At a town hall meeting July 11, an overwhelming majority of attendees called on the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast (GALA) to change its name; now, the organization is starting the process.
Almost every seat was filled in the San Luis Obispo County Library meeting room that evening to discuss the potential name change of the organization that's been around since 1989.
One of the commenters, Douglas Heumann, chair of Tranz Central Coast—an organization that offers support, education, and resources for transgender people, their families, allies, and the community—said GALA has had an important presence in the community for almost 30 years.
Heumann served as co-president and then president of the GALA board in the 1990s. During his time he said the organization created a membership format, opened the first community center, and started the first pride festival and pride week.
"So as you can see, even though I resigned the board in '97 to attend law school, I continue to be very personally invested in having GALA be the best LGBTQIA-plus—what I call alphabet soup—organization that it can be," he said. "Name recognition is important, but if an organization's name is not welcoming [and] numerous people and community members do not feel included and supported, then maybe a change is an ethical and just decision."
Executive Director of GALA Michelle Call told New Times that out of all the public commenters of the night, there wasn't a single person who didn't ask for the organization to change its name.
"Really it reflects the change that we have already made. It's reflective of what GALA really stands for," Call said.
What she and the board heard from the community at the town hall meeting is people want to feel a part of and represented by GALA, but the current name doesn't do that.
The following day the GALA board voted, by secret ballot, 9-1 to start the process of changing the name of the organization. Call said the board is currently forming a committee that will be brainstorming a new name and the logistics for rebranding. Δ