Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Andy Semler

I was sitting at a local cafe with November yesterday. We're both of the transly nonbinary hormonal assortment (I was AFAB, they were AMAB), and it's pretty obvious that we're close to each other.  This particular cafe is one where everyone knows my mother's name, as she's been going there several times a week since it opened over a decade ago.  I rarely visit, but when I do, I can count on somebody recognizing me too, thanks to her.  We went there to caffeinate ourselves after an important morning appointment that left us with no time for our regular homemade coffee.  Of course, my mom stopped in and we chatted a bit and she left as quickly as she came, eager to get on with the rest of her busy day.  After she walked away, another decade-long regular approached us.  I remembered him from years ago, but he clearly did not recognize me. He asked us our names, and then asked if we were brothers.  I said no, we're actually going to be married in a couple months, and that Janice is my mother.  He got very confused, and attempted to ask some sort of question, but could not find the words. "So you're..."  "Not yet married, but will be soon. You know Janice, right?"  He stood there a few more seconds, noises squeaking out as though they wanted to be words, and then finally turned away to rejoin the table with his drink.  Honestly this is a pretty typical interaction for Warsaw Indiana.

I grew up in a very religious household; attended private Christian school k-9 (public school 10-12), went to church twice a week.  I read the Bible so many times in my childhood that I think I wouldn’t need to read it ever again and I’d still know way more than most people about what’s actually written in it.  My dad didn’t believe that gay people existed (I guess he thought they were making it up?).  So it took me a while to realize that I really was attracted to more than one gender, and that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me for not feeling like a girl/woman.

My first marriage lasted 4 years, and that’s where Mountain comes from.  I was in the Air Force, then we tried to move to Italy to live with his family (and failed), and it was overall a chaotic relationship.  I kept trying to be the perfect sexy wife for him, and while it was sometimes fun, it was really not a way I could live my life.  I kinda figured out who I was after I left him, but didn’t know what steps I wanted to take in life just yet.

My next marriage seemed like a step up, because he claimed to accept who I was and never questioned that… but he became more and more sexually abusive, so gradually I didn’t realize what was happening till after he finally left.  That whole time, I was at an insurance brokerage for 6 years, started out as a receptionist then got my license to be an insurance service representative.  I slowly eased into dressing the way I wanted to, and they didn’t exactly like it, but I was their best employee so they let it slide.

After we moved here, I vowed I’d never live that way again.  No more trying to make other people happy by changing who I am for them.  I’m really glad I finally have someone who supports me and loves me for who I am.  Our wedding was scheduled for June 4, but November is feeling like their anxiety disorder would probably not allow for them to have a relaxed and happy time with people watching them, so we will probably do a private ceremony June 3 and then re-purpose the building we reserved at the park for a picnic.  My friend suggested that since June is LGBT pride month, we should have a Pride Picnic.  I worried that family and friends would be sad that we uninvited them all (so to speak), but they are very loving and supportive.  I am overwhelmed with how much love I have in my life.  A decade ago, I felt so lost and disconnected, and now I am part of a supportive community.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

November Kelly

I think the best way to describe Kosciusko County is "isolating and cultlike", in that everyone conforms to a certain way of thinking, and anyone who doesn't is sort of cast out of society and isolated.  It's very lonely.  There's only one kind of person who is allowed to exist.

When I moved here, I was fed up with organized religion, even though I was very much religious.  I still very much believed in god and thought that the ultimate goal of my life was to bring glory to god, but I saw that the church wasn't providing any useful function.  In fact, I thought that the church was standing in the way of my relationship with god.  Now I realize it was standing between me and my own humanity.  Moving here gave me a lot of time to be alone, because there was no one else to be with; for years I had no friends, very little human interaction for years.  It forced me to figure things out on my own.  No one here has ever enabled me to do anything.

Unfortunately it is very dangerous to engage in clandestine sexual encounters, because even the queer people here have been forced to internalize these fucked up ideas about themselves.  They're forced into hiding and they're forced into these clandestine encounters.  That's isolating, and isolation produces a dangerous 1-on-1 that is prone to becoming abusive.  It's not healthy to hide integral parts of yourself.  For a very short time I took part in those kinds of encounters, and I realized how dangerous it was and stopped.

