Every day, we work to share the stories, experiences, and triumphs of LGBTQ+ people to lift up the members of our community, show our pride and break down harmful stereotypes. Sharing your personal story isn’t always easy, and for many, it represents a brave leap of faith with the hope they’ll be met with acceptance and love instead of homophobia and distrust. To make it easier, organizations such as Normal Anomaly are here to help – both by training storytellers and by educating the wider public to promote cultural humility and understanding.
The organization was founded by Ian L. Haddock, a local activist in Houston who has worked with faith-based organizations to increase cultural humility with people who identify as LGBTQ+ and has produced written materials and videos that have been featured on Prime Video, Huffington Post, TheGrio, United States Conference on HIV and AIDS (USCHA), Snapchat, and many others, to end stigma and problematic narratives.
Normal Anomaly is working to change the narrative of the Black queer community, specifically at the intersections of health and racial disparities. The group has also boosted efforts to create more needed Black queer spaces by creating the BQ+ Center for Liberation, a resource center in Southwest Houston where the community can access resources such as free HIV testing, employment assistance for virtual and in-person jobs, and soon, a community burial fund.
Haddock chose the location for the BQ+ Center in an area with the highest concentration of sex workers, according to OutSmart Magazine.
“It’s right where we want to be—right in the middle of the change,” he said. “We are trying to liberate some of the most marginalized communities and lift each other up while building a coalition of resources.”
The center will soon serve as a gathering space for Black queer communities as well, to share resources, discuss issues the local community is facing, and organize for liberation.
“BQ+ is dedicated to building community resources through programming, events, and collaboration that reduces the incidence and effect of HIV, creating and procuring employment opportunities, housing a community burial fund in partnership with community organizations, building knowledge around policy and advocacy, and providing support groups for issues like intimate-partner violence, racial injustice, and social injustice,” Haddock said.
“The goal is to move the community from ‘anomalies’ – situations where they feel like they are the only one – to actually ‘normalizing’ things such as employment, financial freedom, being [proactive about physical] and mental health.”
Normal Anomaly was created partially in response to the HIV epidemic in the South, which accounts for an estimated 44% of all people living with HIV in the U.S., despite only comprising about one-third of the overall population.
The organization has been supported by Gilead’s COMPASS Initiative, which helps combat the HIV epidemic in the South in part by training local leaders like Haddock and providing support to develop their organizational capacity.
These trainings have ranged from grant writing and leadership development to healing justice, and have helped them build a sustainable organization with programming tailored to the needs of the Houston community, and beyond.
A worthwhile goal, and one we at GLAAD use as a guiding star for our work. Haddock and his team recently took over GLAAD’s Instagram to discuss their work in the community, from fighting stigma in the media, to training faith leaders, to opening the BQ+ Center.
You can watch the whole video, and see a sneak peek of the BQ+ Center via their launch celebration, here.