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Simple acts of courage create real change

By |2007-05-10T09:00:00-04:00May 10th, 2007|Uncategorized|

These are such All-American things – going to the prom, riding a float in a parade. Yet for LGBT people, these simple rites of passage can pose daunting and sometimes terrifying challenges.
Affirmations hosted their sixth annual Youth Prom at their new community center building in Ferndale last weekend, and about 150 young people danced and partied the evening away. They were free to be themselves and to express themselves in ways that could be unwelcome at a more traditional prom. Some high schools are starting to welcome same sex partners at their proms, but that remains an exception not the rule. For the young people who attended the prom at Affirmations, it was not only a fun evening out with friends, but a statement that they have a place and a community that is accepting and supportive of them – just the way they are.
In St. Joseph’s this weekend the YWCA Out and Affirmation Center (OAC) entered a spectacular float in the annual Blossom Day Parade. Some of the residents in this conservative Berrien County town were outraged, and they threatened all kinds of mischief if the LGBT people had the nerve to show themselves in public at THEIR community event. The OAC people showed their resolve and did not back down. They behaved with dignity and courage, and presented their float as any other community group from the area, and the crowds accepted them with open arms and rousing applause. It was an inspiring testament to the good hearts of people who dislike discrimination and recrimination, even as they may struggle to accept and understand the LGBT people in their community.
We believe it is these ordinary, every day events that bring about the most profound change in people’s hearts and minds. When a young person gets the chance to feel loved and accepted, without pretending to be someone they are not, it plants the seed of self-respect. It can provide a building block for future courageous acts in that individual’s personal and public life.
The people in St. Joseph’s had the opportunity to see their out and proud LGBT community, and to experience their fantastic creative abilities. The OAC is part of that community’s local YWCA, and the rest of the St. Joseph community was able to see that these are their neighbors, their teachers, their co-workers and perhaps even their family members. With their courage, the OAC was able to show the broader community that there is nothing to fear from LGBT people. We are a part of the community, we want to contribute and participate, and it does not mean that anyone else must forfeit any rights to make room for us.
It is an expanding and loving act to reach out to those who are not accepted readily. The community of St. Joseph’s proved that a conservative, small town in Michigan is perfectly capable of weaving its LGBT people into the fabric of their civic life. It has only made that community’s fabric that much more resilient.

About the Author:

Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.
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