Less than 24 hours ago, I was sitting in a room with a dozen and a half other trans and enby [non-binary] folks from the Delaware-Virginia-Maryland area and I found myself feeling homesick. Homesick is the incorrect word. I was surrounded by the most trans and enby folks I have ever been around at the same time, and seeing each and every one of these amazing people shine and share their stories and triumphs was something that I have not been able to see in person in my activism and advocacy. I was the lone Western Marylander, and I realized that while my trans community is my community in that we all share the same issues; my central home community is what defines me as Asher the person, not simply Asher the transman.
With Pride season comes a lot of feelings, memories, and thoughts for our greater population. There is the reflection of where we have come from as a community. Regardless of gender or orientation, we can trace the history of queerness in America back to Stonewall. I find myself more reflective this Pride season, as opposed to the camp-loving, glitter-clad guy waving the trans flag I have been in years past. Community, a sense of roots and belonging, having a group of people that cohesively unites under a given cause or feelings – however you define it, without a community to belong to, we as social creatures find ourselves adrift with no roots. A lot of my adult life has been spent trying to find a community, and while I thought I would never find one in my hometown, the most important thing I learned in the past two days is how wrong I was about that assumption.
I have been searching for a way to explain to others why myself as a half-black, bisexual, non-spiritual, camp-loving transman has found his home in the maroon-tinted area that is due west of South Mountain. Community is that answer. For us who grew up and still reside an hour removed from each of the beltways, our greater queer community comes from a geographical area that is larger than that claimed our urbanite brethren. For the majority of us, we came into our queerness on our own. We use our roots to remind us that even though our numbers are greater in the city, our individuality and shared connection to our hometowns is what unites us. The president of the board at Hopes and I are almost 20 years apart in age. We went to different high schools in different eras. But what brings us together is greater than our differences. Because change happens at a different rate in our area, we have more in common than I do with urban queer people my own age. We have issues that are unique to rural communities, but also not traditional GOP areas, as we are still part of the progressive Maryland political landscape. Instead of fighting for visibility and access, we are working to bridge the gap to our greater area as a whole. While other queer-oriented groups are able to focus solely on their own population, our smaller demographic over a larger geographical area means that our outreach expands to the community as a whole. We act as an anchor as opposed to a safety net.
Community is a synonym for family for many who identify as LGBTQ. Many have lost their nuclear family, and even more have willingly walked away from toxic families. Whether your community is large and urban, small and rural or completely unique in its own way, it is a vital component of our identities. With both the half-centennial of our entire movement and pride season in general ramping up, there is no better time to reflect on what defines community for each of us. Without our community to lift us up, we would all be lost within the darkness.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, trans-man and cis-nerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. He proudly serves on the board of Hagerstown Hopes (hagerstownhopesmd.org) and has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is on twitter @ItsAsherK