For Tahoe Pride, it’s all about developing a tolerant and diverse community.
Gregory Cremeans founded Tahoe Pride in 2010 as a way to bring people out of the closet and together through social gatherings and other events. The group’s mission: to create a safe, welcoming haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents and to promote education and communication throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Tahoe Pride’s Facebook page now boasts more than 150 likes and members are working to turn the group into a nonprofit with a formal board of directors this summer. They’re also working to establish a PFLAG chapter, a branch of a national group that serves to educate friends and family of gays and lesbians.
“We do want to ramp it up. We want to have a physical center where people can meet, get counseling. It would be a regular LGBT center,” Tahoe Pride member Dawn Harkins said. “We want to be more visible in the community.”
The organization will wrap up its June Pride Month events this Saturday with the third annual hike to Winnemucca Lake south of Carson Pass. The celebrations, held during California’s LGBT pride month and designed for the active Tahoe lifestyle, included a Pride Walk, an ice cream social and fundraiser, a future focus meeting and two social mixers.
Funds from the ice cream social benefited Lake Tahoe Community College’s Friends of Ally scholarship program. The student club started more than two years ago with a mission similar to Tahoe Pride’s: to support the LGBTQIA community on campus and in the city.
When Friends of Ally started, there weren’t many options for LGBT students at the college, according to club advisor Lisa Shafer. Now club members hold multiple community service events throughout the year and the college will offer an introduction to LGBT studies in the fall.
“You can’t be scared of a gay person if you know a gay person,” Shafer said. “We’ve had a lot of support and Tahoe Pride has been like a big brother / big sister for us.”
It’s not uncommon for people to wonder if there are any gay residents in South Lake Tahoe, Harkins said. Tahoe Pride’s monthly mixers, meet-ups and beach days help unite the LGBT community, she said.
It’s also a way to combat any discrimination or bias. While neither Shafer nor Harkins said they’ve witnessed negative attitudes toward either the student group or Tahoe Pride, a recent study found a large number of hateful tweets coming from the South Shore. When compared to the national average, El Dorado and Douglas counties showed the highest frequency of homophobic tweets in California or Nevada.
“My hair stood on end. I was mortified. It blew my mind that Tahoe stood out among other areas like that,” Harkins said of the report. “We all have our little worlds. We choose our friends because they share our values. I don’t see that mentality because I don’t have friends who think like that.”