Dear Out in the Open community and rural LGBTQ folks everywhere,
Since 2015, mid-Summer has traditionally been the time when we’re opening registration for our annual Out in the Open Summit for Rural & Small Town LGBTQ Folks, getting workshops lined up, planning menus, and having retreats as a Summit planning team. For each of these past years, The Summit has been a gathering place to collectively discuss and explore our rural and small town experiences as LGBTQ people.
At the end of 2019, we started expanding the Summit in some exciting ways that we’ve been thinking about for years. We have been working with folks in Maine on bringing the Summit there this year in addition to in our home here in Southern Vermont. And we are in conversation with friends and collaborators in Kentucky about some cross-regional collaborations as well.
Due to the Pandemic, our Summit planning has taken a turn inwards, temporarily. We are entering a Summit Year of Cover Cropping and will be building and deepening our relationships with folks in Maine and Kentucky over the next 12-18 months (and beyond) working towards even more expansive and abundant gatherings in 2021 or 2022.
In a time when, as rural LGBTQ folks, we may be experiencing even more acute isolation than before the Pandemic- we are deeply saddened that we won’t be hosting the Summit in-person this year. It has been meaningful in a transformative way to come together in community, to rest, to build, to dream, and to create with each other. As one long-time Summit attendee has said (paraphrasing here), The Summit has become like their queer family holiday: something to plan a year around, a place to re-connect with folks we may only see once a year, a place to share meals and laughs and much more.
We want to assure you that the Summit isn't going away, we're just working differently in this time in order to give our community a deeper and more powerful experience a bit down the road. In other words: we are letting our already strong roots grow deep; we are letting our proverbial fields rest while also adding needed nutrients by growing relationships, collaborations across geography, and Summit ideas; we are building our soil over this next year so that when we come back to plant and harvest in 2021 (or whenever the pandemic next allows), our Summits will be even more powerful and full that before. We believe that as a result of this deep time a bumper crop of Summits are coming our way in the near future!
In addition to all the things you see below, we’re working on some Summit-like virtual & analog opportunities for later in the Fall. We’re thinking about way to explore the same kind of political education and what we’ve come to call ‘rural living skills’ that we have at a typical Summit but in pandemic-proof ways (it won’t be all zoooooms, we promise!). As always, if you have thoughts/topics/projects/etc. that you think we should be building around, let us know.
Rest assured, Out in the Open is staying put, and so is our work with our rural LGBTQ community.
Some of the ways you can engage right now are:
We are building and creating for the long-haul— holding our values of queer joy, anti-racism, resistance, and connection. Although we won’t be physically in person this year, we are building strong, lasting connections in our rural LGBTQ communities this year and every year.
Much love for all that has been and all that is yet to come,
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."