Andre Wade is the state director for the newly formed LGBTQ advocacy group Silver State Equality.
Talk to me about Silver State Equality. It was started in concert with California’s equivalent organization?
Yeah, we are affiliated and supported by Equality California. Equality California is the largest statewide LGBTQ rights organization in the country. And, so, they are mentoring Silver State Equality in the work we’re doing.
What spurred the decision to start Silver State Equality?
Silver State Equality was born out of a notion that Nevada was one of about 11 states without a statewide effort. And Nevada had been leading the charge when it comes to LGBTQ … protections, like from the legislative perspective. It was just ripe for a statewide effort to start here in Nevada. We talked to a lot of leaders, state legislators to see if there was an appetite for this. There was just a resounding “yes.” People saw that was lacking with our movement was a statewide effort, and so Silver State Equality was born.
So you intend to be engaged in lobbying when the next state legislative session kicks off?
Absolutely, that will be one of the focuses we’ll be concentrating on. We’ll be focused on passing core-equality legislation and electing core-equality candidates—and then doing work to improve the health and well-being of LGBTQ Nevadans, not from a direct service perspective, but like … competency training for various institutions, raising awareness for HIV prevention, doing smoking cessation sort of work. We’ve been doing work this year around the census, to make sure our community is counted. It’s a historically under-counted community.
Will the organization get involved in rural communities right off the bat or start its work in urban areas?
We are starting down south in Las Vegas. That’s where I’m stationed—but we’re going to have a statewide reach. … Our idea is that we’re not going to leave any Nevadan behind, regardless of geography, so we’ll . … be touching the rural areas.
You don’t find as many openly LGBTQ people, and especially public officials, in rural Nevada. I wondered if it’ll pose challenges for you.
California has similar challenges. In big cities, it’s one sort of climate, and in the rurals, it’s different. It’ll be the same in Nevada. We’ll do work to find out what those issues areas are, what the messaging will be for those particular communities, and then just go from there. But our hope—and I think that will be the case—that people are excited to have something like this come and touch the rural areas, because normally we have the rurals that are sometimes forgotten about.
Do you know yet about partners you’ll work with in Northern Nevada, like Our Center, anyone else?
Yeah, so I was just here a month ago touching bases with people at Our Center and NALA[Northern Nevada LGBTQ Leadership Alliance]. … We’re going to be working with those folks, so very much connected with them in having those conversations.
What’s the first step for people who want to get involved?
They can go to our website and sign up to be a volunteer or get our newsletter. I’ve had people contact me directly through email to say they want to volunteer, which is really exciting. … If people want to engage in our inaugural Equality Awards—which is going to be Nov. 6 in Las Vegas—that’ll be a way. Eventually, we’re going to be doing Equality Awards in Reno as well.