Tonight, I celebrated the first LGBTQ+ Pride in my hometown. Being part of this historic moment in East Alabama history was quite poignant for me. Opelika has, for me, mixed associations. It was there, as a student at Trinity Christian School, that I experienced bullying from a teacher for “not being man enough,” and after graduation when I came out, I was banned from campus with the threat of having the police called on me if I returned. It was also there, in the Lee County Courthouse, where on July 22, 2013, I legally became Darcy Jeda Corbitt and began the journey of a lifetime. It was also there that, on August 16, 2017, that a clerk at the driver’s license office misgendered me, called me “it,” and ultimately denied to give me a driver’s license consistent with my gender identity simply because my previous Alabama driver’s license said I was a man. It was also there that I decided to serve a Federal lawsuit against the State of Alabama, challenging their right to define transgender peoples’ identity, dignity and worth. And it is there, today, that I celebrated my community, remember where we’ve been, and look with hope for a brighter, safer tomorrow.
And we are standing at a great divide between what our world is now and what our world may become. At its worse, discrimination and oppression loom over our community like a malevolent spectre, challenging our very right to feel safe and to live a life in pursuit of liberty and happiness. Less severe but just as deadly, apathy, moral disengagement, and microagression threaten to undermine the progress we have made as a community and as a nation. But it is not just hatred, bigotry, and fear which stand in the path of a brighter, safer, and more affirming future. We as a larger community of LGBTQ+ people, subconsciously or purposefully, weaken our own progression toward becoming a better version of ourselves. Our myopic fixation on white, gay masculine culture as our norm, our mindset of bi now gay later, and the complete erasure of anything but obvious tokenism of lesbian, transgender, queer, asexual, pansexual, intersex, 2Spirit, polyamorous plus identities reinforces the rampant racism, sexism, biphobia, and transphobia that tears our community apart and leaves many waiting anxiously in the fringes of our community begging to be heard.
We have forgotten, or perhaps don’t care, that Pride has its roots in a group of black trans women having enough of police brutality at the Stonewall Inn and resisting the evil of bigotry and violence. We certainly have done little as a community to elevate the voices of trans women of color, and queer people of color, despite the fact that the majority of the victims of anti-LGBTQ+ violence are disproportionately black, trans, and women. Nor have we made much of an effort to diversify the organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community. Even we are not immune. The Foundation does not have a single person of color on its staff or on its board, a fact which distresses me considerable because I am painfully aware of how stereotypes remain intact when we fail to have representation of all people. Our lack of diversity has not been from a lack of trying to recruit. The reality is, that when a community has a history of ignoring or tokenizing voices of color, those voices tend, and rightly so, to not trust a white woman asking them to join her organization. We can, and must, do better. Because when we fail to include the voices of all ethnicities, we are complicit in the rampant systemic racism of our culture, our community, and our programming.
While it is easy and frankly predictable to celebrate those who have made our community visible in the national arena, we must not do so at the expense of failing to give a voice and a platform to the gritty, ugly, and painful realities faced by the most marginalized amongst us: Bisexual individuals who feel ostracized by the LGBTQ+ community when they are in a relationship with someone of the same sex or gender, polyamorous people who fight against the slut-shaming that comes with being in love with more than one person, asexual people on the receiving end of intrusive questions, trans people whose very right to exist is at the forefront of our national discourse, and 2Spirit, intersex people, and the plethora of other identities which never get mentioned at all and thus live in a state of identity homelessness. Nor should we forget to honor and celebrate the unsung everyday heroes in our own communities who sacrifice their time, money, and wellbeing to make our local community safer, more affirming. We, as a community, have not progressed to where we are by being popular, entertaining, or by trending on social media. Nor will we successfully create a healthy, vibrant community that challenges the world’s stereotypes of us by living within the narrow confines of our own perspectives and focusing only on the aspects of our community that entertain us rather than combining that celebration with a sober reflection on our history and educating our neighbors on the whole of LGBTQ+ identity. We have advanced, and will continue to advance, by ordinary acts of every-day courage, by not pushing what is palatable but by boldly confronting the evil which threatens to destroy our very identities and existence.
As we move forward on our journey together, I challenge you all to listen to and elevate those voices which are most ignored in our society and in our community at-large. I challenge you (especially our allies) to dig deep into your pockets, until it hurts, and fund local, small LGBTQ+ organizations which work tirelessly, often thanklessly, and on the verge of bankruptcy to improve the lives of our communities. I challenge you to enjoy our community’s rich history of pushing boundaries, exploring identity, and creating community through drag performance and to find other mediums for community building and celebrating and educating ourselves and others on the rich and ever-changing tapestry that is our community.
Most importantly, I challenge you to resist that evil, both external and in our midst, which seeks to destroy us. It has come for us in our bedrooms, and we have resisted. It is coming for us in our bathrooms, and we shall resist. It is coming for us in our driver’s license offices and halls of government and we shall resist. It is coming for us in our schools, on our college campuses, in our clubs, and in our churches, and we shall resist. And, if it comes to our front door and drags out of our homes, we shall resist. Because we shall never give up, never surrender our sacred right to define our own dignity and worth.
Darcy J. Corbitt-Hall She/Her/Hers
President and CEO
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Darcy Jeda Corbitt Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity promoting the health and global wellbeing of transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming individuals. All donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by US Federal Tax Code.
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