The first challenge, of course, was to find speakers. I approached a gentleman who visits our fellowship regularly and asked him if he'd like to speak. He agreed right away. He is part of a local mindfulness community and also does work with Reiki, essential oils, etc. so I thought he might be able to give us an interesting perspective. And yes, I already knew that he is gay so I didn't have the awkwardness of "Hey, there's a rumor going around and I just wondered . . . " Next, a fellow member put me in touch with a woman who started a local gay-straight alliance. She is Catholic and proudly supports her gay son, so I think she has an interesting story to share as well. She happily agreed to speak to our fellowship. I just needed one more speaker and found one by accident.
I'm a "fan" of a local Pride organization on Facebook. They posted an article written by a local teenager. I clicked the link and was truly amazed. This young man is a high school student who is in the process of transitioning from female to male. Although I am sure he gets lots of grief from lots of sources, he reported that his school has been very accommodating and that the students have been mostly supportive. When I was his age, I was scared to wear the wrong shirt to school for fear of being a target. I simply cannot imagine the bravery that is required to change your gender while still in high school. I posted a comment on the article and asked him to contact me about a speaking opportunity. About a day later, he emailed me and voila - he has also agreed to speak at the Pride service. So, I've got three great speakers lined up and I can't wait to hear what they have to say.
Some little part of me feels like, "Who am I to coordinate a celebration of LGBT folks?" After all, I'm just a boring middle-aged straight lady. The truth is that I'm probably not the most qualified for the job. However, I have friends and family who are gay and as long as they are facing discrimination and homophobia, I will defend my right to be pissed off about that.
The area I live in is probably typical of much of the Midwest. Nice people, largely blue collar, "work hard, play hard" types. The area is more ethnically/culturally diverse than it was when I moved here, but minorities are still, well, minorities. The predominant religions are Lutheran and Catholic. Politically, I think we've got more people leaning right than left. However, I certainly don't like to think of my fellow midwesterners as being closed-minded or out of touch. I've run into a lot of really progressive, forward-thinking people here.
However, if you really want to lose faith in your local community and how some of its inhabitants think, check out the Rants and Raves section on your local Craigslist site. You will seriously start to wonder if any of these people made it past the second grade.
Our local Pride festival is coming up on July 12th. One of my upstanding fellow residents had this to say about it:
age : 49