I was born and raised in NJ. In the 90’s I moved to San Francisco. In the 90’s it was a very different time for LGBTQ+ people. On the East Coast, you needed to be closeted in most places. The word transgender was never spoken and non-binary was not a word most people identified with. You were closeted and butch or femme. Moving to San Francisco was a move for freedom. Freedom to be who you were without being constantly judged or scared. Not to say there was no discrimination there but there is power and safety in numbers. You were careful but not constantly afraid.
Times changed. We got the right to marriage. We began to acknowledge transgender people and non-binary people and accept them into the community. Not without pain. And wrongs committed. The overall umbrella got larger and as legal rights came more and more people came out. For a quick minute after Federal Marriage Equality, it felt almost safe. At least for white LGBTQ+ people. Then the culture wars increased in force. LGBTQ+ people again became an open target. Books about us were (and are) banned. LGBTQ+ people, especially Trans people, are getting accused of grooming children. Doctors and therapists that help the community are getting death threats.
In the bubble, it still felt safe enough. I always knew the community I lived in would step up to anti-LGBTQ+ bullying.
At the end of 2021, I decided to return to the East Coast. That was a huge transition. One of the factors in thinking about where to land was will the place I land be safe for me? PA is not the Bay Area but would it be accepting of my gender non-conformity and Gay identity?
When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised at how little an issue being Gay was for our neighbors. It was a huge relief. Then this happened.
A local church had some inclusive signs that were torn down. Then they posted a rainbow flag. That was also torn down and feces was put on it. This event was shared in the local Facebook groups. People were upset for sure. The disconnect for me was that although people were upset no one has done anything (the exception being the church which put up a new flag and published the event). It appears that people think their moral outrage will make the neighborhood safer for the LGBTQ+ community. A nearby community had a similar thing happen. Every store owner promptly put out a pride flag in solidarity. That shows that people care. Right now it is always important to send the message that people care.
What frustrates me the most about straight people is that many of them just don’t get it. I have some great friends that do. They make an effort to get it. But most people don’t understand the effects of the constant aggressions that we are coping with. Every day there is a case where an LGBTQ+ book is banned or teachers are told they can’t put up a pride flag or a person is fired for being who they are. Yes in 18 states and 5 territories you can be fired for being gay. The question I want to ask straight people is “Has your marriage ever been legally overturned?” Because mine has. And given current conditions in this country, it could be again. In the Bay Area, it felt like a safe bubble. Here I drive through the county and see signs for Republican candidate for Governor that I believe is truly dangerous. I cannot even imagine what laws he would pass in PA if elected that would harm LGBTQ+ people. It is hard for sure.
For me, the solution is always action-oriented. I volunteer for the local Democratic Committee, I have started escorting at a local Planned Parenthood, and I got a job to help with election preparation by delivering supplies the weekend before the election. I will volunteer outside the polls on election day. I am happy to do my part to fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, POC, women’s rights, and overall democracy. It feels good to be in a place where the work I am doing can make a difference. At the same time, it is challenging to be in a place that is so different. With people that seem so well-intentioned but are still oblivious.
I have been writing this post for a week now. I have walked away and returned several times struggling with what was I trying to say. What I want is for people to understand how hard these times are for marginalized people. I want the people that are struggling to know that many of us are struggling and you are not alone. I want others to pay more attention and when things happen in your community to speak up. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. I understand feelings of overwhelm or that whatever you do is not enough. And, indeed, what you do is not enough. But what you do along with what I do along with what others are doing matters. It helps people. And change only happens when we are engaged and fighting.
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