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 español”. 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.