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."
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.