Friday, January 9, 2009

SWiSH to host volunteer expo in lower Manhattan

With the seemingly endless stream of bad news that dominated media headlines this week, perhaps it is obligatory to take a step back and focus on groups that truly try to make a difference. Straight Women in Support of Homos [SWiSH] is arguably one such group.

SWiSH unapologetically relies upon pink kitsch and the ever-present fag hag to advocate for and support their gay brothers. The group's first volunteer expo will take place at the Housing Works Bookstore Café on Crosby Street in Soho. And below is an article I posted on EDGE New York earlier this week.

A self-described fag hag, SWiSH [Straight Women in Support of Homos] president and co-founder Sue Sena came to the realization there was a need for a kitschy pink organization to advocate for and support gays and lesbians after she attended New York’s annual LGBT pride parade in 2002 with a group of gay friends. Sena and her friends joked the parade needed a fag hag float, but the idea soon evolved into something more.

"I was really... impacted by the spirit and the energy and the pride about everyone being able to come together and to be out, loud and proud on this given day," she told EDGE in a recent interview. "I was really struck by that."

SWiSH incorporated into a non-profit in 2003. It has members in 34 states with an Atlanta chapter that formed in 2007. Sena said the group’s unique acronym carries added significance.

"We liked the energy and movement of the word swish and we wanted to take it back and make it a very positive thing," she said. "Swish for us represented this big, beautiful and high energy group of people and it was never derogatory to us."

Sena and her cohorts will bring their unique brand of activism to their first volunteer expo for LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations at the Housing Works Bookstore Café on Crosby Street in Soho on Monday, Jan. 12. AIDS Walk New York, the Anti-Violence Project, God’s Love We Deliver, the Hetrick-Martin Institute and Will Clark’s Porno Bingo are among the organizations scheduled to participate. And Sena said she feels President-elect Barack Obama’s historic election and expanding support for LGBT rights have sparked increased interest in volunteering and even activism.

"There’s a lot of emotion and we wanted to galvanize that emotion to educate gay and straight communities on how to take action and to make a difference in the community," she said.

Sena added she feels SWiSH’s coordination of the expo helps counter the misconception her organization simply throws great gatherings to bring gays and straights together.

"For us and for our members... it’s always been about the personal is political," she said. "We’re committed to not just sitting back and just sitting by as our gay and lesbian friends are being treated as second class citizens."

The expo will take place at the Housing Works Bookstore Café (126 Crosby St., New York) on Monday, Jan. 12, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Log onto for more information.

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