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Celebrating Diversity: Inside Gwinnett County’s Vibrant LGBTQIA+ Community

Did you know Gwinnett County has an inclusive community known as Visibility Club? It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering connections and providing support for the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual) community.

The club began as a couple’s effort to make new friends close to home. To their delight, the attempt to find local connections quickly grew into a much larger source of support.

The rise of Visibility Club

Founder Rolando Guzman and his husband, Scott, were looking for strong community engagement when they created the Norcross Gay Club in 2017.

Rolando Guzman

“My husband and I had been living in Gwinnett for nearly 20 years. We didn’t have a single friend in the area who was part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I knew there had to be more of us, and I had a hunch that many of us would like some connections closer to home,” said Guzman.

Word of the new safe space for LGBTQIA+ individuals traveled quickly. The group, renamed Visibility Club in 2018, quickly gained traction, and membership soared.

Lisa Briseño, a key contributor to Visibility Club’s journey, shared her perspective on joining the organization.

“I was lucky enough to see a MeetUp invitation to join Norcross Gay Club,” Briseño explains. I was impressed with how welcoming everyone was.”

Lisa Briseño

Briseño’s decision to become involved with the Visibility Club was driven by a desire to give back to her community.

“As I reached a point in my life where I had more time to give back, Visibility Club kept coming up as a way to do that. Honestly, I prayed about it for quite a while, and this was the answer that kept dropping in my lap. I’m so grateful it did!” she beamed.

As a woman, Latina, and pansexual individual, Briseño acknowledges her privilege while also acknowledging the disparities faced by marginalized communities.

“I’ve been lucky, even privileged, to have experienced very little discrimination for who I am,” she shared.

However, this awareness fuels her determination to fight against injustice and discrimination in all its forms.

“If we truly love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then we must do what we can to ensure that all people are treated with respect, dignity, fairness and kindness,” Briseño said.

Rooted in her belief in the inherent worth of every individual, Briseño is driven by a deep sense of empathy and compassion. She now proudly serves as the Community Partner for Visibility Club.

From picnic to pride: the evolution of Gwinnett County’s LGBTQIA+ celebration

By May 2019, the group’s membership had grown to hundreds.

“At first, it was just a small group of members who wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. We planned a picnic. Then we decided to add music and live entertainment and invite more people. In just six weeks, the picnic idea grew into a day-long festival with musicians, food, health information and over 1,000 people!” recounted Guzman.

Briseño emphasized that what makes Gwinnett Pride special is “the warmth and sense of community that you notice when you arrive at the festival. Attendees appreciate having a safe space to be themselves out in the open and in their backyards.”

Fostering significant inclusion

Gwinnett Pride’s impact extends beyond a single celebration. It addresses a fundamental need for inclusivity among LGBTQIA+ individuals in Gwinnett County.

“The festival fills a need for community connection among LGBTQIA+ Gwinnett residents and their allies,” Briseño said.

“The fact that the festival had such a great turnout in 2019 and came back just as strong in 2022 tells us there are so many people who want to find a place to be themselves—to connect and to celebrate who they are,” she added.

At the festival, connections were made and dreams were realized.

Guzman recalled an important moment for him and his husband as the first Pride came to a close.

“Near the end of our first Pride, I looked to the stage and noticed two women slow dancing on the dance floor. My husband and I had attended many events at that same park, just sitting there, watching straight couples dance. It never crossed my mind that in my lifetime I’d see a same-sex couple doing the same,” he recalled.

“It was at that exact moment that I knew we had shifted a paradigm that day. We had altered the course of history for our community living in Gwinnett County. Things would never be the same for us,” Guzman added.

This event’s historical significance resonated deeply within the community.

“The following weeks, we received many messages from local residents, telling us how much this event meant to them,” Guzman shared.

The future of Gwinnett Pride and Visibility Club

Guzman envisions expansion for Gwinnett Pride and the Visibility Club.

“We see so much opportunity for growth. We’d love to welcome even more active members and keep having events for everyone,” he shared.

Gwinnett Pride has undergone significant evolution over the years, adapting to the needs and preferences of its attendees while remaining true to its mission of fostering inclusivity and celebration.

This year, the event will take place at Thrasher Park, 93 Park Dr, Norcross, GA, on Saturday, June 8, from 12 to 7 p.m.

“We try to stay responsive to feedback. We’re grateful for each sponsor, donor, volunteer, and attendee. So, we listen to their suggestions and adapt as we can,” said Guzman.

