Seattle Dating Scene features readers’ thoughts and stories about what it’s like to date in Seattle.

For our next feature, follow this promptHave the perfect meet-cute story? Or a great first date? In under 500 words, tell us how you met your significant other, and send in your story and a photo.

By Thursday, June 24, please email your submissions to dating@seattletimes.com, or submit them via Instagram direct message to @dating_in_seattle, and they may be printed in a future edition of The Mix.

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Ask Marina

In this special column, Marina Resto, who runs the lively @Dating_in_Seattle Instagram account, talks to Melvin Givens of Gay City, an organization that has served Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community for over 25 years. (LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning, with the + denoting everything along the gender and sexuality spectrum.)

Meet Melvin Givens, the director of marketing and communications at Gay City. In honor of Pride Month, we wanted to highlight Gay City, and learn more about the organization’s history with Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community. Here’s what Givens had to say about how to build a community, health and safety, volunteering, and a love story involving a Circuit City TV stand.

Answers have been edited for spelling and clarity.

Seattle historically has been known for its sizable LGBTQ+ community; how has that changed over the years?

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Seattle joins Portland and San Francisco as the top cities with the largest LGBTQ+ populations. In various publications, Seattle has been considered “one of the best places for queer people to move.” And that has not changed to this day.

We still hear stories from our community about folks moving to Seattle in search of a more affirming community than their originating city or town. Or they discover the greater number of resources and employment opportunities available to them here, regardless of their gender identity.

We’ve heard a few sweet stories about people meeting their partners at Gay City events. Do you know of any success stories, romantically or platonically, of people meeting through Gay City?

We have heard many romance stories from people meeting while volunteering or visiting Gay City. There’s one special story that comes to mind, though. Last summer we created space for a queer couple to host a small wedding ceremony, just for the couple, an officiant and two staff as witnesses.

Years ago, a man sold his (now) partner a $300 TV stand from Circuit City, and from that transaction their relationship grew. Our staff who witnessed the ceremony raved about how lovely it was to bear witness to their love.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to make sure we were legally able to support one another if one of us gets sick,” they said.

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And they still have the TV table today.

What is the importance of this community, and what kinds of resources do you offer to LGBTQ+ folks in Seattle?

Gay City is often one of the first welcoming locations for LGBTQ+ folks moving to and visiting Seattle. As an agency centering on LGBTQ+ health equity, we realize several factors impact a person’s well-being. Through our resource program, we engage with people and connect them to the affirming resources they need, from rental assistance to health insurance.

Soon, we’ll be partnering with a community-driven resource called Connect2 Community. This support system unifies health and social service organizations around King County, so whether people need things like access to HIV testing or housing assistance, they can find it all in one place.

Amid the pandemic, how have you maintained a sense of community? How have you done outreach?

Gay City has maintained a sense of community by adjusting services to meet our community’s needs. When the pandemic started, we launched virtual services where possible, and introduced new digital programming to bring our community together.

We launched a virtual COVID-19/vaccination awareness campaign featuring affirming resources and assistance, online health care navigation appointments, and increased access to telemedicine for clinic participants.

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But one of the leading concerns we identified during COVID-19 was the need for community. We responded to the call by introducing Queer Community Conversations (QCC Live), a monthly Facebook livestream focusing on the work of organizations serving and creating supportive spaces for Black, Indigenous and people of color.

Our Youth Advisory Council also launched Queer N’ Teen Instagram live chats, a digital community-building space for LGBTQ+ youth to discuss mental health support.

Where can people go to learn more about sexual health and safety?

Sexual health is the heart of our work at Gay City. During the pandemic, we noticed a series of positive STD cases. As folks reconnect and meet new intimate partners, we encourage everyone to be safe.

Looking at the CDC’s projection for HIV and STIs, we know that these illnesses disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ people. We want to eliminate that risk. That’s why our Wellness Center provides free anonymous and confidential HIV/STI testing four days out of the week.

People can schedule appointments for HIV/STI testing and PrEP with our compassionate, diverse and multilingual testers at gaycity.org/appointments. We also can connect community members with virtual health services such as telemedicine or at-home HIV Testing.

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For those needing immediate support, Gay City also provides free condoms available near our front door. Accessible to all. No questions asked.

How can people support the LGBTQ+ community right now?

It’s more important now than ever to support LGBTQ+ services. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the vital need for affirming health services.

As we enter the Pride season, we recognize Give OUT Day, the only national time of giving specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. Giving occurs from now through June 30. All donations uplift services for LGBTQ+ folks and their intersections.

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