Beloved Out in the Open Community,
I'm writing this month to share with you that I'm going to be taking a 3-month sabbatical from Out in the Open February-April, 2021. I first mentioned this idea to Lucy, our Board President (pictured above on the left during both of our first months with OITO), after our March 2020 board meeting just before we buttoned things up at the start of the pandemic and here we are nearly a year later. It’s hard to believe this time is upon us!
After 7 years with me as the primary voice of Out in the Open, it's a wonderful time to continue deepening and broadening our organization's leadership. I cannot wait to see how Ain and Eva, our full time staff members; our board; volunteers; and community members grow into their leadership and power in my absence. I feel very lucky to have the full support of our staff and board, to have this chance to rest after building through these first years of OITO, and to have the space to dream/vision about what our next phases of work can and will look like.
I am so so proud and in awe of what our community and organization has done, how we’ve pulled together, how we’ve held each other, what we have tried, what we have dreamed, and what we have breathed into being, all these years. And I’m so excited to see how my making/taking a bit of space offers room for others to move into the fullness of their leadership too.
Thank you to our fabulous Board of Directors and staff who have said yes to so many of my wild ideas throughout the years including saying yes to this sabbatical. Additional thanks to those folks for their work, time, and energy in these upcoming months! And thank you, dear community, for all the very many kinds of support (time, ideas, laughs, energy, money, resources, phone calls, social media boosts, collaborations, and more) that you have given to me and to Out in the Open all these years.
We will be adding one big support during this time. I am so pleased to share that long-time OITO community member, Jo Lum, will be joining us in the role of Interim Managing Director while I’m away. See an intro/hello from Jo below!
I will look forward to connecting with many of you in different ways over the next few months and to returning to Out in the Open in a refreshed way in May!
With much love, care, and gratitude,
Executive Director, Out in the Open
Meet our Interim Managing Director, Jo!
I'm thrilled to join the team at Out in the Open! While I've spent the majority of my adult life trying to be a city queer in New York City and Minneapolis- I grew up in Cambridge, NY just over the mountains from route 9. Over the years, Out in the Open has reminded me there is a vibrant, diverse queer family here to come home to- so I did and it has been such a sweet homecoming.
Currently I own a coaching business, Outstanding Returns, where I specialize in supporting liberal folx with wealth heal their relationship with money and take bold action for social and environmental change. I'm jazzed to bring my background in coaching, facilitating, fundraising and organizing home to my rural queer family at Out in the Open. I look forward to meeting as many of you as I can for a hike, a zoom thing, or to jump on The People's Trampoline some time soon.
Out in the Open stands with workers locally, regionally, nationally, and globally working for more just, humane, and sustainable working conditions. We support workers' rights to organize, strike, and unionize their workplaces to create more fair and equitable places of labor. We join a long history of LGBTQ folks supporting labor. From queer solidarity with coal miners in Wales in the 1980s, to the lifelong work of movement ancestors like Leslie Fienberg, and numerous other examples, LGBTQ folks have been at the frontlines of labor struggles and we continue that solidarity.
In our home state of Vermont, where the tipped minimum wage is only $5.48, the non-tipped State minimum wage $10.78, the hourly wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom apartment is $23.36, and at a time when service jobs and in-person work have a higher risk due to the global pandemic– we are with all workers striving for higher wages and safer working conditions.
We know that pre-pandemic and today, LGBTQ people are both at the frontlines of higher risk, lower paying jobs, and face greater economic insecurity than non-LGBTQ people (1). We support workers who are being fired and laid off due to the economic conditions of the pandemic.
(1) See https://www.lgbtmap.org/file/lgbt-rural-report.pdf page 29, and https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Executive-Summary-Dec17.pdf pages 10-11.
Dear Out in the Open community,
We know that everyone is talking about voting right now. Because we’re rural queer & trans people invested heavily in our collective liberation, here’s how we’re thinking about voting in U.S. elections these days. (If you’ve been with us for a while, you know we love a metaphor!) It’s like weeding in our gardens and fields. We need to be able to see the hornworms through the hogweed. And in order to do that we’ve got to clear the way.
