Central Oregon’s Human Dignity Coalition Celebrates 20 Years

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

When Oregon Ballot Measure 9 was defeated 20 years ago, the residual energy from efforts to oppose it spilled into a number of nascent civil rights organizations, including Basic Rights Oregon, the Rural Organizing Project, and Central Oregon’s Human Dignity Coalition.

As the HDC prepares to celebrate its 20th anniversary with festivities in Bend, I chatted with HDC Executive Director Melissa Adams Gianoplus, MSW, about the past, present, and future of the organization.

PQ: How did the Human Dignity Coalition get started? 

Gianoplus: Human Dignity Coalition was born when a group of Central Oregonians gathered together to oppose the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance (OCA) 1992 Ballot Measure 9, which was successfully defeated by voters.  For those of you who were not here in 1992, Ballot Measure 9 would have forced government agencies, including public schools, to package homosexuality with pedophilia and sadism and recognize homosexuality as “abnormal, wrong, un-natural and perverse…to be discouraged and avoided.”

PQ: How did you get involved?

Gianoplus: I am pansexual so when I found HDC in 2008, I wanted to get involved in helping my community.  I began volunteering at different events that HDC held.  In 2010, when I married my husband, we used our wedding as a platform to share with our wedding guests our support for marriage equality and encouraged our guests to make a donation to HDC in lieu of a wedding gift, using our wedding as a fundraiser for HDC’s marriage equality work.  This past April, I was working in England and wanting to return to Central Oregon, so when I saw that HDC was hiring an Executive Director, I applied and the rest, as they say, is history!  I began my post as HDC’s ED on May 4, 2012.

PQ: Tell me about HDC’s victories.

Gianoplus: In addition to mobilizing successfully to defeat 1992 Ballot Measure 9, we have successfully added anti-discrimination ordinances for the LGBTQ community in the Bend City Countcil, We just celebrated our Fourth Annual Queer Prom, our Eighth Annual Central Oregon Gay Pride event and our Tenth Annual Drag Show.  We are starting monthly Gay Disco nights in December.

PQ: Why did you decide to do a barn dance? Do you think this will become a regular event?

Gianoplus: We are celebrating our 20th Anniversary and the Barn Dance will be held exactly 20 years to the day that Measure 9 was defeated at the polls.  We chose a Barn Dance theme as it provides an opportunity to dress up which is always fun and it’s also a good autumn theme for an event.  If the feedback is positive, we may make this an annual event.

PQ: What can folks expect at the barn dance?

Gianoplus: We will serve a BBQ dinner, dance to music from a very popular local bluegrass band called the Moon Mountain Ramblers, and have an auction and a no-host bar.  We encourage western attire and always welcome genderbending at all of our events, so some will be coming in western drag!  There will also be a costume contest!

PQ: How can people in Bend, and across the state and region, get involved in the HDC’s work?

Gianoplus: The best way for people to find HDC is either on our Human Digntiy Coalition Facebook Page or on our website: Humandignitycoalition.com. On our website, we have a calendar of ALL of the LGBTQ community events for Central Oregon.  Folks can also e-mail us through our website or on our FB page or they can always call the office at; 541-385-3320.

PQ: What is the HDC currently working on? What are its future goals?

Gianoplus: We hold weekly support groups for Queer, Trans and Allied youth.  We also have a weekly support group for Transgender adults.  We have just started our mental health counseling program for members of the LGBTQ  community, this is a free service and is open to individuals, couples, families, youth and adults.  We are working on introducing LGBTQ specific domestic violence response and prevention programs.  We hold social, community events for the Queer & Allied community on a regular basis.

PQ: Is there anything else you want folks to know?

Gianoplus: We are planning a LGBTQ Pride & Prejudice Film Festival to begin Friday November 9th.  This event will run for approximately 10 days and will include shorts as well as feature length films, classics and new releases!

We are also planning a Christmas Disco party at a local club in December called “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel” from the traditional song “Deck the Halls” which will encourage people to dress in either an ugly Christmas sweater, as a Christmas character, or in their gayest outfit!

We just had our first Queer & Allied Youth Halloween Party & Amateur Drag Contest Saturday night.  We had over 50 kids show up and have a great time so we are planning a second alcohol & drug free youth event for December as well!

Human Dignity Coalition Executive Director Melissa Adams Gianoplus, MSW, will be blogging about LGBTQ life in Central Oregon for PQ in the coming weeks. Gianoplus can be reached at humandignitycoalition@gmail.com.