I'm very private and very political.  I mean, I'm forced into privacy by nature of having my own thoughts and not conforming to whatever I'm told to believe.  I don't try to have a political influence around here; there's really no point.  It's not even a matter of hiding.  It's more a matter of there's nowhere to go, unless you agree that we should line up the Muslims and gays and shoot them.  There's no place for me here.  Every time I leave the house, every time I interact with someone in this city.  You just walk around and you hear people talking about how you should line up all the Muslims and shoot them, kill all the black protesters.

I go out being visibly trans and I get followed through the grocery store - it's every single time I go out.  I was fired from my job and denied benefits that I had earned, and I'll never see those benefits.  They lied about the reason they fired me.  They get away with it because I'm completely isolated and have no recourse.  Living here is a constant stream of bigotry and discrimination.

I can't imagine Kosciusko County has changed much over the years.  I don't know how it could have changed, because it's set up in such a way that it can't ever change, or at least I can't see how it could ever change.  It's depressing as fuck.  This whole experience has been very sad.

Being trans and being queer is just being who I am.  It's the way I experience the world.  I love who I am.  I'll never try to be someone else to win the favor of others, because I only have this one way to experience the world.  Trying to be anything else has always been impossible; it's always run me into a dead end.

25.  Nonbinary trans woman.  White.  Disabled.  Moved here in 2009.

Friday, March 18, 2016


I was not born and raised in Kosciusko County, I moved here as an adult.  While it is small compared to the other places I have lived, I like this area.  I think it is a good place to raise a family.  My perception is that because it is a "small town" many people are small minded regarding the LGBT community.  It also seems to be a very conservative, Christian area, as such, most are not accepting of LGBT people.

Honestly I never knew I was "different".  I was raised in the church and thus heard that it was a choice.  So, I guess since I was attracted to the same sex I thought others were as well.  I always believed that every person was attracted to both sexes and chose which sex to be involved with.  In my mind only the brave dated the same sex.  I was over 40 when I realized that most people were not attracted to the same sex.  It was very eye opening for me!  I quickly realized that I was a lesbian.  The years of secretly desiring girls/women and feeling a great deal of guilt (because that was the wrong choice) were confirmation.

In middle school I was constantly getting out of showering with my classmates, I had long, frequent periods so that helped.  I was told that I looked too long at other girls and made them uncomfortable. When I was in high school, I didn't take gym class opting for JROTC instead for the same reasons.  During basic training I simply woke before the rest of girls in my dorm.

When I came out I lost a lot of friends. Ok, most of my friends.  I have attended several churches in the area and the majority of my friends were from one church or another.  I was shunned.  When attending church activities for my children the people I worshipped with for years wouldn't even speak to me.  I have had people stare when I hold my wife's hand in public and heard the whispered comments about the gay couple.  I deliver mail and a customer asked me about my relationship status and when I told her I was with a woman she was disgusted and ranted about my being an abomination before God.  She said that all "gays/lesbians/whatever's" should be banned to an island to die.  I get called sir frequently, even though I have a big bust line and often wear pink.  A receptionist at my Dr's office would not accept that I had a wife.  When making an appointment for my wife, she kept glaring at me and proceeded to ask multiple times if we were married.

One of the most common misperceptions of both LGBT and straight people is that LGBT have a separate and different lifestyle.  This is not true.  As LGBT, we do nothing different; we work, eat and sleep just the same as everyone else.  We just happen to do those things with someone of the same sex.  We are not perverted, or child molesters, nor do we have orgies every night.  We are just like you.

I can't say how this area is changing, as it has only been a few years since I've really been aware of it, however, I do think that in those few years people have become more accepting.  There seems to be less judging when I hold my wife's hand in public.  I think there will be a stronger presence in this area and that as people are educated they will be more accepting and supportive.  I feel like ignorance prevails in this area. Educating the people on LGBT and interacting with them as LGBT in a non-violent manner will enable more people to be accepting.  People fear what they don't understand, the only way to belay fear is to educate them.  Sometimes it takes knowing someone who is LGBT to open the eyes of a judgmental, none accepting person.

I have been presently surprised by the love and acceptance found in this area.  I have been accepted by 2 churches in the area without judgement.  This is important to me because my faith is a huge part of who I am.  It means so much to me that I can worship with and be accepted by other believers.

I do not consider myself to be "in the closet", I am open about being married to a woman.  I try to be respectful and not be "in your face" with PDA, but I have and will hold hands with my wife and kiss her goodbye.  I would not say that I go out of my way to influence public affairs however, if there is an event planned to support LGBT that I am able to attend I do my best to be present.

