Several times each month, Memphis Gaydar will feature Q&As with LGBT Memphians who are making a difference. For the inaugural LGBT Voices post, we've chosen Will Batts, the executive director of the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC), which has offered programs, services, and support for LGBT Memphians since 1989.
1. How long have you served as executive director of MGLCC?
Since July 1, 2008
2. How did you get that position? Did you ever see yourself heading up a LGBT community center?
It was a long route. I've done many different types of jobs in my life — bookstore manager, high school religion/psychology teacher, psychology graduate student, corporate flunky, small business owner, and now MGLCC E.D. Each job I've had has taught me some skill that I use in this job, whether it's how to keep the books, run a small business, or how to listen effectively to people in crisis. I became involved with MGLCC through the Outflix Film Festival back in 2005. I just never left because I love this organization and the impact we have in the community.
3. What are your favorite things about the job?
I love watching people transform and grow. People often come to MGLCC worried about coming out, looking for support or friends, struggling with job or family issues, or in real crisis. Seeing them find their own inner strength to live free, happy, and healthy lives is so amazing!
4. Anything you don't like?
It's very difficult to hear stories of abuse, despair, attempted suicide, family violence, or rejection. I struggle when I hear young people talk about the things they have to do to survive on the streets. I hate not being able to fix everything. Those are very long days.
5. What has been the most rewarding moment so far?
Lots of things make me happy about my job. But I am most touched when people say, "Thanks for being here. I'm not sure I would have survived without this place." I tear up every time because I know it's very likely true.
6. How far would you say Memphis has come regarding LGBT equality and acceptance? We've come a very long way just since I've been connected with MGLCC. We have so many supportive churches, businesses, and other agencies. We have many LGBT folks appearing openly in the media. Outflix Film Festival grows every year. Pride has become a must-go event. I think we're reaching a tipping point in our community where acceptance of LGBT equality is becoming the norm rather than the rarity. And I love it! It means the people of my community will be safer.
7. Now that the city and county have passed employment non-discrimination ordinances, what do you see as next on the horizon in the local fight for LGBT equality?
Making sure our kids are safe in their schools. Kids are coming out so much younger than my generation did, which often makes them targets. We need to ensure that not only are there strong anti-bullying policies in place but that all adults have the buy-in to protect kids regardless of their own personal beliefs. That and making Memphis a safer place for our transgender brothers and sisters. Education and awareness are keys to a safer community.
8. Okay, enough serious talk. What's your favorite Memphis restaurant?
I could eat at Soul Fish every day!
9. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 3 things would you want to have with you?
You mean besides a daily meal from Soul Fish? My hubby Curtis, my favorite book The Count of Monte Cristo, and a toothbrush!!!
10. What's on your iPod right now?
Green Day, Johnny Cash, Aaron Copland, White Stripes, The Killers, Patsy Cline, George Winston, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Blondie
11. Last book you read?
Game of Thrones
12. What do you want for Christmas?
Marriage equality … but I'll settle for an iPad. This time.