Carly Fox, former OITO board member, is from Tuolumne County, California. She gave this speech at a Sonora, CA rally pushing back against anti-LGBTQ speaker General Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council (listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center), at Calvary Chapel June 20, 2020. Reprinted here with permission.
"We are here today to remind our community that Sonora Stands for Love, Not Hate.
Today, men are gathering at Calvary Chapel to hear General Jerry Boykin speak about what it means to be a “real man.” I have no idea what it means to be a “real man” nor I’m I interested in ever defining it; but I am sure that whatever it means doesn’t include violent homophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. If your manhood is defined by the dehumanization of others, please find a new definition.
We are here today to let Calvary Chapel know that hate is not a small town value. We are here to remind Calvary Chapel that Muslims, Jews, and LGBTQ people are a part of Toulumne County. And if you bring hate into our home, please expect to hear from us. The only outsider in our community today is BOYKIN!
We are here today because we know that white supremacy, sexism, and homophobia are interconnected systems of oppression. If you don’t understand how all three of these operate together, you just need to read the words of Boykin who is fiercely anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ and advocates an outdated “man as warrior” patriarchal view of the world.
We are here today to remind our community that Black Trans Lives Matter.
We are here today because the Trump administration recently reversed health protections for LGBTQ people. So we’re here today to remind everyone that Trans Rights are Human Rights.
Of course, we are also here today to celebrate Pride month. But at the same time, we remember that the first pride did not start as a mere celebration of who we are; rather, it started as a fight to merely exist as who we are. Pride was born out of struggle. Out of a riot. Out of resistance against police brutality. And let us never forget that our ancestors who lead the Stonewall Uprising were working-class trans women of color.
Yesterday I read that the head pastor at Calvary Chapel doesn’t believe he is racist or homophobic becaue he has friends who are gay and black and has lived in Africa as a missionary. Straight people, you can do better than this! White people, we can do better this. Let us all work to unpack our internalized racism, heterosexism, and misogyny.
We are not here to protest against Christianity. To the contrary, we are here to remind some Christians in our community that Jesus Christ was a radical man of color who spoke truth to power. Who stood with the most vulnerable and marginalized. And who was murdered by state violence.
In his public statement about our protest, I read that Pastor Dave Atkins believes we have the “potential to be future brothers and sisters who have yet to place their faith in Jesus Christ.” So we’re here to let Dave know that we too see Calvary Chapel as our potential future allies who have yet to unpack their fear of queers!
We are not here to ask our local Churches to merely “tolerate” us. We are not interested in their foolish slogans like “hate the sin; love the sinner.” We are here to remind Churches that being queer is a gift from god. That being LGBTQ is an expression of the divine, is a part of God’s perfect plan.
Many of us were born and raised in this county. We learned nothing about queer history or structural racism in our classrooms. We were told by our churches that our mere existence was proof of the end times. We experienced harassment at local bars and restaurants. Some of us have even been rejected by our own family.
SO we are here today to stand in solidarity with our queer youth and to remind our county that what we experienced as young people was unacceptable and we will not let it happen to another generation.
We are here to let our community know: You cannot silence us. You cannot erase us. You cannot convert us. You cannot pray us away. We are Tuolumne County."
We've been asked many times in the past couple of weeks some version of "But, what are you doing for Pride!?" Our answer is: everything you see below and more!
We're supporting our community directly with mutual aid funds, we're acting in solidarity and as a part of the Movement for Black Lives, we're collecting and sharing stories & recipes of our Rural LGBTQ+ Food Traditions, we're celebrating long-fought struggles at the Supreme Court, we are continuing the fight for racial justice locally with our friends at The Root Social Justice Center and Lost River Racial Justice, we are continuing the fight for rural LGBTQ+ health justice, and we are finding new ways of being together amidst an on-going pandemic while continuing to keep public and community health at the forefront of our minds.