I have seen more of an LGBT community in the past few years, prior to that I just wasn't aware because I was not seeking it.  Since accepting and acknowledging I am gay I am more aware of other LGBT in the area.  It has been an eye-opening experience to see supporters and other LGBT people in this area.  The fact that we have a Diversity Rally that includes LGBT and an LGBT group at the high school is very encouraging!

40-ish.  Lesbian woman.  Black.  Middle class.  Moved here in the 2000s.

Aurelia Blue

I met my kids’ godfather and his partner, D & A (D is black, A was African-American), in high school.  I was about 17; D is 88 now, so that was 25 years ago, he was around 60 and A was around 50.  They were from Chicago, the south side, about as ghetto as it gets, in their own words.  I met them while working at a local fast food restaurant in Warsaw.  It was a close-knit restaurant - still is, a lot of them still work there.  You were cool with everyone, you weren’t allowed to not be cool.  We didn’t allow negative talk about coworkers.  We all went to each other’s houses, we all looked out for each other, we’d give each other rides if our car broken down.

The first time they came in, they were screaming at each other.  There had obviously been a problem at home, and when they got to work it was still going on.  I was having a particularly stressful night, so the boss put me on dishes.  They come in the back door yelling and screaming at each other, like obviously a couple’s quarrel.  They hang up their coats and both turn to me and say “hey sweetie, how you doing? You don't need to do those dishes; let me take that for you.”  They were real people, nothing fake here.  I was socially awkward.  They were the people I felt like I could talk to.

I had a quiet boyfriend, C, and we got married young.  (We were married for decades until he died.)  You can’t talk anyone out of getting married, ever.  Our parents tried; we were young, but we were in love.   About 4 years later, I got pregnant while still working there.  D called the hospital (before HIPAA) and wanted to know what’s going on and why nobody had told him.  C told him what had happened, and I could hear over the phone D yelling “what the hell didn’t anyone tell me for?” and then yelling “A, they had the baby!” and A yelled back “what the hell didn't anyone tell me for?”  They brought food and helped us paint and they became the unofficial godparents.  We’re not really religious, but that’s how it happened.

I started getting panic attacks after G was born.  I had gone to nursing school for 2 years so I realized right away that G was autistic.  C worked nights, and I was all alone when the panic attacks were the worst.  D said he stays up at night to pick A up from work, and he offered that I can call any time and even come over and spend the night at their place any time, and that sealed the deal.  They adopted me.  It’s kind of fun, because C’s family is just about as homophobic as they come, and pretty darn racist too.  But C would say “well that’s D & A” and that would settle it for him.  We just told them, they’re the godparents.

D & A had pensions, so they worked more or less for entertainment and extra money.  D didn’t quit working till he was 85, 3 years ago, and he didn’t even want to, he had to, but he still does volunteer activities.  D said early on of A that “this is my nephew, he came to live with me for health reasons”.  I bought it; this was the story they told me, even though they seemed to be in a relationship, but it wasn’t any of my business.  A was directly asked about their relationship once by a coworker and he replied “I’m not gay, but D is”.

One day, D and I were standing out in the yard, and I mentioned how the police were doing a lot of investigating when C passed away in our house, taking things out of our house here and there.  D said they did the same with A, randomly took his stuff, even though A passed away in the hospital.  D had had to get a guardianship to make decisions, and the head nurse was really great about doing it.  He said "when we did that, they had to investigate to make sure nothing funny was going on", and followed that with “well I didn’t tell them he was my gay lover!” and then went on like he had said nothing.  So it never occurred to me until after A passed.

They were happy together, they had a family together.  If they could have been free to be more authentic together, how much more could they have had?  They both professed to be Christians by faith, went to church when they could, when things went bad they’d pray about it - the best Christians I ever met were gay people.  They were a pretty significant part of our history in this area, and people just aren’t aware of it.

Having grown up in a pretty bigoted part of Illinois and then moving here… My dad said if a gay guy hit on him, he’d punch the guy.  C never minded, he’d say “thank you”.  I was raised in the most liberal household.  We didn’t have a word for “pansexual”, my dad wouldn’t have cared who I came home with, my mom said she didn’t care.  My sister’s daughter said she’d come home with a princess or an actress or a beautiful lady who likes horses, and we didn’t care.  My sister said she didn’t know who would catch her heart, she always knew she could swing both ways, and my husband said the same of me.  N (my current boyfriend) is a big believer in monogamy; other relationships weren’t like that.  C was the passionate love of my life, and he could have been a woman and I would have felt the same.  We’ve always tried to say to our kids and anyone who will listen, that love is love.