One notable change based on feedback from previous events was the decision to return to Thrasher Park for this year’s festival.

“After trying Lillian Webb Park in 2021, many attendees told us they liked holding the festival at Thrasher Park better, so we’re back there,” Guzman explained.

Gwinnett Pride continues to seek opportunities to enhance the festival experience each year. Organizers plan to start live performances later to allow attendees ample time to explore vendor offerings without missing any of the show.

Efforts are also underway to expand the variety of vendors present at the event, further enriching the experience for attendees.

“We hope to expand the kinds of vendors we have while welcoming back many friends. To reinforce our commitment to make everyone feel represented and valued, we’re focusing on increasing the diversity of the talent that performs at the festival,” Guzman shared.

Representatives from local places of worship that embrace the LGBTQIA+ community have been invited to open the show with a unified message of inclusivity.

Additionally, keynote speakers have been carefully selected to inspire attendees to join the movement towards a more inclusive society.

Tips for a fulfilling experience at Gwinnett Pride

Parking can be limited around the park during events, so attendees are encouraged to utilize ride-share services or park at the official Gwinnett Pride parking at Christ Church Episcopal on 400 Holcomb Bridge Rd, just two blocks from the park.

Briseño added a practical “mom” reminder: “Make sure you have water and sunscreen, although we’re happy to share ours!”

Guzman emphasized the inclusive nature of the event, stating, “All are welcome at this family-friendly event. We ask everyone to come with an open heart, kindness and respect.”

Supporting Visibility Club and Gwinnett Pride

Like any large event, organizing Gwinnett Pride comes with its share of obstacles. However, generous contributions from sponsors, including Positive Impact and Gwinnett County, along with donations from Visibility Club members and festival attendees, ensure the festival’s success. The City of Norcross also plays a crucial role in facilitating the event each year.

Volunteer recruitment is another ongoing challenge. Those interested in contributing their services are encouraged to sign up through the Gwinnett Pride website (gwinnettpride.org).

Beyond Gwinnett Pride, Visibility Club continues to support the LGBTQIA+ community through various social and community service initiatives. There are continued opportunities for connection and engagement. Upcoming events include mini golf, bowling and community service projects, like volunteering at the local animal shelter.

Individuals eager to support or engage with Visibility Club and Gwinnett Pride can readily connect with the organizations through popular social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

“Following our pages is a great way to stay updated on upcoming events and initiatives,” noted Guzman. Additionally, signing up for the newsletter on the Visibility Club website is an excellent way of staying informed and engaged.

Local businesses or organizations looking to demonstrate their support for Gwinnett Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community have several available avenues.

“Becoming a vendor at Gwinnett Pride, sponsoring the event or volunteering time and resources are all impactful ways to show support,” emphasized Briseño.

Applications for vendor spots remain open until capacity is reached. Interested parties can find more details on the event’s website.

Businesses or organizations can also express solidarity by displaying the Pride or Progress flag.

“This gesture sends a powerful message of inclusivity and acceptance,” explained Guzman. “It lets LGBTQIA+ individuals know they are valued and welcome in the community.”

Friends, neighbors and loved ones – all year long

Visibility Club and Gwinnett Pride extend a heartfelt message to LGBTQIA+ individuals, underscoring their worth, love and belonging within Gwinnett County. They affirm the worth of marginalized communities and encourage everyone to speak up against hate and discrimination.

“Our organizations are dedicated to fostering an inclusive and supportive community for all members,” said Briseño.

They urge everyone to advocate for a more equitable and compassionate society. As allies and advocates, individuals are invited to join ongoing efforts to create a better and more welcoming environment for all residents of Gwinnett County.

Deeply passionate about creating community and supporting one another, Briseño and Guzman shared a closing message from their hearts.

“We’d first like to speak to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans people, queer folx, people who are intersex, asexual and any other person that has been oppressed or marginalized because of who you are or who you love. You are enough. You are loved. And you have a community right here in Gwinnett County,” they shared.

“And for everyone, while June is recognized as Pride Month, we are your friends, neighbors and loved ones all year long. When you see injustice or hatred, speak up. Whether it be someone making ill-informed comments or intentionally making others feel unwelcome, let them know that hate and discrimination have no place in our community. We enthusiastically welcome you to work alongside us to make Gwinnett County a better place for all of us to live!” they added.

Photos courtesy of Visibility Club

Written By

Kristen Corley is an Atlanta native with over a decade of experience in content creation. She lives in Historic Norcross with her family and writes "Young Norcross," a weekly newsletter that focuses on building community and local engagement.

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