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A Community of Belonging for LGBTQIA+

During pride month last year in The Loop, I discussed my journey and the struggles I faced being gay. I shared that this struggle is the reason I personally have volunteered so much of my time to coordinate N.E.W. Pride Alive for the past eight years. Rainbow Over Wisconsin, a grassroots nonprofit organization for which I serve as board president, continues this work so others can feel a sense of self-worth they may not often feel as they move through their day-to-day world. These feelings are an all-too-common reality in the LGBTQIA+ community.

I was happy to work with Imagine Fox Cities early on to help give our LGBTQIA+ community a voice during their research project to gather data about well-being in the Fox Cities. The recently released data found that, compared to the general population, LGBTQIA+ individuals in the Fox Cities are 1.49 times more likely to struggle and 2.60 times more likely to feel like they don’t belong. A specific group within the LGBTQIA+ community, those who are transgender, have even more striking data; they are 2.03 times more likely to struggle and 3.15 times more likely to feel they don’t belong. These findings are not unique to the Fox Cities.

For LGBTQIA+ people, a lack of a sense of belonging can start in childhood, in their own home. Likely, LGBTQIA+ children do not share their identity with their parents, which oftentimes results in feeling like they do not have any loving caregivers who can relate. Worse, many LGBTQIA+ youth are rejected, kicked out of their homes, or otherwise endangered by their own family. This lack of belonging extends to schools, social circles, employment, and many other relationships and environments throughout an LGBTQIA+ person’s lifetime. Many hide their identity for fear of being ostracized.

There has been significant progress over time, but there is so much more to be done. Hate speech toward the LGBTQIA+ community is on the rise nationwide. Recently, an organized group of 31 white supremacists, described as a small army, from across the nation were on their way to a pride event in Idaho, stuffed in the back of a moving van carrying plans of engagement, gear, and cruel intentions. They were arrested before arriving, but tragedy could have occurred if not for a tip to the police.

In light of this news, N.E.W. Pride Alive has already met to plan additional security measures to keep our community safe at our event in September.

The threat to the community also comes in the form of legal measures. Legislation is being proposed and passed that harms the LGBTQIA+ population nationally. The transgender community has been a particular target.

We see these trends in our state, as there is similar organizing around these damaging measures. Last month, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court heard a case that will influence the quality of life for transgender youth in our schools.

Although IFC’s findings are not unique to the Fox Cities, I believe the Fox Cities is uniquely poised to change this story. Our community can impact this data for the betterment of our community and the individuals who live here. I have hope that the Fox Cities’ future is one in which all people, including LGBTQIA+ people, feel welcomed with a full sense of belonging. I invite you to join me in accomplishing that.

We’re featuring a series of articles from local authors celebrating our diversity in the Fox Valley. We’re a partner with Imagine Fox Cities and support the community’s vision for creating well-being for all. Learn how you can volunteer with Imagine Fox Cities as an influencer or liason.

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