I dated a girl in high school, a neighbor of my grandmother in Chicago.  She was told she could take a friend to a vacation to Key West, and she called me!  We had a really great time in Key West, it was a teenage relationship, so not too hot, but we enjoyed cuddling and holding hands and kissing.  I’m not sure if her parents even noticed.  She was a model, she was very pretty and looked older than she was.  We went to all these clubs and she would talk our way in.  Last I heard she married some dude and had kids, but I don’t know if she still is married or not.  It was a fun summer thing, I never really thought anything of it and nobody asked.

The other girl I've been with is still my girl friend, but not my “girlfriend” girl friend.  She acts like it never happened, but it did totally happen.  It was my first serious relationship since C passed away, and a year after her divorce.  She and her ex were living together but not in a relationship anymore, and she dated other women before me.    It didn’t work out, because reasons.  She was always concerned; we never told her parents, but my mom knew.  The kids knew and they didn’t think it was weird.  Both our kids are closer now even than when we dated.

When same-sex marriage was finally allowed in Kosciusko County, and her ex-girlfriend got married on the first day, she was worried that now her mom would think she’s gay.  And I was like “well what was I to you?”  I asked her that day if she’d marry me, even though we had already broken up, but I would have done it if she said “yes”.  My boyfriend at the time said he didn’t tell me about the ruling because he was afraid I’d go marry her, but I said I’d already asked and she had given all kinds of reasons why not.  He pointed out that while she gave excuses, she didn’t say “no”.  One of the last excuses she gave was “but what would my mom and dad say?”

When I was in high school, 5 of my 7 serious boyfriends were gay men.  Some knew it at the time, some didn’t.  I knew it on some level, because the relationship wouldn’t progress very far, but I wasn’t in a big hurry either.  My dad was an unsafe guy, so I also wanted to be with a guy who wasn’t going to hurt me or judge me.  There was kissing, there was handholding, who needed to do more than that?  They couldn’t openly say they were gay, it was a guarded secret among our friends.  It was really dangerous at the time for them to be who they were, whereas now it’s more common for people to be out now.

One of them I heard rumors about that he was HIV-positive because he was hooking up at camp.  Had there been better education, he may have stayed safe.  There’s a lot of religion around here suppressing that.  One still lives with his “personal trainer”... now they wear matching wedding bands, go grocery shopping together, bicker… but he’s his “personal trainer”.  My prom date’s brother got married to his boyfriend.  (It’s interesting to see who got married and who didn’t.)  One girl married her girlfriend.  I don’t know if she had a vibe, but she was really athletic and really pretty in high school, and I admired her and wondered who she would go out with.

I think what’s changed in Kosciusko County now is that we don’t cover things up as much anymore.  These stories have always happened, people have always lived their way, but now we tell their stories.  I think over the next decade or so, things will go something like Farmer Bob out in the field saying “welp, my son brought his partner home to visit; he seems like a nice feller”.  I hope some day a guy can be openly married to his “personal trainer”.  I hope my niece could marry her princess.  I hope our whole family will embrace that.

41.  Pansexual woman. White. Moved here when 14. Mother of a transgender boy.

Friday, March 11, 2016


I am a 51 year old white female who has been married for 32 years and has two adult children (a daughter, 27 and a son, 24). I was raised as a conservative Christian (although I am not anymore) and am a moderate politically.

When our daughter was 20, she got and apartment with another friend, but they needed a third person to be able to afford their rent.  Enter Brian.  They met him through Roommates.com.   He was the girls' age and like them, a college student.  He told them right off the bat that he was gay.  They didn't care. They all hit it off and became best buds.  About six months later Brian decided he needed to come out to his family.  It was devastating.   His "Christian" family basically disowned him with his grandmother's parting words being, "I hope you get AIDS and die."  So our family rallied around him and took him in as one of our own.  Over the next two years he spent all his holidays with our family.  The three roomies all graduated and took jobs, Brian, in Colorado.  He and my daughter are still best friends.  When my daughter got engaged, she asked him to stand up with her as her honor attendant.  He was thrilled.  A couple of years ago he asked me if he ever found Prince Charming, would I walk him down the aisle and give him away at his wedding.  With tears in my eyes, I said, " YES!"

