Rotary's rainbow

Fellowship has created a global home for LGBT members and friends

by Joseph Derr

During a breakout session on “Welcoming the LGBTQ Community Into the Family of Rotary” during the 2017 Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Michelle Wilson, a member of the Rotary Club of Athens Sunrise, Ohio, had a question. “I asked, ‘Why doesn’t Rotary have a group for LGBT+ people?’” When she added, “We should start one,” she says, “the response was overwhelming.”

Before the session had even ended, Sean O’Hara, a member of the Rotary Club of Lake Charles Happy Hour, Louisiana (and later the fellowship’s first president), had opened a Facebook group for LGBT people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). Wilson left the meeting with a stack of business cards from people who wanted to be part of the new group. The LGBT Rotarians and Friends Fellowship was born.

In between regular Zoom events held in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, members like Wilson — who is the group’s current president — are talking to clubs about promoting diversity and telling the story of being LGBT in Rotary.

The fellowship is seeking to work with clubs on projects that support the LGBT community and to offer resources to clubs that want to be more diverse and welcoming to all.