In the heart of the American South, where tradition and conservative values often hold sway, a quiet revolution is taking place. Hidden away from judgment and prejudice, there exists a sanctuary — a safe haven meticulously crafted for the LGBTQIA+ community. This refuge is known as Publicly Private, a nonprofit organization that serves as a beacon of support, empowerment, and understanding for individuals navigating the complex maze of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Kollyn Conrad, the visionary behind Publicly Private, understands this struggle intimately. His goal is to ensure that LGBTQIA+ individuals, especially the youth, don’t feel as isolated as him growing up.
“I was the odd kid out, I never had someone I could trust,” laments Conrad. “I left Knoxville for Los Angeles because I wanted to move somewhere that would be more accepting of who I was — who I am. I didn’t have the support and resources I needed when I was living in Knoxville, and I knew that many others like me didn’t have these, either. I wanted to work to provide a place of solace for the LGBTQIA+ community.”
A private beginning
In 2021, The Trevor Project released a national survey on LGBTQIA+ youth mental health, which found that “more than one in three youth lived in the US South.” More importantly, it found that growing numbers of LGBTQIA+ youth in the South reported having a harder time finding acceptance and accessing identity-affirming spaces.
“I grew up without being able to figure out how to explore my feelings,” shares Conrad. “I wanted to create a space that offers resources in a discreet and secure way.”
Historically, the American South has faced significant challenges in terms of LGBTQIA+ rights and acceptance. Conservative social and religious values have influenced attitudes, and discriminatory laws and practices have posed barriers to LGBTQIA+ individuals’ rights and well-being. For example, Florida’s more recent “Don’t Say Gay” law has made it difficult for LGBTQIA+ individuals to speak openly about their sexual orientation.
“When I moved to Los Angeles,” Conrad recalls, “I was struck at how supportive and robust the LGBTQIA+ community was. This is the kind of community I want to help create back home in Tennessee, and all the other southern states.”
Fortunately, in recent years, a powerful wave of change has swept across the South, breathing life into vibrant LGBTQIA+ communities and fostering a spirit of acceptance and inclusivity. From the bustling streets of Atlanta to the vibrant scenes of Austin, New Orleans, and Nashville, major cities have become hotbeds of advocacy, allyship, and progress.
It’s important for the rest of the South to take note of these major cities and accept everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. Thanks to organizations like Publicly Private, their work is helping create a positive impact on the LGBTQIA+ community in the South.
Publicly Private is discreetly empowering LGBTQIA+ communities
When exploring your gender identity, no matter your sexual orientation, it’s often difficult to find reliable resources or figure out who you are without a trusted support system. Education surrounding LGBTQIA+ and having a support system plays a crucial role in fostering inclusivity, combating discrimination, and promoting understanding. But more importantly, it provides the LGBTQIA+ individual with a sense of belonging.
Publicly Private is a comprehensive nonprofit organization whose mission “is to provide a highly confidential avenue to assist the LGBTQIA+ community throughout their life-long journey.” Its purpose is to help underserved communities and individuals by giving them strength and encouragement, and to help the world become a more inspiring, accepting, and understanding place for everyone.
Publicly Private’s website is divided into three main categories: explore, venture, and strengthen.
- Explore: This space allows individuals to learn more about LGBTQIA+ representation in history, personal stories from other members, and general knowledge of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Venture: Venture focuses on sex education for the LGBTQIA+ community to understand and explore their sexual identity intelligently and safely. They offer prophylactics, STI/STD kits that include a virtual consultation with a physician, as well as baseline PrEP services — a clinically proven drug to prevent HIV.
- Strengthen: This category offers individuals to seek counseling. Divided into three categories — adults, parents of LGBTQIA+, and youth — it has self-paced sessions with licensed counselors to sort through emotions, ideas, and overall questions about their sexual identity, creating a safe space to harmonize struggles
Publicly Private needs you
Publicly Private needs you to continue helping individuals with their needs in private. They need donations, sponsorships, and grants to fund supplies and support groups for the LGBTQIA+ community.
The organization’s STD/STI kits initiative helps provide the LGBTQIA+ community with a safe place to get the medical attention they need if they need it. These kits will keep the community safe and provide the necessary resources to underserved communities.
In a world that often fails to understand or appreciate the diverse tapestry of human identities, organizations like Publicly Private shine as beacons of hope. Their tireless dedication to creating a safe haven for the LGBTQIA+ community in the South is not only commendable, but vital in the fight for equality and acceptance.
Publicly Private has embarked on a remarkable mission — one that not only impacts lives, but also transforms communities. “By joining the cause, you can help ensure that the LGBTQIA+ community in the South and beyond finds solace, empowerment, and unwavering support,” Conrad says. “Together, we can create a world where every individual’s journey is celebrated, and their right to exist and thrive is upheld with unwavering resolve.”