So what is the point of this story?  It is that before Brian came into my life, I thought that homosexuality was wrong and "yucky", when I gave it any thought at all.  It's how I was raised in church.  Meeting Brian (and subsequently several of our son's gay friends) has opened my eyes to the unkindness many Christians show toward the gay community.  I've been doing my part, in my small part of the world, to try to change the attitudes of family and friends.  I am in favor of gay marriage ( hopefully some day it will just be marriage) and have argued endlessly with family members about it.  We've agreed to disagree at this point, but I hope that they will eventually realize that love is love, no matter whom you love.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


The annual Diversity Rally has been 25 years in the making, sadly. I had no idea who Monica Boyer was when I moved here. I had no idea the political leanings here. I would see things in the editorials and think “what a nut job” and kind of let it go. I just lived here and put up with it.

When our daughter came out to us when she was 18, I became acutely aware of the hatred in many pockets of this community. I spoke out once in a while, make a snarky comment here and there, but then I started hearing of Monica Boyer and following her on Facebook. It all came to a head when the state legislature was debating HR something to try to insert into the state constitution that marriage was solely between a male and a female, and that any other union would not be recognized, even a straight civil union. I would follow the comments, and the hatred coming off of Monica’s page was just awful. There was a super bowl ad singing the national anthem or something in different languages, and there was another commercial that showed a same-sex couple, and her page just blew up. She said something like “I didn’t even notice the couple, I was so upset with the espaƱol”. A friend said “we ought to have a diversity rally”, so that’s how it happened.

Living in Warsaw, I met people through parents of the kids at the school. Those were not deep relationships, a couple of them were, but we didn’t talk politics, it was very superficial. I did volunteer work, not deep meaningful conversations. My husband is a little more religious than I am, we go to St Anne’s. Good people there. That church runs the whole spectrum, very conservative to very liberal. It was my first place running into people very different than mine and the first place I found people with views very similar to mine, which was very refreshing.

I don’t think the Diversity Rally would have been possible 20 years ago. What’s possible now is due to the influx of younger people, and acceptance of change and acceptance of other people who are not like oneself. This place has grown considerably. The commerce has really brought in I think more, I don’t want to use the term “worldly”, but... this was a very rural community and I don’t think people got out much, or traveled and saw much outside of a 20-mile radius. I wonder how my kids’ lives would have been different if we had raised them elsewhere.

I have not gotten any negative comments about my daughter coming out. People might be afraid of me, cuz that’s probably atypical. My immediate family was very supportive, and my husband’s parents are missionaries with the Lutheran church. It was a shock to me.

I honestly think this town and its leaders and the people that I’ve encountered are open to listening to each other. The issue is a few people that are so loud that you think that is the tone of the town. The more people I’ve talked to, I’m realizing that’s not the case. They’ll have a civil discussion with you. I read the articles in the Times-Union, you would think that’s all of the community. They do hold power and you’ve got to watch them, but that’s not everyone.

With the Diversity Rally, along with getting people to tell their stories, it’s about trying to get to know each other and to learn from people who have different lives and different experiences. We’ve had a speech on different religions. Someone spoke last year from the Indian immigrant population. This year we have someone talking about age discrimination, someone talking about socio-economic discrimination. An exchange student will be talking about Islam. Someone from the Bowen Center talking about the negative mental health effects of marginalization. We have talked about hoping to do some kind of an information table where people can get resources for help, like the Bowen Center to help cope with the negativity. I think they wanted to have a table for the different groups in the community. That’s the ripple effect I’m hoping to have. (For more on this year's Diversity Rally, see the event listing on Facebook. Update: news coverage of Diversity Rally.)

Straight woman. 55. White. Living in Kosciusko County for 25 years.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Kosciusko County was a physically safe place to grow up, 15+ years ago, but it was not an emotionally safe one. I am grateful I was part of a church community that was not completely anti-gay, that my parents and friends were supportive of me. But I did not come out as a lesbian fully until college, due to animosity both perceived and experienced from fellow students, WCHS faculty, and community members.

I was 15 and I saw a magazine letters page where a girl had written in about her two best friends being in a lesbian relationship. They had included with this article a picture from "if these walls could talk II" of Chloe Sevigny leaning up against a wall very close to Michelle Williams... and I suddenly realized what all my friends were talking about when they talked about boys they had crushes on. Yikes. I presented as very stereotypically femme in high school, which was not how I wanted to look, but how I figured I could pass. I'm not sure it really worked, anyway. But I tried. I also used my Christian faith in high school to explain why I "couldn't possibly" be gay.

