In the early 1980's a group of like-minded friends realized there was a need for social opportunity for the Gay, Lesbian and Bi-sexual people of Juneau. The friends took turns hosting house parties or monthly potlucks and in some cases, actual dance parties were held in a host's garage. During the Gay Pride month of June one of the biggest events was billed as the annual solstice party. With a big bon fire crackling in the back yard, and dance music playing in the garage, it was a really fun place to go, have a beer and dance with a same sex partner without fear or discrimination that was very common place at that point in history.   These like-minded persons continued to form these social activities and private events and information was spread primarily by word of mouth. You had to know someone who was connected to the LGBT community to obtain invitations about future social events and opportunities.

These activities quickly out grew the single car garage parties and needed more space and participants wanted a new approach to having these type events in a more public setting. The developing concept was working together to promote open and social acceptance of Gay and Lesbian persons living in Southeast Alaska. This was something that could truly make a difference in people's lives.

 In May 1986 the South East Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance (SEAGLA) was formed and legally founded as a 503 C corporation. The group of friends had meetings, elected officers, established bi-laws and created a legal non profit entity designed to serve and benefit the LBGT community of Southeast Alaska. With a board President, a Vice President, a Treasurer and a Secretary SEAGLA grew.

The SEAGLA board formed sub-committees to work on specific areas of interest. For example there was a committee who worked to create a monthly newsletter publication called The Perspective that was mailed to the membership, there was a dance committee that worked on social events to include dances, potlucks or brunches at members homes. These events provided real opportunities for people to participate without discrimination, network with others, meet like-minded persons, and forge new friendships and business relationships. There was a membership committee that sought to collect annual dues and find new interested people and supporters (straight allies) to join.

 SEAGLA also established a telephone line with a message machine and an opportunity to talk with someone during one evening a week. This service was instrumental in helping a number of people “come out” during a time when gays and lesbians weren’t mentioned much in the mainstream media. Before someone could be added to the mailing list or invited to functions, however, SEAGLA required that two of its members (a man and a woman) first meet in person with the prospective new member.

 At it peak the SEAGLA dance committee offered public dances about 4-6 times annually. They would choose a location and a theme, advertise by word of mouth at first and later used ads in the Perspective. Dances were held at places like the Juneau Yacht Club, the old VFW hall downtown Juneau, and the Silverbow Bakery Back Room among others. SEAGLA would pay the fees necessary to rent these halls, volunteers would be tasked with setup and decorating, serving as the disc jockey, cleanup and breakdown, and also purchasing for resale non alcoholic beverages and other treats like baked goods. At these events the attendees would pay a cover charge at the door normally $5-$10, and then they could also buy iced sodas and juice drinks for $1-$2, sometimes there were cookies, cupcakes, or other goodies for sale, all proceeds went back into SEAGLA's treasury to fund future dances and social events. Some of these events had door prizes, costume contests and other prizes just for attending. The most popular annual events were the Halloween Dance party and the Summer Solstice parties. Over time dance committee volunteers suffered from burnout related to the mass amounts of work involved to put on these events and new volunteers were scarce. Generally, it was always easy to find those who would decorate and set up but more difficult to find those willing to stay late and help clean up at the end. Dance committee member participation faded and some members moved away from Juneau, and eventually SEAGLA dances began to occur less often.

 SEAGLA's Perspective

 During a time prior to the existence of the Internet there was no email, no web pages, no Facebook or Twitter, or other social networking options. In order to communicate with its membership SEAGLA published a monthly newsletter called The Perspective in which many members and contributors gathered, organized and printed a monthly publication that went out via “snail mail” to the membership all over Southeast Alaska.

 The Perspective was about a 6-8 page professional looking printed publication that contained news articles, and LGBT opinion columns, poetry, artwork, and calendar announcements about upcoming activities and events that were primarily occurring in Southeast Alaska. At its peak, the Perspective boasted a circulation of over 350 newsletters mailed out each month. The Perspective had its own newsletter committee, and the job of editor was very hard work and very dedicated people would serve terms sharing the responsibility of authoring and gathering the materials, organizing them into a newsletter format. Then it would go to a professional copy shop printer, and the newsletter committee would get together at someones house and have an envelope stuffing party, affixing labels and postage to mail out each month. Over time the newsletter volunteers also dropped away, some moved out of town, and others became busy with different parts of their lives, forming and raising families. During this time the internet exploded and the form and speed of communication rapidly changed, the monthly Perspective newsletter eventually stopped publishing eventually making way for an electronic web presence for SEAGLA.

 Overtime SEAGLA also formed a library of materials on the subject matter of LGBT life. Books, and VHS tapes of Gay or Lesbian themed films that you could not just find at blockbuster for example. The library grew and needed space to house it in. At that time SEAGLA rented an office space on the waterfront, upstairs in the building now know as Merchant's Wharf. In this office space they housed a free lending library which allowed members to check out library materials free of charge as long as they were returned within a reasonable short period of time.

 Over the years SEAGLA raised money to purchase various assets such as laptop computers for the newsletter and website publishing tasks, its own sound system was purchased to use for the dance parties. The sound system was a monotone amplifier stored in a members garage, it was used for various events and parties. But it was physically very large and heavy and required a couple volunteers and a truck to move it around town, since the speakers were heavy and it was a real burden to move it between locations. Technology has changed so much that eventually the sound system became obsolete.

For the past many years SEAGLA has collaborated with PFLAG Juneau to host annual pride picnics each summer and share in an “Adopt-a-Highway” community service clean-up project for a very scenic two-mile stretch of the Egan highway near Auke Lake.

Since the early 1990's SEAGLA has maintained a web presence. We started during the old “dial-up modem” days posting to the internet with web publishing tools. The SEAGLA web presence has continued to change, grow and develop. Various volunteer webmasters have worked on it over time. SEAGLA physical mailings became less frequent as the costs of postage and printing became cost prohibitive, instead SEAGLA developed an Email list serve that now has an electronic circulation of several hundred members. People can join it or be removed simply by asking the SEAGLA webmaster

In recent years SEAGLA volunteers have been working to develop a presence on Face Book and Twitter in which events and activity announcements are also posted. As of this writing in August 2013, SEAGLA is currently working to publish a new public facing web site that will enable member dues and donations to be paid electronically and will also allow members to update their own member profile records and contact information. The new open source web content management system is essentially free and the site is hosted on one of our members local web servers. Eventually SEAGLA hopes to enable authorized individuals to collaborate on SEAGLA's web content which provides an exciting new way to share information and update the website remotely.

 No matter what, in one form or another, in good times and in bad, SEAGLA has existed in Juneau for many decades. There have been many times SEAGLA suffered financially and organizationally as most all non-profit organizations do, but appeals made to the membership of the LGBT community of Juneau and Southeast Alaska in one way or another still manages to maintain the organization as a going concern just a little longer. Today as older SEAGLA volunteers begin to step aside, the organization is actively seeking new and vibrant young volunteers to step up to serve in officer positions on the SEAGLA board and keep things going.

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