(Image Description: World Pride, June 26, 2019 in New York City at Barclays. Performance by Sara Ramirez and Sondra Woodruff. From left to right, the bi+ leaders and their accomplices on the stage were:
Monica Roberts, TransGriot and Black trans legend | Kylar W. Broadus Esq., Trans People of Color Coalition | Michón Neal, creator of the term: “noetisexual” | Ashton | P. Woods, Black Lives Matter: Houston | Ana Andrea Molina, Trans Latina icon, OLTT | Bamby Salcedo, TransLatina Coalition | Clark Hoelscher, GLSEN National Advisory Council | Ron Suresha, Bi Bear Icon | Juba Kalamka, St. James Infirmary | Mire Regulus, wife of Andrea Jenkins, artist/advocate | Andrea Jenkins, 1st Black trans city councilwoman and poet | Luigi Ferrer, Bi Latinx HIV educator | Alex-Quan Pham, Vietnamese trans activist | Chase Strangio, Trans Non-binary lawyer at ACLU | Faith Cheltenham, BiNet USA, co-founder of #biweek | Axel Keating, InterACT board member | Shakya Cherry Donaldson, Black SGLBTQIA+ accomplice | Carmen Neely, Harlem Pride President | Mohamed Q. Amin, Caribbean Equality Project | Felicia Teter, Yakama Nation | YahNé Baker, Black SGLBTQIA+ accomplice | Trish Bendix, Iconic Lesbian Writer | Mike Szymanski, Bisexual writer and activist | Lynnette McFadzen, Bisexual demisexual elder | Efrain Gonzalez, LGBT movement photographer | R.J. Aguilar, Bi Latinx internet icon)
I had the amazing honor of joining leaders from across the wide spectrum of gender and sexual orientation diversity of LGBTQIA+ people on stage in New York City with Sarah Ramirez this past June to kick-off the Stonewall 50th Anniversary and World Pride. Solidarity was the word for the night as the ever fantastic Billy Porter, Ciara, Todrick Hall, and Cyndi Lauper sang and danced their hearts out!
On the stage, as I looked to my right and left while singing Over the Rainbow, I saw leaders working with our community for equal rights and protections for LGBTQIA+ people. I heard about their efforts around housing, legal immigration status, safe working conditions, health care, and medical rights attending to the urgent needs of our Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous siblings.
My personal identities under the big umbrellas are bisexual and gender queer. These feel as right to me as my preference for dark chocolate or mint flavored ice cream. I acknowledge fully that they are connected to the entirety of who I am as a white person who grew up middle working class in Texas in the 1980s. Those identities have helped me understand myself, share about myself, and find myself ever more connected meaningfully to others.
At World Pride and in most other places, I am rarely in rooms full of people who share all of my personal and cultural identities, so mostly I’m showing up as an ally in solidarity with my siblings. And I am grateful for a really, really big gender and sexual orientation diversity umbrella because I want everyone to be able to huddle under and stay dry.
Up on the stage, under an enormous Philadelphia "More Color More Pride" flag, I concluded that the most fundamental thing I can do in my active allyship is to offer complete and radical acceptance of the identities chosen and shared with me by those around me. I am beyond 100% committed to this effort. I believe this practice alone is healing, transformative, and possibly even life saving.
Here’s how this looks for me in practice.
New Friend: I identify as an intersex, gender fluid, dyke
Clark: Awesome! Fab! Thanks for sharing. Would you like to tell me more about what those identities mean to you? Is there anything I can offer to support you around those identities?
To summarize, words matter. They have power. The words we use to call and label ourselves are especially powerful as LGBTQIA+ people. Please, please join me in creating ever more inclusivity, connection, and joy!Clark Hoelscher, Ph.D., they/them is an educator and community leader in St. Paul, Minnesota and a member of GLSEN’s Educator Advisory Committee.