As I'm sure many of you have imagined, we have decided to forego this year's Pride Family Cookout. It's a gathering we've done for each of the past 5 years and it is a loss to not come together at this time. In place of this year's Cookout, we invite you to participate in a collectively created zine sharing our Rural LGBTQ+ Food Traditions. Contribute here (http://bit.ly/rurallgbtqfood). We're feeding ourselves while feeding our movement! And we want to hear from folks about all the many ways you've done and are doing that.
So, for those of you wondering what we're doing for Pride, Pride is all around us. Jump in here with us and let's keep things moving. <3
Black communities across the country, and globe, are in mourning and in uprising. We are horrified, enraged, in mourning, and sadly not surprised, by the recent brutal murders of Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. We say their names and the names of the countless others Black lives who have been murdered due to police and white supremacist violence. The depths of violence from white supremacy runs deep. It runs deep in rural spaces. It runs deep in rural, so-called, Vermont and Northern New England where many white folks don’t have an understanding of the racist, intentional, State-based ways whiteness dominates/ed communities in these places. It runs deep everywhere. The struggle towards dismantling white supremacy will lead towards collective liberation, towards economic, social, and political equity.
Out in the Open stands in solidarity with all those rising up and organizing for Black lives, self-determination, and liberation. We support and and stand in solidarity with all the ways Black community members mourn and protest. We stand with those on and off the streets organizing for Black lives. We stand with Black communities working to heal and build joy. We stand with Black communities in rage and mourning.
We know that rural queer and trans people have a critical role to play in the struggle. We believe that by virtue of our LGBTQ+ identities, we are obligated to stand with each other in all of our struggles against all forms of oppression and for liberation for all of us. We collectively stand on the shoulders of Black & brown trans women, gender non-conforming folks, and cis LGBQ people, like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, José Sarria, Stormé DeLarverie, and many others, who ignited a movement for LGBTQ justice and liberation in the United States, well before and at Stonewall. And in our present moment we must fight for racial justice, as a foundational part of our LGBTQ+ movement, not as separately from it.
We know solidarity is an action word. We move, we stand, we build, we grow in solidarity. We commit to the long haul work of anti-racist organizing in rural communities.
Resistance and uprising in cities and rural spaces may look different. This we know. Showing up for rural Black community members means not erasing rural Black identities and experiences. It means learning what works in all of our rural contexts in terms of organizing strategies, trying some things out, possibly failing and trying again. It means moving money, power, and resources into the hands of Black folks. And means standing up for racial justice even if it’s just you, on your own, on your dirt road. We’re here to support and do all of that. Whether rurally or not: It means actively standing up and intervening in situations of covert and overt racism in all of our communities.
Here are some resources for acting in solidarity for racial justice here locally:
Ways to support uprising across the country:
Resources supporting healing for Black queer and trans folks:
To our rural Black queer community - we love you. We see you.
Eli Coughlin-Galbraith, OITO Board Member as well as co-founder and -owner along with Krista Coughlin-Galbraith of Shapeshifters (custom binder company-cum-mask makers), shares their experience receiving a non-symptomatic COVID-19 test today in our hometown, Brattleboro, Vermont.
For information on how to register and receive a COVID-19 test in the State of Vermont, go here: https://humanresources.vermont.gov/popups
"I signed up for the free VT covid testing event being done in the parking lot of our local high school, literally two minutes from my house. You do have to sign up! I got a 15-minute time slot and instructions to come wearing a mask. There were two long, open tents set up in the parking lot, and big clear signs telling us where to go. It was walk-in, I did have to park and get out of my car. There was a line of a few people, each standing about 15' apart, to get into the first tent.
Everyone directing people, processing people, and testing people had full PPE on: coverall bodysuit, gloves, mask, face shield. There was one guy in army fatigues who just had a face mask, standing by the entrance to the first tent. When I approached, he stepped back from the entrance. Everybody mostly maintained a solid 10-15' of distance, except during the actual test.
The two people in front of me did not have an appointment. The first person directing people was literally there to ask "do you have an appointment?", and when they said no, they were turned away, and started arguing. They got redirected to go argue with another person, whose function appeared to be getting people resources to register for other free tests around the state. I heard this person say that the next one was in Springfield, and though they did not yet have another testing day scheduled for Brattleboro, they fully planned to be doing this for the forseeable future and would come back around.
