Question #1: I’d like to move to The Villages but am concerned about how “gay friendly” it might be. Can you tell me if you’ve run into any problems as gay residents?”
Peggy & Wendy: Peggy and I first came to the Villages (TV) in late 2002. We moved from San Diego where we had enjoyed the benefits of a strong gay community for years. We were very happy with the lifestyle TV offered and knew there must be a “women’s community” here, especially in view of all the sports activities we saw. Sure enough, it didn’t take us long to find a softball team and make connections with any number of lesbians who lived here. Within a few months we also discovered a small, but growing, group of gay men who we were delighted to get to know.
Initially Peggy & I wanted to start an officially sanctioned club right away, however, found that we needed to build some support for that idea within the community. It took a while, but we finally filled out the paperwork, were assigned a meeting time/place, and had our first meeting in August 2007. Since then the Rainbow Family & Friends Club has grown steadily and we’ve sponsored a wide variety of social events, a number of fund-raisers directed towards community service, and educational meetings on pertinent topics of interest to our group.
We are very proud of our club and feel we have done a great deal to promote diversity here in The Villages. People often ask how “gay friendly” is TVs. After all, we are nestled in central Florida, which has been known far and wide as a conservative stronghold for years. Yes, generally speaking people tend to lean towards the right. Both Republicans and Democrats are well represented, however, and there seems to be a general tendency for the “live and let live” philosophy.
All of us have moved here from somewhere else and are anxious to establish a new life, make new friends, etc. I think this tends to make people a little more open to differences than they might be otherwise. And besides, the Gay movement has made tremendous progress in the last decade or so. People are more educated about issues relating to sexual orientation than they were in years past and more willing to accept that all families are not of the “June & Wally Cleaver” variety. This is not to say that we walk the streets holding hands with our partners or dance to slow songs down at the Square. We are here, though, and a part of the larger community.
Peggy & I have never denied that we are a couple, but it doesn’t have to be the opener for every conversation we have. In our dealings and contacts with The Villages regarding the club, however, from the beginning we have been open and direct about who we are as a group. I can tell you without reservation that we have never had a single problem of any kind that would fall in the “homophobia” category. The Villages staff has consistently been nothing but welcoming and helpful to us in every way.
Question #2: Do we have any regrets about moving here?
Peggy & Wendy:
Absolutely none! We remain as happy today as we did when we bought our first home almost seven years ago. In fact, we may even be happier because now we have a broad group of friends and a terrific gay community to be a part of. Do we think The Villages is perfect? No, it is not. But we have yet to find anything that is really of major concern to us. If we’ve had a problem, we’ve always been able to work with the Villages staff to resolve it.
But here’s the thing: The Villages is not for everyone! What I suggest to those who are thinking of moving here is that you do all the homework necessary to make your own choice. Do the Visitation Program, rent a house for a month, participate in as many activities as you can, and ask every question that pops into your head. We offer the website to keep people informed as to what the gay community is up to at any given time and to provide forums for “family” activities of all kinds. Come join us for some of these things and see if our lifestyle here is what you need for yourself.
Question #3: “I am not a resident of the Villages. Can I come to the Rainbow Family & Friends meetings and parties?”
Peggy & Wendy
: This is a tricky, and often, touchy issue. As an officially recognized Resident Council (i.e., club), we must abide by certain rules and regulations. The guidelines we must follow set very specific limits for “non-resident” attendance. In essence, for any of our meetings and Club sponsored parties in which we have been granted a room at no-charge, either a resident ID or a valid visitors ID is required.? However, some of the parties we have are sponsored by residents rather than the club itself. In this case, the room has been rented for the purposes of an event, and therefore, proper ID is not required. Please read the announcements on our website carefully. With each event we try to make sure to indicate if ID is required or not.
Question #4: “How do I become a member of the Rainbow Family & Friends Club?”
Peggy & Wendy:
We’ve made this really easy for anyone who is a Villages resident and wants to join “the club." Simply come to our meetings or parties or events. Like the country clubs, we all become a member of when we buy a house within the Villages. If you choose to participate in Rainbow Family & Friends activities, then you are a member! There are no dues, no formal membership lists, etc. We are very casual about membership so as to be as inclusive as possible and reduce any concerns our participants have about being “identified."
Question #5: “How does the Rainbow Family & Friends Club communicate?”
Peggy & Wendy:
First of all, we have our website. This is operated by volunteers. We make every effort to keep it up-to-date and pertinent. Secondly, we use the e-mail to send a weekly newsletter each week listing on-going activities and upcoming events. We also utilize what we call “website blasts” which are specific notices sent out to our e-mail list when something important needs to be communicated. It could be ticket sales information, meeting reminders, or announcements of various kinds. And then, of course, there are the more formal communications represented by our regular meetings. We try to keep our agendas informative, pertinent, and entertaining. Any ideas you might have for topics would be greatly appreciated.