Be Visable seeks to bring LGBTQ events back to the area
In past years Atlantic City was one of the unique vacation spots in New Jersey. It was most sought after in the Mid-Atlantic region by the LGBTQ community to visit. Between the casinos and the local bars, it was a hot spot destination, especially during the warmer seasons.
Be Visible’s founder Tom Gouker feels the Atlantic City the LGBTQ community used to know is no more.
“It was a hot-spot for gay travel for years, but when I arrived in 2007 the hot-spot was a faint memory,” Gouker says. “What we had was a large population of gay casino workers who lived in the area and had nowhere to go. At the time, the casinos were not even pro-gay; there were a lot of closeted employees.”
After going out and meeting people the old fashioned way, Gouker conversed with a gay couple visiting from San Diego. They said that there was a similar problem within their community in California. The couple started hosting weekly “pot lucks” in their neighborhood which reignited their local LGBTQ community.
“I thought about it and I thought it was a great idea. But I did not want people over at my place to eat,” Gouker said jokingly, “so I contacted a couple of straight bars in the area, and in 2008, we started to have “Be Visible Meet and Greets.”
The group started with 17 members and ended with over 450 members in 2010. That’s when Be Visible ended its run. Gouker, after ten years of rest, has decided that now was a perfect time to revamp the group and to start having meetings again. “Why not?” Gouker said.
“I don’t expect that Be Visible will cure all the ills that are affecting the LGTBQ Community in the South Jersey area, and it’s possible that the group may have a short run like before (it lasted 2008-2010). But it does not hurt to try.”
Gouker has hopes of being able to connect all members of the LGBTQ family this go around. Gay men made up most of the members before. Times and technology have changed he says. “I was hoping that we can connect the full LGTBQ community this time; I would love to see a spectrum of people attend and join. Also, we would like to use the Facebook page as a “Meet-Up” location.”
The primary goal Gouker would love to see is the group connecting like-minded people that may be new to New Jersey or are in a particular area of South Jersey where the LGBTQ community is underrepresented. Gouker also intends for others across New Jersey to be proactive and to share community events of all kinds on the Be Visible Facebook page.
“We had our first “Be Visible” already [before COVID-19 closures] and we had people traveling from Bergen County who said they were having problems creating a community in their area. I told them, ‘Just call a bar, any bar, times are tough. If you can promise 50 drinking “homos” who will eat and tip at their bar during the weekday, the answer will be yes,’” Gouker said.
For those of you that are hoping to start meet-up groups in your community, it begins with you. Visibility is the first step; “We are not invisible,” says Gouker.
For more information about Be Visible, visit their Facebook page by searching Be Visible Atlantic City.