Happy Pride Month 2021, Cottage Grove! Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is commemorated in the United States each June. It is a period for the nation to acknowledge …
Happy Pride Month 2021, Cottage Grove! Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month is commemorated in the United States each June. It is a period for the nation to acknowledge how the demographic has shaped society. Before Americans began celebrating Pride Month this year, The Journal checked in with some of Cottage Grove’s LGBTQ+ residents. Across all three exchanges with The Journal, acceptance, social progress, oppression and next steps were discussed. Readers are prompted to tune into the perspectives of Cottage Grove’s LGBTQ+ population.
Gregory Ross has always been aware of his stance in the LGBTQ+ community. Even so, he initiated a period of “self discovery” in middle school. This journey led Ross to realize that he was a gay man. “I went to the GSA…in middle school and seeing other people and talking to other people who kind of felt the same way just really like, explained to me what was going on…” Ross outlined.
Since coming to terms with his genuine self, others have attempted to tear Ross down with negative words. Beyond that, he has not undergone major conflicts based on his sexual orientation. Still, Ross admitted that hate speech targeted at him is “unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, the World Wide Web is where transgender woman, Jamie Rei, faces a bulky amount of intolerance. They confessed to The Journal, “Personally, it’s more of the online aspect because it’s a little easier to discriminate online as opposed to face-to-face.”
Perhaps Maggie Maruska would concur with Rei’s reasoning. Maruska recently came out as bisexual. Up to the present moment, she has encountered a “limited” number of obstacles due to her sexuality. “…I didn’t come out…til this year. So, every experience that I could have had was…limited from COVID,” Maruska stated.
While some of these issues have been mild, in-person challenges, most of them unfolded digitally. Maruska continued, “You don’t think that your identity really affects other people…it’s just who you are as a person. But, then…it just carries over in relationships…So, coming out it was like…no matter if I wanted to be viewed as different or not, it’s like, I’m different now…I don’t think I had any backlash obviously outfront…but I feel like most of the stuff that would happen with backlash or homophobia would be over the internet, cyber-bullying kind of stuff, which happens. You know how it goes…It’s just like, ‘I’m going to be treated a little bit differently now just because I am different…because heterosexuality is so normal.’” The difficulties that Ross, Rei, and Maruska have courageously endured are the reapings of an imperfect world. To eliminate their oppression, parts of society are working to assemble a more safe and loving environment for the LGBTQ+ community. According to The Journal’s interviewees, it is evident that Cottage Grove is on track to become one secure region.
First of all, South Washington County Schools’ educators were commended for considering the wishes of LGBTQ+ students. “Teachers in our school, Park High School, if you don’t use your birth name or your birth pronouns, they’ll respect that and they’ll try to get better at that. And especially this year I’ve seen it and…I’d say that’s a really big step for accepting people,” Rei applauded.
The progress effected by local educators was likely accelerated by Park High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). During the 2019-2020 school year, this organization’s leaders delivered lectures to the employees of PHS. They presented their expectations on how LGBTQ+ students should be treated. As the current President of the GSA, Maruska was in a position to describe one result of such conferences. “That was one of the progresses, that was a [GSA] meeting that took place last year where we sat down with teachers. We said, ‘Here’s ways that you can…ask people for pronouns. Introduce it in your classroom, not make it a big deal, and just normalize it,’…Most teachers did Google Forms…It works so well for normalizing and for making sure that like, even if you mess up with a student’s pronouns, that’s completely okay. As long as you just have that…reference so you can say, ‘I’m sorry, I meant to say…’ and you can correct yourself,” she illustrated.
In addition to mentioning how Cottage Grove’s schools are accommodating LGBTQ+ people’s desires, Ross reflected on a couple of improvements generated beyond the town. “Cottage Grove is way less intense with discrimination than I feel like most places are…I think society in general progressed way more in the past two or three years than ever before. I think at home we’re learning a lot more about acceptance, at school it’s being [taught] a lot more…You’re being held to certain standards of acceptance that you probably wouldn’t before. We’re doing more about the bullying…I feel like the schools are doing a really good job with preaching acceptance too…A lot of classrooms are safer spaces these days too…it’s openly known that a lot of teachers support [LGBTQ+ students],” communicated Ross.
Lastly, workplaces in Cottage Grove are building comforting environments for LGBTQ+ individuals. “I see a bit more representation…” Maurska observed from the town’s workforce, “I think we’ve done pretty well, we’re succeeding in being more inclusive in workspaces and everything relating to that.”
Rei, Maruska, and Ross seemed content with Cottage Grove’s efforts to support their LGBTQ+ neighbors. Even so, they voiced that extra action is essential. There are several ways in which Cottage Grove can honor the LGBTQ+ community through and past Pride Month 2021.
1. Normalize the feelings of LGBTQ+ people.
Rei justified this request when she remarked, “Because, it’s obviously more normalized than it was in the 1900s, but it’s not completely normalized…We’re always taught about cis people, straight people, and then that’s normal to us. But, I think if we did the same for LGBT people, then people in future generations can be [like], ‘Oh this is normal…it’s not weird.’” 2.Tune into the perspectives of LGBTQ+ people. Ross developed this piece of advice. He claimed, “The best way to support I would say is just be there for your friends and peers in different situations that pertain to them being LGBT. If they’re having certain LGBT struggles…be there for them and be a good listener. You don’t have to provide advice, I would say just listen.”
3.Avoid being a bystander.
If one recognizes somebody being harmed by transphobic or homophobic attacks, Rei insisted that they defend that neighbor. As a result, the person can “know they’re not alone.”
4.Tune into the perspectives of LGBTQ+ people.
Ross developed this piece of advice. He claimed, “The best way to support I would say is just be there for your friends and peers in different situations that pertain to them being LGBT. If they’re having certain LGBT struggles…be there for them and be a good listener. You don’t have to provide advice, I would say just listen.”
5.Ask questions with care.
“Don’t be scared to ask questions, we love answering them…do your best to understand, if you don’t understand, that’s okay, like educate yourself, ask those questions, be informed, and in Cottage Grove, I think we’re on a really good track with that,” Ross encouraged.
6.Show inclusiveness to LGBTQ+ members.
Maruska shared that when representation of the LGBTQ+ demographic is absent in an organization, it seems that they are “ashamed” of that part of their business. She added, “The best way for someone to support LGBTQ+, just the community as a whole, is to include it…I can’t see any other way that would be better than that. If you include it in your media, if you include it in your newspaper, your clubs, your sports, just be welcoming, be accepting, not afraid of hiding it…” 7.Display pronouns.
More specifically, Maruska called on Cottage Grove businesses to display their workers’ pronouns on websites, name tags, and other mediums.The individuals who elevated their voices to The Journal had mostly positive things to say about being an LGBTQ+ citizen of Cottage Grove. Also, they outlined seven ways in which readers can become allies. Rei did not conclude the conversation there, however. When questioned if she held any further comments, Rei directed, “Just keep supporting everybody whether they’re straight, LGBTQ+, or any(body).”