LGBTQ Organizations and Social Groups in Sarasota County
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LGBTQ Organizations and Social Groups in Sarasota County

Sarasota County is an inviting region for all people, thanks in part to some amazing advocacy group in the area. Learn more about the LGBTQ youth and family organizations, social groups, entertainment groups, health and support organizations and many more within the area.

Sarasota has several appealing attributes that make it an attractive place to visit and to live: gorgeous beaches, colorful history, a vibrant arts community, swanky nightlife, and an enticing culinary scene. In other words, it's the kind of place where everyone simply wants to be--so it should come as no surprise that as increasing numbers of LGBTQ couples seek out coastal cities to vacation, raise families, and retire, Sarasota is on the radar. As a city that strives to celebrate its diversity and embrace inclusiveness, Sarasota offers a variety of opportunities for its LGBTQ residents and guests to get out and about, share interests and make connections. The LGBTQ demographic is a visible and valued presence in Sarasota, where a growing number organizations and social groups currently contribute to the colorful tapestry of our community. Check out our overview of active youth organizations, social groups, diversity-inclusive churches, advocacy and support groups, and LGBTQ business and social groups in Sarasota County.

Youth and Family Organizations

ALSO Out Youth (ALSO stands for "Advocacy, Leadership, Support and Outreach") is Sarasota's oldest and largest organization dedicated to support and outreach for LGBTQ youth. The organization was founded in 1992 response to alarming statistics documenting the high suicide rates of gay teens, and in just over two decades has grown into a comprehensive program that offers educational programs, peer support services, advocacy, and provides mentor and counseling referrals for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual and questioning youths, ages 13-21, and their parents.

The ALSO Drop-in Center is a safe, drug-free space where teens can "drop in" on weekdays and participate in special programming and field trips, and connect with guest speakers to participate in a healthy dialogue about LGBTQ issues and advocacy.

The Prism Youth Initiative in neighboring Manatee County is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to advocacy, support and empowerment for LGBTQ youth in Manatee and Sarasota County. In addition to providing support, advocacy and educational programs about bullying, suicide and HIV-prevention for LGBTQ youth, Prism works with Manatee Children's Services to provide assistance to homeless youth ages 18-23, and offers referrals for no-cost counseling that can be provided by a licensed health counselor.

Notably, Sarasota's New College of Florida is consistently ranked among the most LGBTQ-friendly colleges in the nation. As one of the most liberal college campuses in the United States, New College champions diversity and inclusiveness in its extracurricular agenda, as well as in the classroom. The school offers a gender studies program that intersects gay, lesbian and queer studies, women's studies, masculine studies, feminist studies, and ethics in the fields of sexuality and gender.

Social Groups and Networking

Through the organizations and institutions listed above, Sarasota County not only provides a healthy support and advocacy system, but also a social network for its LGBTQ youth. And if you were wondering, gay grownups, the answer is yes: the city offers a robust scene for you to meet and mingle, as well.

Prime Timers Sarasota is a social organization for mature gay and bisexual men, ages 21 and over, that organizes and promote social activities and educational events featuring topics that affect the gay community. Chartered in 2001, Prime Timers Sarasota has over 200 active members from the Suncoast area and serves a primary function of facilitating friendships and companionship among gay men of the Gulf Coast through its social events.

Prime Timers Sarasota is part of the oldest, largest and most geographically-dispersed organization for gay and bisexual men, Prime Timers Worldwide. As part of an international organization, members enjoy the benefits of taking part in the local Prime Timers social calendar, as well as the opportunity to network and forge friendships with other gay and bisexual men around the world.

For lesbians in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Petersburg and Tampa Pro Suzy has a finger on the pulse of the Sapphic social community. Pro Suzy provides a dedicated calendar of LGBTQ women's events and social gatherings on in the Bay area, as well as a directory of LGBTQ-friendly businesses, healthcare providers attorneys, real estate agencies, and more.

Sarasota realtor, Donald Geikie, founded the Gay Real Estate Executive Network (GREEN) in 2005 in an effort to encourage inclusiveness in what he says was once a cut-throat real estate community. Today, the network that started out with less than a dozen members now includes more than 50 members in the real estate industry and associated businesses. GREEN serves as an LGBTQ-friendly real estate business network whose members also participate in civic and charitable endeavors dedicated to LGBTQ causes, as well as non-LGBTQ-related causes, that affect the greater community of Sarasota.

At AMF Lanes in Sarasota, the League of Our Own bowling team was formed in 2012 as an LGBTQ bowling league (members are primarily gay, but anyone is welcome!) that gathers for both sport and charity: A portion of proceeds from raffles and league events are donated to an AIDS charity of the league's discretion. League of Our Own is a member of the International Gay Bowling Organization, making them eligible to compete in gay bowling tournaments throughout the country. The League of Our Own bowling league meets weekly on Monday evenings at AMF Lanes, near downtown Sarasota.

Art, Theatre and Entertainment Groups

Currently rounding out its sixth season, [email protected] is Sarasota's premier performing arts event that connects the LGBTQ community through exceptional theatre. [email protected] hosts a dynamic evening of theatre once a month during its season, featuring different LGBTQ organizations. Attendees have the opportunity to participate in an evening of rich  theatre that includes a performance, a pre-show reception and a chance to mingle with actors and OUT attendees after the show, as well as an informative showcase of participating LGBTQ organizations.