Of course, watching other adults argue and shout at each other ramped up the anxiety I was already feeling, so I automatically went extra-polite. The receiver was visibly relieved to hear I'd registered online, and apologized that they'd had technical glitches so she had to look at my phone to confirm that I had a confirmation email.
I found the email, zoomed in, and held the phone out. She looked from maybe 4' away and decided that was good enough! Waved me on in.
Tent 1 was registration: you head in, stand an appropriate distance away from a registration table, say your name and contact info, and get a sealed packet of Test Stuff with your name on it. They asked if I was an essential worker. I spread my hands and said "I make cloth masks?" Literally everyone at every table turned to look at me, and they were all masked but I'm, pretty sure they were smiling. I got some thumbs up.
(A personal sidebar: I sanitize my hands religiously. I sanitize my studio. I tell people to wash our masks before wearing them. But I'm not that good at repeating myself, we haven't yet printed instruction cards, and I am acutely aware that I'm touching things that people then put directly onto their faces. So. It seemed important.)
Also during registration, they asked "gender identity?" and I said, "nope! Do not have one of those" and they said "Cool!" and checked the third or fourth box on there. No further inquiries were made.
Tent 2 was testing. I was pointed at a chair to sit in, and two people approached when I sat. The person doing the test introduced herself and her assisting person, said hi, took my sealed packet of Testing Stuff, and unwrapped the sterile swab where I could see.
This thing is maybe the thickness of a mechanical pencil lead? 0.5mm. At the end is a tiny round brush maybe the thickness of a q-tip shaft, 1/2" long. But the whole swab is a decent 8" long.
I was looking at it, of course, the whole time she was telling me "okay, we need you to pull your mask down JUST over your nose, tilt your head back, close your eyes, and focus on breathing. It's going to be unpleasant!" Friends, I believed her.
She confirmed I could breathe through my nose or my mouth during this, I just had to pay attention to breathing. They handed me a tissue, said I'd need it after.
I'm a bit shaky pulling my mask down, straightening it out.
At first it just slides in, fine. But then it KEEPS GOING. i think it's like 6" straight in when it gently brushes up against a spot in my general sinus / throat situation that has never been touched by external influence before. The sensation is sort of like if you shove a Q-tip way too far into your ear, except, it's happening in that space where mucus collects, if you're really phlegmy and you're hacking up mucus to cough out.
When we were kids we called it "hocking a loogie." It's where the *hock* happens.
Anyway, that stayed there for a solid ten seconds. They had to hold it there and turn it. It was gentle. There was no pain. It did not set off any sort of reflex, I didn't twitch or react, I concentrated on breathing through my nose. Which, weirdly, did not feel obstructed at all.
Then it was coming back out and it was over. They both said I did good.
I pulled my mask back up and readjusted the wire and sat there a minute; nobody rushed me out. They were sealing up the swab in its little tube. Eventually I stood up and thanked them, they thanked me, I headed to the last person. Who handed me an info sheet and told me I'd get a call within 48 hours if I tested positive, and a letter in the mail with results if negative.
Then I went back to my car and sat there a minute and re-sanitized my hands and tried to decide how I felt about having a medical implement put straight into my Dang Face
and how this is what "widespread and frequent testing" means
and how this is probably going to happen again.
I took a bunch of breaths and decided I could do it again.
Don't get me wrong: that was unpleasant! I did not enjoy it. But it was unpleasant the way a blood draw is unpleasant, and it took less time. I got more anxiety from the people ahead of me arguing, and the army dude in insufficient PPE, than I did from the actual test.
Also the entire right side of my sinuses is cleared now in a way it hasn't been for this entire pollen-drenched hell-spring. So there's that.
I went home and changed and took a shower, not because I honestly think I was exposed to anything, but because these things made me feel better about Literally Everything. The end."
Make an appointment, get tested, be like Eli, help protect community health!