Wheelin’ for our rights

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2007-08-16T09:00:00-04:00 August 16th, 2007|News|
An Inspiring Journey: Rachel Loskill

7 p.m. Aug. 23
Affirmations Lesbian & Gay Community Center, 290 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale

Rachel Loskill had never been arrested. Until the spring, when she was put in the slammer once. And then twice. And then a third time.
For an amateur inmate, those could have been the most grueling days of Loskill’s two-month journey on the Equality Ride, a Soulforce-produced, equality-spreading bus trip to conservative colleges in the United States. But they weren’t.
“The days at the schools, having conversations, were really the most intense days,” Loskill says from East Lansing – where she’s elated to be back home.
Loskill, a 22-year-old Michigan State University student, will discuss her journey to 32 colleges at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23 at Affirmations Lesbian & Gay Community Center in Ferndale. She, along with other riders, often was forced away from the colleges by police, by ropes and by sign – and conversations with interested students typically occurred over these barriers. That didn’t stop some pupils from crossing over the obstructions to chat and pitch commonly-asked and seemingly-basic questions like, “Why are you here?”
“They hadn’t really talked about some of the (LGBT) issues before,” Loskill says. “They really hadn’t met someone who was LGBT, so in that sense (we) brought so much awareness. And so much dialogue continued and so many queer and gay/straight alliances started around the country that it was well, well worth it.”
Before Loskill left in March, she told Between The Lines she wanted to tell students who felt forced to stay closeted: “I support (you). I’m here. I understand. You’re not alone.” And that’s what she did. Just before hitting the road, and after the Equality Ride launched last year, word had spread about the civil-rights act, and the need for students to converse with like-minded people continued to grow.
But Loskill is convinced that, for these repressed students, change is on its way – it just hasn’t found the expressway yet.
“I know I talked to a lot of people who aren’t really sure why I would just go to colleges and have conversations (with them), when especially there is a lot of protests from the other side. A lot of people would say to me, ‘You’re not just talking to the schools; you’re talking to religion.’ It’s like, ‘No, I’m not really talking to religion either.'”
Loskill’s hardcore activism grew from discrimination she fought while attending Adrian College, a Methodist school with a mentality similar to the institutions that Equality Ride stopped at – and the place she first came out and had a girlfriend. A far cry from the liberal high school she attended in Beverly Hills, where faculty and students were out (but Loskill wasn’t), she’d often return to her dorm room to find scathing notes posted on her decorated door, sometimes with other memos from friends, defending Loskill. The first door annotation simply declared: “Stop being a lesbian.”
Coming from a close-minded college, Loskill didn’t anticipate students, faculty and administrators to open their ears to her and the other riders, but they flooded her with questions. And, still, these conversations are continuing. “It was life-changing for myself and, I know, for a lot of the people I talked to and had conversations with at the schools and have continued to e-mail back-and-forth since then.”
Too busy with conversing and sending out thousands of postcards to sponsors (money which went to getting her bailed out of jail), Loskill didn’t have much time to soak in each city. And she began missing home, where people anxiously awaited her return in May, she says. Now, she’ll continue pushing for equality, particularly in religious institutions. Just not on a bus. Or in a jail cell.
“I’m on to other things,” she says.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. Reach him via his website at http://www.chris-azzopardi.com and on Twitter (@chrisazzopardi).