Luck Be A Lady - Performed by Asolo Rep
Luck Be A Lady - Performed by Asolo Rep

The upcoming OU[email protected] performance of Luck Be a Lady on May 7 will be held in alliance with GREEN and ALSO Out Youth. Other organizations featured in the 2014-2015 season have included A League of Our Own, Manatee Pride and Prism, Sarasota Pride, and the OUr Sarasota Fund among others.

Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota is a Sarasota LGBTQ chorus group that uses music to bring communities together by promoting diversity through songs of hope, inclusion, equality and humanity. The group emerged through a collaboration between the Gulf Coast Gay Men's Chorus and Harmony: The Women's Voices of Sarasota. Now entering its 18th season, the Diversity group has performed throughout Florida and across the United States.

In 2015, Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota introduced a mixed-ensemble music and stage entertainment group, ENCORE, which debuted with a performance at Equality Florida and Sarasota Film Festival's "A Perfect Wedding" event to commemorate the historic passage of Marriage Equality in Florida.

Health and Support

The Southwest Florida Trans Support Group consists of three groups that meet up once a month in the Sarasota County area. The groups include a trans-feminine support group, a trans-masculine support group, and a support group for loved ones of of transgender and gender-variant individuals. These groups offer emotional and social support, as well as education on trans topics, and are facilitated by licensed psychotherapists and gender specialists.

CAN Community Health was founded in 1991 and is to this day a cornerstone of the HIV/AIDS support community in Sarasota. We are a private, non-profit organization dedicated to the treatment, care and continual wellness of people living with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, sexually transmitted diseases and other diseases. Our clinics offer medical, dental, psychological and lifestyle counseling to all patients, regardless of their financial situation, insurance status or ability to pay. CAN has also become a part of the LGBT community offering education, assistance and support to other local organizations. Two CAN locations are accessible to Sarasota County residents, in the city of Sarasota and in North Port.

The HIV/AIDS Network of Southwest Florida is also a valuable resource for care providers and individuals with HIV and AIDS in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto Counties. HANS is part of the larger Regional HIV/AIDS Council, consisting of community representatives and health department directors throughout the state of Florida.

LGBTQ Friendly Ministry

Interweave at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota offers a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all members of the community, including LGBTQ individuals and their families. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota offers a monthly event called "Rainbow Club Movie Nights in the Sanctuary." Rainbow Club Movie Nights take place every 4th Friday of the month at 7:30 p.m., and feature a different LGBTQ theme.

At the Church of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church in Sarasota and the Suncoast Cathedral MCC in Venice, LGBTQ church-goers can find a welcoming and inclusive Christian community. These Church of the Trinity churches hold community service and charity at the core of their faith, and are active in a number of LGBTQ-friendly outreach and charitable efforts.

Trinity MCC churches in Sarasota County collaborate with the Diversity: Voices of Sarasota choral group, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Prime Timers of Sarasota, Sarasota Pride, and offer a support group for HIV/AIDS-positive gay men called POZ M4M.

Pride and Advocacy Groups

It may not come as a surprise that LGBTQ groups in Sarasota throw some of the city's best annual block parties. Events like the Harvey Milk Festival and Sarasota Pride have some of the most robust LGBTQ organizations behind them.

Harvey Milk Festival
Harvey Milk Festival

The Harvey Milk Festival is a springtime arts and music festival that celebrates the life of gay rights activist, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay official to be elected to public office in California in 1977. Equality is the prevailing theme at the annual festival, which features a solid international music lineup, as well as film, visual art, and performance art in a weekend-long event. Arts and music acts bring crowds in the thousands to downtown Sarasota, where festival attendees have the opportunity to mingle with LGBTQ businesses and organizations such as Equality Florida, Florida Veterans for Common Sense, Prism Youth, and the Florida GLBTA Democratic Caucus. The festival is organized and run by a volunteer-run nonprofit, the Harvey Milk Festival organization.

The 2015 Harvey Milk Festival takes place May 14-16.

Sarasota Pride Fest takes place annually in October. The popular annual event is organized and hosted by the nonprofit organization, Sarasota Pride, Inc. Sarasota Pride connects LGBTQ-friendly businesses and organizations with the Sarasota community in a day-long event featuring live music, art, and food vendors. Although Sarasota Pride and the Harvey Milk Festival are separate events, hosted by separate organizations, both are actively involved in both festivals, with a significant overlap in participating vendors and organizations.

Pridefest 2015 is scheduled for October 17, 2015.

The Our Sarasota Fund is an organization that works in partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to pool the financial resources of its members to create an impact in nonprofit organizations, programs and missions that are focused on the betterment of the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people on Sarasota County.

The Our Sarasota Fund operates as a "Giving Circle," pooling funds donated by its members to deposit with the Community Foundation of Sarasota. In turn, the Community Foundation disburses the funds, with Giving Circle approval, to nonprofit organizations, programs and initiatives that improve the lives of Sarasota's LGBTQ community.

Regardless of where you may fall on the rainbow spectrum of diversity--gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, transgender, asexual, or straight ally--there are plenty of opportunities to get out and get involved in Sarasota.

Whether you're simply looking to grab a cocktail with new friends, eager to get involved in the arts or a new hobby, or looking for an LGBTQ organization to donate your time mentoring youth, or your money to support efforts to better the lives of LGBTQ community members: there is a place for everyone to feel at home in Sarasota County.

So pick an activity or a cause and get involved--Sarasota is a great place to belong!