An LGBTQ Renaissance In Juneau

SEAGLA members get together to march in Juneau’s 2014 July 4th parade. (Photo courtesy James Hoagland)
SEAGLA members get together to march in Juneau’s 2014 July 4th parade. (Photo courtesy James Hoagland)

Juneau’s alliance group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people has been going through a renaissance with new board members and energy. Now, with recent grant funding, SEAGLA hopes to increase visibility and awareness in the capital city and beyond.

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SEAGLA has been around since the early 1980s providing support for the LGBTQ community in Juneau. The name used to be an acronym for Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance, but it’s moved away from that strict definition to be more inclusive.

For years, SEAGLA’s programming consisted of a weekly Friday night social and an annual picnic. Last year, SEAGLA organized a first ever Pride Week in Juneau with several events.

“We did a film festival, a hike, a kickball game, a karaoke night, a big dance and a picnic,” says James Hoagland, one of eight volunteer board members. “All sorts of different kinds of events because we wanted to see who was out there, who our community was and what they needed from us, and we found that they liked all the events and they said, ‘We need more of this and we need to do it even bigger.’”

The annual picnic last year drew about 200 people, the biggest attendance in the organization’s history.

It recently received a $5,000 grant from thePride Foundation, which supports LGBTQ groups in the Northwest. It awarded funds to 56 organizations – three in Alaska. This is the largest grant SEAGLA has ever received.

The money will help expand programming.

“We know that there are hundreds of people out there who just even locally want to get together and do things and build community in all sorts of ways,” Hoagland says.

SEAGLA is meant to be an alliance group for all of Southeast Alaska, but it’s historically served just Juneau. The grant will allow the nonprofit to bridge gaps and offer services to other Southeast communities. Hoagland says individuals in Ketchikan, Haines, Sitka and Skagway have reached out to SEAGLA.

Josh Hemsath with Pride Foundation in Anchorage says the organization gave funding to SEAGLA for this very reason. Anchorage-based Identity Inc. also received a grant to bring students from rural areas to a youth leadership summit at Birchwood Camp.

“The need that we were seeing was how best to address serving individuals, whether they be youth or people who experience geographic isolation because they live in rural and remote communities,” Hemsath says.

Outside of grant funding, Hoagland hopes SEAGLA can grow in other ways.

“It’ll be particularly interesting during the legislative session and figuring out how to plug SEAGLA into the really dynamic political landscape that’s going on right now in Alaska for LGBT people,” Hoagland says.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage, Hoagland says other issues are ripe for change. Representatives Cathy Muñoz, a Republican, and Democrat Andy Josephson have pre-filed billsto add sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Hoagland says SEAGLA can play a role in education. He says many Alaskans don’t even realize that people can get fired from a job because of sexual orientation.

“They thought that maybe we’re protected under another law or something like that and it’s just not the case and I think that most people understand that that’s just not fair. And just opening up their eyes to the importance of putting that on the books in writing so that we can make sure that people don’t experience a really tragic situation like losing your job just because of the person you love,” Hoagland says.

Hoagland says making a political impact will be a natural outcome of expanding membership and strengthening SEAGLA.