Born out of a tipsy day spent at Pride, LezRideSA, is working hard to make a difference in San Antonio. Founders Anel Flores, Erika Casasola, Kate Scully and Lisa Ortega decided to make their own version of Dykes on Bikes.
The group aims to create a safe space for the LGBTQ community and its allies to lead a fit lifestyle. One can’t help but notice that they are creating something much more meaningful than group exercise. LezRideSA is creating a close-knit and warm community for the L’s of the LGBTQ community. The founders are acutely aware that they are one of the most at risk demographics when it comes to violence, sexual assault and suicide.
According to Human Rights Campaign, 42 percent of LGBTQ youth say their community is not accepting of LGBTQ people. They are twice as likely to have been physically assaulted. While 26 percent of LGBTQ youth say that their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by their family, trouble at school/bullying and a fear to be out and open. More than half of LGBTQ people in America are concerned about being the victim of a hate crime. Reports on violence against LGBTQ people come to the same conclusion: “Effective prevention of violence and enacted stigma targeting sexual minority teens will require further societal efforts to reduce the stigma of LGB orientation.”
LezRideSA is actively doing their part to reduce the stigma of LGBTQ orientation and providing a space where members of the LGBTQ community can feel open and accepted.
The group held its first open community meeting this past April and has been growing rapidly ever since. Last week, they hosted a screen-printing party to make T-shirts for the group. The party was hosted at Anel and Erika’s home, a brightly painted house near Olmos Park. If I was unsure whether or not I was in the right place, the “Love + Commitment = Marriage” sign and the group of girls also looking a little unsure about walking into someone else’s home, quelled any doubt. We were greeted with a warm smile and hand-shake from Anel as we walked through the door. Erika was in the kitchen warming up tortillas and I didn’t know who she was at this point. Her curly hair and slight accent is charming from the moment she speaks. She tells me “I need to eat or I get hangry. Do you ever get hangry?” I feel like I’ve known her for years, and she is reminiscent of a cool tia who would let you sneak a few sips of her drink or not tell your parents about your secret high school boyfriend. There was a spread of wine, cheese, crackers, grapes and watermelons on the counter, which Anel kept reminding us to help ourselves to. It felt like I had just walked into my abuela’s. If my abuela was a lesbian who had cool Virgen de Guadalupe posters on her wall and had set up a screen printing station where we painted “#LezRideSA” on the back of shirts that stated “I don’t sweat, I sparkle” on the front. I’m not sure how long Erika and Anel have been married but they exude the type of joy and warmth that makes you a little jealous because you can only hope that one-day someone will look at you like that.
The coalition hosts bicycle rides every second Tuesday starting at Luther's Cafe (1422 N. Main Ave), free exercise in Maverick park the other Tuesday’s of the month, and will soon begin holding self-defense classes. The founders of LezRide are smart and connected to the needs of their community. Erika is a manager at REI and works with LGBTQ youth. Lisa and Kate with the city of San Antonio on health and wellness issues. Anel is a small business owner with A&N Realty and lesbian author. They have all of the bases covered and have all of the makings of a soon-to-be-thriving community organization. One could easily see how the coalition could be a national success, as the group hopes to be. The group alongside the San Antonio REI store and the San Antonio Health Collaborative, organizes outdoor adventures to raise funds and awareness for the coalition. Another female-centered cycling group, Women’s Wrench Night is also joining forces with the LezRideSA Coalition. The organization appears to have garnered quite a bit of support in a short amount of time.
Free, 6:30pm, Every 2nd Tuesday of the Month, Luther's Cafe, 1422 N. Main Ave., facebook.com