Local Syndrome: Straight, Not Narrow

By on June 13, 2018

Outspoken heterosexual allies can change the future of LGBTQ individuals

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Jackson’s first LGBTQ Pride Month dance party has come and gone and it sent a message to a once closeted community. On Saturday, the party sold out the Pink Garter and more than 450 people demonstrated that there is indeed a strong LGBTQ presence here in Jackson Hole, as well as many allies. The historic scene included shirtless men publicly making out, home-grown drag queens prancing on the stage and colorful cocktails with names like Brokeback Manhattan and Gay on the Beach.

It’s no secret that Wyoming is not a destination that LGBTQ folks point to on the map with great desire. As many of us know, the idea of being the “Equality State” is often synonymous with jokes about the discrimination that Wyoming’s women, Latinos, gays, (insert non-WASP group here) often experience in the state. However, progress for the LGBTQ community is happening in Wyoming.

In January, the Northern Arapaho tribe updated its non-discrimination policy to include gender identity in its protections. Jackson Town Council, meanwhile, is on course to pass a non-discrimination ordinance, following in the footsteps of Laramie. Its first reading will hopefully appear on the agenda of the council’s June 18 meeting.

In my journey organizing this party, I have had a few straight friends ask me what more they can do to be better allies to Jackson’s LGBTQ community. Here are just a few ways.

  1. Understand the importance of Pride

June is officially recognized in America as LGBT Pride Month. Like many civil rights movement, the origins of the gay rights movement began with a riot. On June 28, 1969, NYC police raided the beloved gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, claiming the club was serving liquor without a liquor license. A number of people were thrown into paddy wagons, causing violent protests against law enforcement to break out. It was the LGBTQ community’s first publicly coordinated effort to fight back against intolerance. Today, Pride has become an amalgamation of celebration, remembrance and protest.

 

  1. Educate yourself about LGBTQQIP2SAA

The acronym changes depending on its use, but generally LGBTQ or LGBTQ+ is used (the plus sign indicating that the acronym doesn’t end at Q). Officially, LGBTQQIP2SAA stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, 2-Spirited, Asexual, and Allies. I don’t know anyone within the community that expects you to rattle off the full acronym in normal conversation, but it’s important to recognize that the LGBTQ community is all-inclusive and accepting, that no matter who you are or how you identify, there will always be a place for you with us. Understand the difference between each identification and be mindful and curious when you meet others. Straight is not the default.

 

  1. Create safe environments for your friends and family

Coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community is a daunting affair, made more difficult in conservative environments like Wyoming. Using insensitive phrasing like “fag”, “dyke” or saying something is “so gay” when you mean it’s uninteresting or problematic creates an atmosphere of unacceptance. Be mindful of your language and create open dialogues within your household and friend circle.

If you think your child or relative or friend might be LGBTQ, understand that a person’s coming out should always be on their terms, not yours. The best thing you can do is roll out a carpet of acceptance by being aware of the community.

 

  1. Help amplify unheard voices

Being white, wealthy and straight in America has always had its privileges. If you have the means, throw your dollars towards efforts that raise the visibility of LGBTQ people or encourage their acceptance. If you part of a local organization that can help highlight LGBTQ individuals through art, I encourage you to do so.

My hope, following Saturday’s party, is that we can continue throwing similar events that help usher in a new era of acceptance and love in Jackson Hole and beyond. In doing so, we can create a safe, welcoming environment for young LGBTQ people in the community, people who may feel, as I once did, shy about being who they truly are.

Ultimately, I want to see my hometown be ahead of the curve, when it comes to LGBTQ acceptance in traditionally red states. But LGBTQ folks cannot accomplish this on their own. Straight allies are crucial in paving the way for new initiatives that can change the course of Wyoming’s legacy.

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