In the digital age, it’s easier to meet a one-night stand than it is a lifelong friend. That’s a trend Atlantans James Brian Yancey and Mike Duffy want to change.
“If I was coming out in the late ‘90s there were groups like YouthPride and there was also Outwrite Bookstore, which was a community gathering place,” Yancey said. “One of the things Atlanta doesn’t have, sadly, right now is a center for the gay community. We found that although there were sports clubs and religious groups and different kinds of bars and clubs to go to, there was no really good way and place to meet people outside of a sexual context.”
Rainbros, a new organization co-founded by Yancey and Duffy, fills that void. The organization has two simultaneous components: one-on-one peer coaching and group activities.
“Though we’re more connected than ever before with all these opportunities sexually, there’s sort of a lack of technology to connect each other to people solely for the goal of helping each other,” Yancey said. “What we wanted to do was create a safe environment, again, completely platonic, fully dedicated to helping each other out.”
Fitness, personal finance, other topics lined up
Each quarter of the year will have a different group activity focus, with the first being “Launch Fitness.”
“Every single month we’ll have a single group session for people who are afraid to, or haven’t had the opportunity … to connect with other people who want to get into fitness,” Yancey said. “Those can be sessions of 20 to 50 people where we’re talking about a theme or ways to get involved in life.”
Future quarters will focus on topics such as personal finance, career building and health.
Each instance of peer coaching will be different. Some may pair a Rainbro — the catch-all term for members, regardless of gender or sexuality — with a coach for one session for advice about a specific topic, and some may turn into long-term regular sessions and friendships, Yancey said.
For now, Rainbros and coaches are manually paired up after filling out online questionnaires. Rainbros must be at least 18 years old, and coaches must be at least 21. Rainbros is geared at mentoring those ages 18 to 25.
“That age range is absolutely critical and as a community we should be doing more to ensure, as much as we can, that they get to that place of ability and achievement,” Yancey said.
Counselor stresses importance of role models
Nicki Robbins, licensed associated professional counselor and certified sex therapist with Cornerstone Family Services in Marietta, said it can be difficult to find someone in the LGBT community to ask for life advice from, especially for transgender individuals or gays looking to come out to colleagues, friends and family.
“That’s the young adult age when you’re trying to figure out who you are, what your identity is going to be as an adult,” Robbins said. “It’s extremely important that they have role models, that they have someone they can relate to on the same level.”
Robbins said there are groups for younger people, such as high school and college Gay-Straight Alliances, but it’s harder for those beyond college age to find those role models.
“A peer coach or peer counselor or peer mentor, they’re going to be able to relate to you on the same level, as far as a friend. ‘Look, this is what I did,’ and don’t have to be all professional,” she said.
The growing group of peer coaches is primarily gay men, but Yancey said as Rainbros grows, so will the diversity of its coaches and members. They look to have a racially, culturally and sexually varied group to make for better, more personalized coaching experiences to serve the LGBT community.
“You have a lot of people with an immense amount of experience who have really strong desires to connect,” Yancey said. “Younger guys can feel comfortable knowing everything is altruistic. The coaches, it is beneficial and therapeutic for them to have the ability to give back to the community and acknowledge the wisdom and value they have.”
Activist and historian Dave Hayward; Zaxby’s franchisees Dustin Mullis and his partner Brian McBrearty; along with drag queen Nicole Paige Brooks have all applied to be peer coaches with Rainbros.
Rainbros Launch Party Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 2 to 4 p.m. Industrious Atlanta at Ponce City Market 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Suite 8500 www.rainbros.us