KC Raw Series Raises Awareness and Acceptance of LGBT
By Amanda S. Cherry
Imagine yourself as an openly gay woman, a democrat and the first openly gay woman to serve on the Missouri State Senate, which at the time was populated by straight Republican men. This was former Senator Jolie Justus’ experience beginning in 2006. Justus spoke to the Holmeswood Baptist Church as a part of their KC Raw event on June 7th. She described her first encounter on her first day, with a senator who was actively blocking legislation providing rights to homosexuals in the workforce. For her it was a defining moment.
“I had a choice to make,” Justus said. “I could either lean in and make this senator my friend, or ignore him and work against him at every opportunity I had. I chose to lean in.”
Her decision defined her relationship not only with one senator, but with others who had never known a lesbian. When Justus took office, there were and aren’t laws on the state or federal level to protect homosexuals from discrimination in the work force. Justus was successful in bringing legislation to the Senate floor which would amend the law to read, “… prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or sexual preference.”
Although Justus was able to bring the legislation forward during her tenure, it failed to pass the House of Representatives. Justus was disappointed, but felt confident her tenure had served a greater purpose.
“The senators who voted for the amendment crossed party lines, it wasn’t a Republican or Democratic issue. And I was shown on a seating chart that those senators who sat around me for the four years I served were the ones who voted for the amendment,” Justus told the audience.
During her 30 minute talk, Justus defined the LGBT and QIA acronym for the audience with a hand out. During the Question and Answers session one participant asked how and why there was a need for such a long acronym. “I’ve just gotten used to the L and the G, and now it seems there are a bunch more to learn. Have they always existed or is this a new thing?”
Justus answered, “Even in the LGBTQIA community we are confused. The best way to approach the situation is to ask what you don’t know. Especially with Transgender or Queer, gender fluid individuals, it is best to ask. How do you want to be referred to? What pronouns do you want us to use when speaking to you or of you?”
Justus’ advice was taken to heart as the audience formed into small groups, a departure from last year’s KC Raw. Reverend David McDaniel explained, “We found that those who attended last year’s events wanted a chance to discuss what the speaker had presented, so we added that for this year.”
The group discussions continued as McDaniel brought the event to a close. “Please continue your discussions because the most important part of this event is being able to learn and discuss. At Holmeswood Baptist Church we offer our welcome to all.”
KC RAW will continue June 14 with White Privilege in KC and June 21 with The Muslim Community in KC.