By Lorraine Longhi, Jan. 1, 2015.
Tired of routinely meeting other women in clubs and bars, Kari Infantino founded Fun Rainbow Rebels with the goal of facilitating deeper community of lesbian sisterhood.
Today the Rebels are one of the largest groups for lesbian women in Phoenix, boasting more than 800 members.
According to Infantino, the Rebels are unique because the organization is run entirely online, through a private Facebook group.
The group’s events running the gamut – from picnics and movie outings to birthday parties and sporting events – and, Infantino added, the Rebels are growing steadily each week and forging new bonds of lesbian sisterhood.
“I stand for tolerance, diversity and inclusion,” Infantino said. “I did not want the group to have too many rules or boundaries. I wanted to avoid cliques and snobbery. I wanted to attract women who would be interested in the greater good. I wanted to find women who sincerely wanted to expand their circle and become a beacon of light to other women.”
Additionally, Infantino said, the Rebels are committed to reinforcing more meaningful connections to one another and to their community, beyond exclusively meeting and forming relationships in club settings.
In addition to a diverse array of weekly outings – in some cases up to three or four a week –the group offers a variety of smaller sub-groups, such as intellectual discussion groups and sharing circles, where members can discuss anything ranging from politics and world news to love and loss.
“These events [and discussions] unite us and make us stronger and more determined to be there for each other through everything,” Infantino said. “We’ve seen some of our members through weddings, cancer and even the death of family members.”
For member Lyn Mineo, these sharing groups were particularly cathartic after the loss of her own partner.
“There was one group where we spoke about relationships and passing of loved ones, and it was just a supportive place for me to be at that time,” Mineo said. “It’s something you don’t see happening with a lot of other groups.”
Although the rebels are primarily a social group, they also sponsor children and families for the holidays, organizing food drives, clothing drives and a Christmas gift drive for charitable donations.
The group is also outspoken politically, having written letters to Congress on issues such as LGBT rights and marriage equality, as well as worked on behalf of U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema’s reelection.
“This group really fills a void in the community,” Mineo said. “It’s really grown to a point where you get to meet so many people and new friends that a lot of us feel that we are family to each other.”
While communicating with a group of this many women may seem daunting, the Rebels do it all with the help of one of the 21st century’s greatest inventions: Facebook.
“We have women from all walks of life in our group and we want to be able to protect our members,” Infantino said. “Facebook lets us do that, and it gives us a space to come together as a group.”
By allowing members to share events and opinions in an inclusive space, away from the eyes of the rest of their respective online communities, the Rebels can feel at home when expressing themselves and, according to Infantino, this allows for protection of privacy for all members, some of who are in various stages of being out to friends, families and social circles.
The format has also allowed women from around the world – as far away as Costa Rica and Germany – to join and communicate with their fellow Rebels online.
“A lot of great discussions come out of it because everybody is so different,” said member Laura Campos. “In the end our community is so much stronger because of groups like this where different opinions are coming together and clashing and being resolved.”
The group prides itself on being all-inclusive, welcoming lesbians of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. Women interested in joining and staying up to date about Rainbow Rebels events must simply add and message Infantino on Facebook and wait for her approval to be added into the group.
Fun Rainbow Rebels will celebrate its second anniversary in February and is always accepting new members into their family, Infantino said, adding that her hope is to continue to bring lesbians who are still on “the fringe” and struggling to break into mainstream society into the sisterhood.