Hidden truths in Ypsilanti

Growing up in two marginalized communities is something only people born in this regard will ever fully understand. Queer people of color are some of the most disrespected people on the planet. Not only do they experience queerphobia, but also different types of racism, classism, and different levels of bigotry and abuse. Likewise, this can all affect a child's worldview as they grow, and it adds an unnecessarily common trauma that most queer people of color go through.


Trauma grows with an individual's overlapping marginalized identities, which unfortunately adds more damage. Trauma replicates itself into violence and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Violence within the community has been heightened ever since police raided Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in Manhattan, New York, heavily attended by queer people of color. The raid was followed by the Stonewall riots, demonstrated as a strike back led by trans women of color. Recycling these acts of violence usually holds us back from progressing further.


We could be arguing about solidifying the clearest definition of what the community is for allies, or we could be fighting to make a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth of color in Ypsilanti. By exposing the problems of queerphobia and inevitable biases against race and gender in the community, we can take one step further to make America fully accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Let's start in Ypsilanti.


The only obvious solution is to support the need for queer youth of color to feel accepted and loved. Allowing melanated adolescents to grow confidence in their identity by expressing themselves without restraint is more than important to their self-development – and more important than bigotry's comfortability.


"Growing up being black and a person who identifies as queer was hard," says local incoming college student Kenneth Curtis. "In the black community, you will hear a lot of people say slurs and other hateful words toward a person just because they're not straight or they don't act 'normal.' … I identify as queer and pansexual."


Let's keep this part simple: queer youth of color are nowhere near as represented or uplifted as queer white youth. When these black and brown teenagers pass by Ypsi Pride and see a dominantly white crowd, they don't feel like they can be a part of this community. Because of racial divides and how white people are usually more accepted into their queer identity by peers, "gay" is referred to as a white thing. Gay is a human thing. It does not discriminate and it does not pick and choose who we get to support and who we don't. To ignore the connections to the roots of who founded this movement, queer people of color, is to completely ignore what the point of pride and the LGBTQ+ rights movement is. We need to make sure that they know they are accepted.


Without support going into a queer kid of color's interest, a queer Middle Eastern kid from Ypsilanti might never find a fulfilled life. Because of religious and cultural differences in view that mainly are against the idea of homosexuality, a lot of youth aren't able to express their creativity clearly. Some of the hurt that queer people of color experience in their youth begins with suppression and shame of ideas. According to PrideSource, Ypsilanti has one of the largest populations of same-sex couples in Michigan. That population could be even larger if the environment was safe and comforting enough for more people of color to come out as members of this growing community.


Making Ypsilanti a more accepting place is important in many ways. According to the Trevor Project, LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth. According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school. The source also states that roughly 73% of LGBT youth admit they are more honest about themselves online rather than in real life. A report by GLSEN says that 82% of LGBT students have experienced verbal harassment. This does not exclude or save Ypsilanti from the discussion.


Some anti-queer, Christian parents make an excuse to not support homosexuality because the Bible states that it is a sin.


"Hearing at a young age that you're going to hell and 'this isn't what we raised you to be', it broke me," Curtis says. "I watched my Christian mom kick out her own cousin because he was gay."


Here's a fun fact: the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. As this Biblical analysis illustrates, the Bible passages most commonly used to justify homophobia have been completely misconstrued when viewed in their original historical context. Homophobia based on the Bible is not religious whatsoever, only discriminatory. If you're clear on Christianity, we know the common phrase "God is love." To reference a common quote expressed within the LGBTQ+ community: "love is love."


For these young people to hear these offensive phrases at home, and to continue hearing these remarks and jokes about their identity at school, is unbearable. High schools are slowly progressing on their queer representation by adding student-led organizations like GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance). Two notable local GSA organizations come from Washtenaw International High School (WiHi) and Ypsilanti Community High School, both located in Ypsilanti.


"Ypsi High is full of homophobia and when I went there, I was called 'dyke' and 'gay' 24-seven," says Em Fisher, a member of WiHi's GSA organization who identifies as non-binary and gay. "I felt very uncomfortable and unwelcome. Even at my current school, I have experienced numerous slurs being used against my friends and me."


How can young people have a mindset as clear as their more privileged counterparts, white and/or heterosexual people, when all these factors and many more come into play? We need to start now and with force, with passion. Regardless of bias, fight against conflicting opinions. Making queer youth of Ypsilanti feel more loved and accepted is not something that needs to be processed by Congress. It's an immediate process. Start giving people respect and comfort, end of story.


During Ypsi Pride, we can incorporate the rainbow flag that includes the black and brown stripes. Make queer people of color the face of movements and let youth of color know that it's okay, that they will be loved. In everyday events, we can remind them about the fun fact we learned today: the Bible in no way includes hatred to homosexual people. This shouldn't be as long of a process as people make it out to be.


When reporters are asked about their activism being explicitly white and erasing key representation, they don't have to start working on it. They need to do it. At the end of the day, queer youth of color are fighting for their lives. They fight as a person of color and as someone under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. As stated before, queer youth of color's lives are more important than bigotry's comfortablility. You can support local LGBTQ+ youth of color friendly organizations like Ozone House and Ann Arbor's The Neutral Zone. Expand your ideas and openness. Break against your biases. Grow up as a respectful human being.

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