When I was a senior in high school, WCHS got a GSA. I didn't join for fear but I did fight for it as a member of the student council. One of the ramifications of this club, based out of conservative backlash, was that no clubs were allowed to use public school buses anymore. I was a member of the ski club, and our annual rates went up a bit as we suddenly had to pay for coach buses to Swiss Valley. One day we were getting on the bus and a student in front of me asked the teacher chaperoning, "why can't we use the school buses anymore?" His response was to roll his eyes and say "ohhhh, because of the little 'boys and girls club' we all have to walk on eggshells now." It's the closest I've ever been to wanting to sucker punch a grown ass man. I also was a cadet teacher in high school getting good marks working in a third grade classroom until I wrote a letter to the editor defending gay marriage. Shortly after that the teacher I was working with docked me to a C and sent allegations to my high school advisor that I "favored the girls." And some kids wrote "DYKE" on my parents driveway once.

I'm not in the closet but it's been many years since I've been politically active... except in the sense that "the personal is political" and I can use my "outness" to influence others daily. I no longer present in ways that make me uncomfortable (stereotypically "men's" fashion and a short hairstyle). Being queer has given me a wider world view. I had to work harder as a person of faith to develop something authentic and individual. I am able to relate with others or understand the spirit of their own oppression, if not the oppression itself. I'm a singer songwriter and struggle begats art :). I've traveled a lot and I've written music about growing up in a restrictive environment and the freedom that exists elsewhere. That things are much much bigger than KC would have you believe. It's actually given me some small amount of sympathy toward the people who are born and die there not knowing how much they are limiting themselves. KC people haven't really "allowed" me to develop this because I have been gone from Indiana for 10 years. But they did gift me with the freedom and the encouragement to leave, either by being wholly unaccepting of me, or by being the few teachers, mentors I had that quietly told me I could be who I was and that there was better out there.

I think things have changed a lot in the years since I've been gone. I'm grateful to my own mom for being one of the founders of the diversity rally that exists annually now, and I know that other groups exist. I wish I would have been more courageous and joined the gsa when still in high school. The annual diversity rally and recent counter-protest to whatever dumb thing Monica Boyer was hosting are prime examples of people speaking up and being allowed to do so. I know that one of the major orthopedics companies on Warsaw has a diversity support group for employees, including LGBT. I'm happy to see these sorts of things happening. I'm happy to see that the loudest voices I hear coming out of my hometown and home county are not exclusively white, straight, and conservative. I think things can only get better and I am grateful to the people who stayed behind to make sure they do.

30-ish. Lesbian/queer female. White. Middle class. Lived here in 1990s & 2000s.

Friday, February 26, 2016


I have definitely grown over the years. It took a long time to accept my sexuality because living in such a conservative environment, it’s been a struggle. Maybe it’s because it took me so long to come out, because I never had a strong support system until the last couple years, that I’m finally pretty okay with my sexuality. It’s hard getting over stigma and religious beliefs, but I’ve definitely grown a lot as I’ve gotten older and I give less fucks now. Being in a conservative church for so long, living in that culture of shame and guilt… it’s so hard to explain. Even though you logically know things, you still have that brainwashing left you’re trying to get over. I’m okay with myself logically, but there’s still that leftover spiritual abuse. I’m fine being open about it, but it’s hard putting it into words, all the feelings and stuff.

Living here has made me incredibly angry, the longer I live here the more it drives me to try to change things, and to try to be the best ally I can be to other people in the LGBT community and to try to educate others. I’m still a work in progress myself. Since I came to the LGBT community, there’s still a lot I need to learn. I didn’t really know anybody from the community growing up. It really wasn’t talked about, at all.

Even in high school I didn’t know anybody. I kind of was a loner anyway, so I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on. I was struggling with my own shit. I think that is why I didn’t come out. My parents didn’t really talk about it, plus being in the church, that was all negative, homosexuality was deemed sinful. I didn’t know anybody that was part of the community, I didn’t know what to do, so I kind of buried it. I didn’t know how to talk to my parents about it, so I just buried it. My dad’s an asshole, so there’s no way. He had issues with me just being different, period. If I had came out, it would have been hell. My mom kind of suspected, but she never really said anything, she kinda wanted me to figure out on my own. Negativity-wise, all of it came from the church, but outside of that I wouldn’t hear too much. That’s another thing: it’s either gay or straight, or you’re confused. That’s probably the reason I didn’t come out either, because people kept telling me that “oh you’re confused, because of your mental illness”. No, I’ve known since I was a child that I like both boys and girls. My first crush was a female. I didn’t know what my feelings meant, I couldn’t share them.

