The founders of Baldwin Park’s new LGBTQ+ group want to help connect like-minded people for support and interaction.
Byron Lee was searching the Baldwin Park Homeowner’s Association page for groups to join in the area when he noticed something was missing.
The page had groups for nearly everything — from sports clubs to art, yoga, moms with strollers, Chinese board games and more. Lee felt like none of the groups was for him.
Lee says he had seen Pride flags around the neighborhood, but when he searched for a local group, he came up with nothing.
That’s when he got the idea.
“I wanted to create something where I could meet up with others that liked and experienced some of the same things that I did,” Lee says.
Lee started the LGBTQ+ Facebook group in May, with the help of Baldwin Park couple, Rachel and Cortney Blank.
Rachel and Cortney say they had first heard of the group in an emailed newsletter the HOA sent out. When they saw an LGTBQ+ group was being created, they knew they had to get involved.
“When I saw ‘LGTBQ+,’ my ears perked up,” Rachel says. “We’ve made a lot of great friends here, but we never met anyone queer in the neighborhood. We were excited for the potential opportunity to meet like-minded individuals in our home area.”
The couple reached out to Lee, met up and connected immediately.
Lee, who wasn’t on Facebook at the time, says Rachel and Cortney had the idea to bring the group to social media to get more people involved. Soon, others began to hear of the group and joined. The new members introduced themselves in short posts about their lives with activities and restaurants they enjoyed.
Rachel says the members currently meet at local coffee shops or to grab dinner. However, the goal is to grow the group beyond that.
“It would be great to meet more people in the group and have barbecues or pool parties or even to go to Pride events together,” she says.
Lee says COVID-19 has been a big factor in preventing the progress of the group. The process of booking larger areas such as local pavilions or obtaining reservations for groups of people has become more difficult because of social distancing and other safety guidelines.
Rachel says she hopes the group gives like-minded people a way to connect, interact and support one another.
“I don’t necessarily identify as someone who’s like, ‘I’m a lesbian,’ or, ‘Oh, I like rainbows,’” Rachel says. “I’m just a person who happens to be married to a woman, and we have a family that I love very much.”
Rachel says she believes there is always a need for people everywhere to find others like them so they can feel connected in their community through friendships or support systems. She feels she, Cortney and their family have found that in Orlando and Baldwin Park.
“There have been incidents where someone has made a comment or been rude, but I have never felt threatened or scared when living here,” Rachel says. “This community stood out to us for a number of reasons when we were deciding where to live but I love how diverse and accepting it is here.”
Lee and Rachel say although the community is generally accepting, they still are cautious in certain situations.
“We did have some concerns even just introducing ourselves as the new neighbors where there was some confusion when people thought we were sisters or roommates, and then you have to explain to them, ‘No, this is my wife and my daughter, and we are a family unit,’” Rachel says.
Group members say safety is another important reason to have the LGBTQ+ group in the community. If there are ever issues, the group could provide a support system of people to talk to, obtain resources and learn how to gain support from allies.
The group welcomes everyone no matter age, location, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or skin color.
To join the group, visit “Baldwin Park Orlando LGBTQ+” on Facebook, or for more information, email Byron Lee at [email protected].
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