JP Gurnett, BFF’s Director of Communications, has always championed connection, community and being yourself.
Even before his time with BFF, JP carved a space for community and belonging in Benson. In the fall of 2017, JP teamed up with his friends to start inclusive gatherings for the queer community in Omaha. They wanted a place where everyone could bring their authentic selves and feel included, while also listening to amazing musicians and watching out-of-this-world drag performances.
JP wanted to have a presence in Benson that was purposefully queer, not something that just happened to have queer people attending. He felt it was important to plant a flag in the ground to let other queer people know they are loved and welcomed in Omaha. And thus, in the fall of 2017, Thursdays at The Sydney in Benson became a night for the LGBTQ community to gather, dance, connect and be themselves.
“We felt empowered,” JP said. “The Sydney has always been a place where you can come and be yourself. We thought, ‘We’re going to call it Queer Nite and we’re going to be who we are and not apologize for it.’"
Queer Nite started picking up steam in the winter of 2018, when word of mouth and Queer Nite’s Instagram account started catching traction. Originally, Queer Nite was the most popular amongst queer women, but steadily the rest of the alphabet army started attending the weekly events. Naturally, the events started attracting all walks of life: Gay, straight and everyone in between. JP says he’s definitely noticed people of all sexual orientations and identities who attend Queer Nite showing an increased acceptance of others.
“People have become more conscious of others,” JP said. “You can tell that everyone is making an effort to be more open.”
When Queer Nite started gaining popularity, Alex Jochim, BFF’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, took notice. Alex asked JP to collaborate on a few projects, and over time, Queer Nite naturally became closely intertwined with BFF. JP feels the collabortion between Queer Nite and BFF was the perfect culmination of two entities that spearheaded inclusivity and creativity in Benson. With Queer Nite becoming a part of BFF, there was a more purposeful and definitive space for the queer community within BFF’s programming.
“Queer Nite becoming a part of BFF really advocated for that explicit inclusion,” said JP. “Benson and BFF have always been a place where people are naturally accepted, but this took it a step further to make sure the queer community had a known space in Benson.”
Using his skills as an internet guru, professional educator with two Education degrees, and a stellar event host, JP strives to continually welcome all walks of life through BFF’s social media and events. When he decided to work with BFF on Queer Nite, JP took his mission of inclusivity and expanded it on a larger scale.
“At BFF I can just be myself and use my talents and skills in ways that I want to use them,” JP said. “When it comes to creativity, so many people limit themselves based on the reactions of others. That’s why I love BFF because we’re making things for ourselves and our community. We’re creating things that we’re proud of. And we hope others feel welcomed and enjoy it, too.”
JP grew up in South Omaha and still has a strong connection to it, but thinks of Benson and BFF as a second home.
“It’s always felt like a place where I could be myself and it’s also where my friends are now. We do the things we do here because we want to be here. At the end of the day, everything we do through BFF is about love and acceptance and celebration.“
If you would like to learn more about Queer Nite, follow their Instagram (@queernite). To get involved with BFF, please visit our volunteer page or attend the upcoming Volunteer Roundup on Saturday, April 16. Everyone is welcome!