Project No Labels (PNL), a local LGBTQ+ non-profit, is trying to unite St. Petersburg’s LGBTQ+ community through inclusivity, intersectionality and above all, no labels.
Founder of PNL, Claire Elisan, started as the owner of a successful call center in Florida. While she loved her salary, she felt a larger calling.
“My pocket was full, but my heart was empty,” Elisan said during a panel interview on March 1.
After a lot of debating, she decided to shut down her business and open a nonprofit to help unite the LGBTQ+ community.
“The reason why we named it Project No Labels is to not judge individuals based on how they identify themselves or who they love but to judge them based on what they’re doing to give back to the community, their character as a person,” Elisan said.
PNL aims to encourage intersectionality, or the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender of a person or group. PNL is made of members who might have felt prejudice as a result of their intersectionality. PNL is working to bring together the LGBTQ+ community, rather than isolating certain people based on a particular aspect of their identity.
“Intersectionality is the joining of multiple entities,” said Air Force veteran and Content Writer for PNL Stefanie Reynolds. “When applied in a sociological context and includes people, ideals, standards, and ways of living.”
PNL hosts a variety of events meant to encourage inclusivity and teach life skills. PNL created Mind, Body, and Brunch for the community to eat together and learn about a variety of topics from stress management to car maintenance. PNL also encourages the community to bring their children to the center during their Products of Love Campaign. They also host a myriad of events during the June St. Pete Pride parade, the fifth largest Pride parade in the nation.
These events are open to everyone who wants to participate, not just LGBTQ+ community members.
“I decided why not be more inclusive, why not involve the LGBT+ community, including our straight allies towards one mission,” Elisan said. “And that’s how Project No Labels was born.”
Jenin Halum, PNL’s marketing director, struggles with issues related to intersectionality. She felt segregated throughout her life as a woman, a Palestinian, Middle Eastern and a lesbian. PNL helped provide her with the confidence to truly feel comfortable and proud of each intersection she represents.
“Project No Labels made a big change in my life when I started working with this organization that kind of unites the community,” Halum said.
The panel also discussed discrimination inside of the LGBTQ+ community. Reynolds was recently called a derogatory term by her general manager. The general manager thought it was acceptable because another gay male employee used it at times. Reynolds said this situation is “prevalent in the gay community.”
Formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD has a list of defamatory language on their website.
“We want to provide resources to our community,” Elisan said. “Whether you’re being discriminated on at work and you don’t know who to turn to, we would be able to provide those resources to our community immediately.”
In January, PNL moved into their official location in downtown St. Petersburg. Currently, PNL is using it as a workplace for all of its volunteers.
They hope to open the location as a resource center for LGBTQ+ community within three to six months. They plan on aiding in a wide range of issues including legal assistance in discrimination cases and health care. Ultimately, they strive to create an atmosphere of positivity and tolerance within the Tampa Bay community.
To contact Project No Labels call (813) 438-3537 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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