I definitely think this area is evolving. Despite it’s very conservative climate, there seems to be a growing number of people who are thinking outside the box, people that are more aware, and especially with the younger generations, they seem to be more culturally aware too, so things are changing. There’s still a lot of hostility especially toward the LGBT community. Personally I haven’t faced a lot of it, because I’m introverted, but maybe that’s because things are changing and a lot of old people are dying. It does seem like the political climate here is swinging more moderate. People seem to be waking up to various issues, there seems to be a growing acceptance of the LGBT community. There’s still tons of discrimination, that hasn’t gone away, but it seems to be gradually getting better. Kosciusko County is one of the most conservative counties in the country. Even though it’s really conservative, it seems like the younger generations are changing things here, so I have a lot of hope for things to progress, especially for the LGBT community.

I saw the need for the Warsaw LGBT and Supporters Group, knowing a lot of LGBT people wanted so desperately to connect, so I initially started a support group. I want to connect too, and since I'm trying to figure stuff out, I want to be around other people in the community so I could grow. Initially it was that I saw the need here and the desperate need, definitely. I had a friend originally say “you should start an LGBT group, you are passionate about LGBT issues, and there’s not really anybody else doing it, so you have a passion for social justice, so maybe you should focus on this.” (I feel bad because I don’t use the entire LGBTQIA+, I think it’s easier to use LGBT, sorry for alienating the other people.) Some of the friends I had already were part of the community. Friends of friends of friends. It’s funny too, because a lot of people I know say “you need to be friends with these people!” All of my friend groups are all connected to one another. That’s how I met so many. Otherwise I wouldn't seek out. Everything kinda fell into my lap.

It seems like there’s a really awesome sense of community in Warsaw. When you're connected, you’re really connected. There’s a lot of love here. I think some of us get lost in all the negativity but once you find a connection, it's really easy to find lifelong friends. Being a small town it’s easier to find connections, despite all the negativity, there are a lot of wonderful people here. Living in a small town it’s easier to find people, especially if they’re different, like you in some way, it’s easier to build lifelong friendships too. I’ve been enriched by the friendships, I want to be a better person because of my friends. They give me hope, they give me the drive to connect with other people.

I know a lot of people not part of the majority feel “oh there’s nobody like me”, but actually there are so many other people with the same desires. I know the hopelessness, I know the feeling of loneliness, but there are such amazing people here also wanting to fight the good fight, also wanting to raise awareness and educate here. I know it’s hard going out to try to connect to people, but once you find that, it’s amazing. This is why I want to live in a big city, but at the same time I know I wouldn’t make those connection in a big city. As much as I hate it here, I know if I move away I will never have those connections again. We’re all connected in some weird little way. There are people I didn’t even know existed here, and it was like WTF? Especially our generation, we are connected. In high school there were a lot of people that I knew, and then I became close friends with them after high school. A lot of them chose to stay here. All the atheists, LGBT, progressives, they all hang out with each other and have friends with each other. Once you meet one person, you meet everybody.

I would like the group possibly to become a not-for profit and set up something in Warsaw that helps especially LGBT youth, like a community center where they can come and get resources. Also I would like the group to be more politically involved, not only as a support group, maybe some sort of activism, connected to other activist groups in the area. I have a lot of ideas I just don’t know how realistic they are. I would love to buy a building when there’s money and use it as a community space, have somewhere we can regularly meet, services, counseling, but that’s a work. I would love to have an LGBT homeless shelter, or even a commune.

29. Bisexual woman. White. Poor.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


I figured out that I'm male when I was 4, but it didn’t click till I was 13. My mom takes care of most of the research for me, but my family's attitudes toward me has not changed.

People are being a lot more accepting these days, it’s not as much a crime to be different. The stuff on Caitlyn Jenner, I thought that was interesting. Warsaw Community High School talked about that for a little bit, but now it’s died out. From what I heard it was mostly positive. I have been teased in the past, so I really don’t tell anyone, and I know it’s not safe; I don’t want to end up hurt or anything.

The high school does have a GSA, Ms Hamilton is our resource coordinator, she has all these books and stuff in her classroom. She welcomes anyone, but there’s no harm in her classroom or she kicks you out. The groups meet once a month. Sometimes we hang out, sometimes it’s serious business, sometimes it’s education days like about gender verbs or differences between one thing and another, like gender fluid vs transgender.

Q: How do you think it would help if these things were taught in a general education like a health class, rather than at a school club? A: I think it would make a difference, there’s so much they could teach us that’s out there, but they don’t help us understand it.