We know that all those harmful hornworms are going to continue creating some devastation, defoliation, and munching away on our sweet sweet tomatoes all along the way— regardless of if we keep up with our weeding or not! And we can’t even see them if all the hogweed and lamb’s quarters are up to our eyebrows. Let’s pull these weeds out at their roots and then get to work disposing of all those sneaky hornworms (or potato beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, corn earworms, etc. the pests are many!) once we can find them.
Is our weeding going to fix centuries of soil destruction and nutrient depletion? No. Is it going to fix decades of dismantling our collective ability to save seeds and replant as a result of GMO-laced seed? Certainly not. And also, voting is a thing we can do, right now, to make the conditions of growing easier. If we’re not dealing with weed pressure, the whole field is healthier.
We are up against it right now, y’all. Impending/present authoritarianism and fascism. Threats of no longer sending federal funds to Seattle, Portland, and NYC. People detained in ICE custody literally losing their bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. The looming end of reproductive rights for people with uteruses. On-going and rampant direct violence against Black people throughout the country. The likely rollback of many protections & rights won over the last several decades, fueled by mass movements and cemented legally by the Supreme Court. The on-going loss of hundreds of thousands more of our friends, family members, loved ones, neighbors, and our own lives to COVID-19. It is a lot.
So, join us in voting this November. In many communities across the country, including Vermont, mail-in and early voting has already started. If you are voting in Vermont, the date to mail ballots back has passed. Choose another method for returning your ballot! Think of November 3rd as your last opportunity to vote in this election, not your first. Check your registration and if you live in Vermont (like us!), the status of your ballot here. If you want to organize around defending democracy, there is a large list of resources compiled by Training for Change here. Our rural LGBTQ voices and our values matter.
And of course, continue joining us in the many ways of building rural LGBTQ community, visibility, knowledge, and power. Regardless of what happens this month or in a few months, we’ll be here with you working hard to move all of us closer to collective liberation for all people.
HB & Out in the Open
Dear Out in the Open community,
This time last year we were gathered at Green Mountain Camp in Dummerston, VT for the fifth annual Out in the Open Summit. We are really missing being together with you all right now! The theme of last year's gathering was Rest, Resilience, & Resistance, which we explored through things like: a group read of The Left Hand of Darkness; a day of queer & trans beekeeping down at They Keep Bees, a session on creating queer gym/workout spaces, a fall medicinal plant walk, many meals, late nights by the campfire with a bunch of rural LGBTQ folks, and by being together in the woods with all the magic that early fall can bring.
This October, as a staff, inspired in part by the 2019 Summit, by the always brilliant Nap Ministry, and by a number of groups we're connected to (namely Astraea Foundation and Borealis Philanthropy) who are doing something similar right now, we're taking an all-staff break from October 5-19th. After these past six months, this is needed time for us to rest and recuperate.
In the meantime, volunteer-run groups will continue as planned! And we'll be back refreshed and as always ready to go on the 19th.
Let us know if you have questions about what programming will continue over these next couple of weeks.
The time is always right to actively push back against white supremacy (and the hegemony of capitalism, and the crush of heteronormativity, and pandemic exhaustion, and...) this break is one way we're doing that. There are many others.
Onward towards collective liberation for all of us,
HB & Out in the Open
BLM Mural in front of Putney Central School, Putney VT. Painted 9/27. Photo by Justin Altman.
Here's some stuff to enjoy during this break:
We Feed Each Other: Rural LGBTQ Food Traditions Zine is now available!
A compilation of recipes, memories, and stories- connecting and fueling our rural LGBTQ communities.
Download your copy!
[image credit - Molly Costello]
SEPTEMBER CHALLENGE: Our friends at W.R. Metalarts have agreed to match all donations made to Out in the Open until we reach $2,500 or September ends-- whichever comes first.
Can you help us meet our Match? Click here!
Listen to our newest Radio Hour episode to be in conversation with Out in the Open staff, HB, Ain, and Eva! Hear about what politicized them, what they love about being rural queer folks, and a joke or two!
Get it wherever you listen to podcasts, on our website, and Mondays 2-3PM on WVEW 107.7FM in Brattleboro. All episodes can be found here: https://bit.ly/2FG7fw9