Posted October 13, 2016
There’s something I want to be crystal clear about: Isabel Jewelry supports the LGBT community. Many people live in towns that have moved on from questioning whether Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender folks should be treated with equal respect but we haven’t in the town and state where I reside: Pinedale, Wyoming. So after recently being reminded that there is a contingent here that is living in another era I feel the urge to share my story of understanding LGBT people.
I didn’t really know LGBT people when I was a kid. I spent most of my younger childhood in Virginia in the 1980’s and then in 1986 we moved to California, the Bay Area. My first inkling of a gay community was visiting San Francisco (about an hour by car) and seeing same-sex couples holding hands and seeing men casually riding the public bus wearing untraditional clothing. It was just normal, part of daily life.
My high school was pretty average for the time: teens were not out of the closet. A couple of brave kids were out but they were rare and I didn’t think about it too much (I was wrapped up in my own teen world). After high school I went to college and began to see more people being outspoken, raising awareness and coming out. I started listening to their journeys. I began appreciating LGBT artists and musicians.
When I moved to San Francisco after college I found many LGBT friends that are a piece of me today. I lived in San Francisco for six years. I heard stories of rejection from family and I understood why forming a new family through community can be so vital. I heard about families using the religion excuse for their prejudice. (That excuse always falls flat to my ears because: 1. many Christian churches allow gay marriage, 2. the Golden Rule, and 3. God is Love…right?) And I was floored that these families were passing up the opportunity to have these awesome children as part of their lives. Mingling in the San Francisco LGBT community was so joyful and the friends I found taught me volumes about love and acceptance.
Seeing everyone as equal just feels so good. It’s just so fun to be in a mixed crowd of people and feel at one with everyone. Nothing’s better than the peace created by this sense of unity and communal support. And when a person doesn’t have to put up a daily fight to just live their life they can have the brain space to realize dreams. When you aren’t confronted with hatred you have peace and can make the world a better place.
So back to Pinedale and Wyoming. This is an extremely conservative place. Our state is so reliably conservative that opposing political parties don’t really bother campaigning here and quite often the republican candidates go unopposed. Our state’s motto is “The Equality State” because we were the first state to allow women to vote. You’d think that would have begun a good trend but it really hasn’t. Our state legislature will not speak out in support of LGBT and will not vote to protect the community from prejudice from employers. Our local politicians protect the town’s prejudiced judge. And our weekly paper’s editor wrote a full-page editorial against the Supreme Court decision supporting same-sex marriage. Annoyingly some residents simply assume that you agree since you live here. Well, I don’t and I won’t. I’ve lived here 13 years and apparently these prejudices just won’t rub off on me.
I think a big reason people here are prejudiced is inexperience. No experience with loving a LGBT person as a dear friend. Never having listened to that person’s stories of struggle and rejection. Never having experienced the joy, humor, intelligence and fun of participating in the gay community. Never having lived in a town that equally accepts LGBT people and seen that things are fine. And never having stopped and questioned their own prejudices.
Obviously the world is changing and fortunately not all of Pinedale is prejudiced. But there is definitely religious and political support for that prejudice here. Despite my zip code, I see my fellow LGBT citizens as equals. You are welcome at Isabel Jewelry and always will be. And I’ll keep on speaking up despite the potential of getting an ignorant “x” put by my name or business by people that are not comfortable with building a peaceful and loving community. We all live here and we all belong.