The Leesburg/Clunette area, they’re a little more against the acceptance, they don’t think it’s right. It’s a lot of older people. In the Warsaw area, it’s a lot more accepting, they allow the LGBT community to participate in events that they didn’t used to. My immediate family is mostly supportive, but my grandmother sometimes forgets certain things; it’s difficult to break the habit.

I think understanding myself as transgender kinda fixes certain problems that I have - I have a lot stronger grip than a normal girl would. It’s kinda nice that if they don’t change the law, I would get paid more than woman, but it’s not fair to women. I feel better about myself; I don’t hate everything about me.

I definitely have to leave this area for the job I want. I hate Burbank California, but it’s where Walt Disney Animation Studios is. If that doesn’t work, I might end up teaching in a high school in California or elsewhere.

16. Trans male. Straight, prefer no sexual partner. White. Lived in area whole life. Not out to many people.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


There are a lot of older people where I work, and I get funny looks from time to time. I don't really care, but it's a larger company, so I know they can't say anything. Some of them are really nice.

I remember the arrests that happened around 90-91... it was at Lucerne Park. There were people who were meeting at night, going into the cabins. People eventually figured it out and they had an undercover sting out there. They got arrested. The paper was brutal. Had their names and businesses, some were business owners, front page of the paper. It was a very intolerant community at that time, it was completely to shame them. One was the florist, I'm surprise he managed to stay in business. You'd drive by and never see any patrons in the lot there. Typical evangelical community.

I remember the Ryan White thing. He was the hemophiliac who got HIV in the 80s. That was a really terrible thing because at that time they had no idea what to do - no retroviral drugs. If you got that, you died. It happened somewhere in the south in Indiana, but it was a national story because he was younger child, got it via blood transfusion, and there was a lot of gay fearmongering about that. Not only was it that gays are immoral, now there's this medical fearmongering.

That stuff was going on when I was in elementary school and did not understand myself then. But I did assume I wasn't a bad person, so I assumed I was straight. It wasn't until a number of years later that I started to understand my sexuality. A lot of it is I was raised in an orthodox family. I actually believed all that.

I was in the military; I was out with some friends, after a difficult deployment. Being in the Navy we hadn't drank in quite a while. We were doing the bar thing. I got separated from them, and I was like "fine whatever", so I did some more drinking, ran into a few other people, and started bar-hopping. At one point I exceeded my limits, got sick, the room was spinning, so I went outside to find a place to vomit. I got out to the street and I couldn't find any grassy knolls, so I ended up in a bus shelter. I passed out and the person who found me was... not a good samaritan. It was traumatizing for quite a while. And I know that a certain portion of that was me thinking "well I'm straight and I had this happen, what does that mean?" I think that's really what it took to even start to consider those possibilities. I don't think I ever would have gotten there or even realized it. That's probably a terrible way to put it. When I look back, even my childhood, there were definitely signs that I could see. It was really the socialization that had me so set against it. I can really shake my finger at Christianity now. It's hard not to be bitter.

Another story about someone else: It was in high school, 92-93. One of the girls used to go out to a place in Fort Wayne, a gay bar there. She came into school one day the entire side of her face purple, bruised up, her eye swollen shut. She was on the sidewalk going into the bar, and it was a thing for assholes to throw baseballs at people coming out for their entertainment.

I don't think that kind of stuff would be common anymore. There are a lot more people now who actually understand, whereas before, they didn't. They assumed really bad things about the person, about their choices. The only choice is whether you're going to accept yourself or not. If I were still a very spiritual person, maybe I never would have. I'm glad that I'm not spiritual.

I think my life is better now. I understand myself better, I'm happier. A lot of it is sexuality, but from my perspective it's closer related to gender... It's a lot easier on me to realize that some of the traits I have are not something that I should be ashamed of because I don't live up to the socially acceptable standards of masculinity. Obviously there are pretty high standards of being a man, and if you reject that, it's not always easy. It's so much more authentic for me, rather than trying to go through life like an actor and worry about whether I'm pleasing people or not.

There are some very good people who come from Indiana. The funny thing is a lot of them don't stay in the state. They have the tendency to leave. The best thing I can stay for this state is there are a few good people. I wanted to leave when I was younger, and I did get away. I hate to admit it, but this is home. I have roots here, I would like to stay for that reason. Sometimes.

38. Pansexual trans woman. White. First moved here 30 years ago.