Lately, I've had an overwhelming passion to get back into LGBTQIA+ community activism. At first, I was feeling like my present interests are decreasing my desire to be part of the community again. Then as Pride season came around this past summer, I saw a lot of same gender couples and wanted a girlfriend of my own. This initiative doubled my interest in getting back into activism.
For me, being an LGBTPQIA+ community activist shouldn't be to perve for a future wife. It’s about creating a safe space for people to get answers to their problems and understand themselves better. However, I cannot deny that the ability and courage for a female to seek in person support and camaraderie for her sexuality is appealing to me. This is the basis of my present conundrum.
I haven't been in the closet about my sexuality since I was in high school. I didn't exactly put a name to it till my first year of college, but I was out and ready to meet others with similar life experiences as myself.
As soon as I knew I was positively attracted to other females, I started going to the Gay and Straight Ally Alliance on campus at Youngstown State University. There I met a very good friend that I still keep in contact with this day. I also met the woman who gave me my first same gender intimate experience as a young adult. I became the president of the organization not that long afterwards.
During my time as president of that organization, I was able to come home briefly to take part in an LGBT Youth Leader Conference. I got the chance to see Cleveland in a new light, a welcoming light, that I had not known was there when I was in high school. Cleveland had had a Lesbian/Gay Community Center all this time! I could have discovering the secrets of my sexual orientation years before I left high school.
I had never been to a center like that before. I didn't know what to expect, or what would be expected of me. The center moved from West 29th and Detroit to West 65th and Detroit which made it possible for me to find it and attend. So I decided to take the plunge and attend the center I did. After work I was at the center every night of the week. Meetings for different groups met every night and all day through evening on Saturdays. Groups were always packed to capacity, making me feel less alone and part of something really meaningful and helpful.
As my sexual orientation shifted, and the groups shifted dynamics, I was bit by the organizing bug. I didn't want groups to end once leaders stepped down. So I took over a couple of them. At one point I was running the bisexual group and the group for 20-29 year olds. I had also started marching in the Gay Pride Parade every year.
Once I came close to my 30s, I was only running the bisexual group. I was trying to start a Parents For Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) for People of Color, but that proved a bit risky an idea to run with.
Its easy to just take over a group once people step down. So what exactly did my activism look like besides just being listed as a group leader? I consider my activism to be going beyond just being present and participating in support groups.
I planned topics for meetings, helped steer conversations when I could, wrote press releases for events, advertised for new members, planned programs, planned extracurricular activities, put up websites, hosted meetings in my own apartment, volunteered at the Gay Pride Festivals through check in/clean up, sitting at booths for different local organizations, working in the Children's Pavilion, made signs, sold T-shirts, made brochures, and I wrote awareness and personal articles in papers like “Gay People's Chronicle” (God bless its out-of-print soul now), “The Letter,” and “Bi Women Newsletter.”
I've always been amazed by my ability to put my severe shyness and introversion aside to be someone people could look to for support with their sexuality concerns. Benefiting the many always superseded just benefiting myself. Helping always has always helped me, so I don't know why now that it feels like I want to help others as well as helping myself. Helping me accept myself and my own story was just a side effect of being there for others. Now that I'm sure of myself and have come to respect my own story, my personal objectives have shifted.
How do I help others without turning it into a personal hunting ground? Should I not go back to leading and just focus on trying to find my one? LGBTPQIA+ community activism is not a part of my identity I want to give up. Its given me personal strength and purpose where I thought I wasn't important. I just don't want to misuse my purpose.