it’s been just over a year since the LIKEME Lighthouse opened.
Chely Wright: Yes. It’s been 18 months.
What have been some of the biggest joys of the first year of the Lighthouse?
One of the most gratifying things is watching the dots become connected. KC has a very thriving and active LGBT community. Knowing that most of those groups are, number one, aware of the Lighthouse and, number two, connecting to another group at the Lighthouse — personally for me, that’s gratifying. There’s no way to measure the emotional and, I guess, the visceral feeling of someone who has gone to the Lighthouse and tells you how meaningful it has been in their life. One gal who was 17, her mother had driven her an hour to the Lighthouse.
There’s not another LGBT center for hours and hours around.
Absolutely. What have been some of the unexpected challenges of the first year?
We’re … creatures of habit. For years and years and years, there was not a LIKEME Lighthouse. It’s just a matter of getting the Lighthouse to pop into people’s minds. Where can I get legal aid? Where can I get tested for HIV this month? [We> Just want people to get in the habit. I think some people were reticent because they thought, “they’re not going to make it.” But we’re here to stay. … What was the biggest challenge in the first year? It was that, winning the community’s trust.
Something I really appreciate about the Lighthouse is it’s a safe place. I walked in once and a group of older white women and young African American teenagers were just gabbing away and cracking up in the back. I almost never, ever see that. Why do you think that can be so rare in LGBT spaces, the kind of spaces where we should see racial diversity and gender diversity? How can we address that?
Aunt Char [Charlene Daniels, who is Wright’s aunt and director of operations for the Lighthouse”>, once a week, she sends a cute email or text [about the Lighthouse”>. It was so cool there were 70-year-old grandmothers visiting with young kids. You never see that. What can the LGBT community do to promote that? It is a problem with the LGBT community. I asked young people, “What are we doing wrong, what can we do better?” [They replied”> “Why are all the galas in New York, why do they appear to be all gay white men?” That’s not an unfair observation. … Men make more money