EDITOR’S NOTE: The rainbow’s edge

By on June 23, 2015

How do we erase the arbitrary lines that divide us?

A cover image apparently too offensive for some here in Jackson Hole.

A cover image apparently too offensive for some here in Jackson Hole.

JACKSON, WYOMING – Walking into the office Wednesday, I was stunned to learn that a certain local business owner demanded he be removed from The Planet’s delivery route. He wasn’t pleased by the June 17 cover, which featured a rainbow rendition of Wyoming’s bucking horse symbol.

The accompanying story, “Queer in the Cowboy State,” by Natosha Hoduski, takes a look at some of the hurdles facing members of the LGBT community in Jackson, and across the Equality State. Specifically, that our gay neighbors here in Wyoming may be denied jobs or fired from their current positions because of their sexual orientation. Hoduski explains how these folks have no path of recourse when discriminated against in publicly-funded places and that there is no legislation to protect LGBT victims of hate crimes. A mosaic of community members – some who waited years into their adult lives before finding the courage to come out in the Cowboy State – are profiled in the story.

As America nurses its wounds from the senseless murders of nine people – a horrific hate crime in a historic South Carolina church at the hands of a deeply troubled young man – I felt it important that I address a small act of intolerance here.

What some people fail to understand is that the plight of folks in the LGBT community is not a matter of being gay or straight; loving a man or a woman. It is a matter of human rights; it is a matter of acknowledging the humanity of our neighbors. A recent Pew Research poll asserts that although an overwhelming number of gay, lesbian and transgender folks say that society has become more accepting of them and that they expect societal attitudes to improve into the future, many LGBT folks are still stigmatized in their daily lives.

About 39 percent of the people polled said that at some point they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 30 percent said they have been physically attacked or threatened; 29 percent said they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship, while 21 percent reported unfair treatment by an employer. A staggering 58 percent of the people surveyed reported being the target of slurs and jokes.

While it is expected that “Queer in the Cowboy State” would ruffle feathers in more rural parts of Wyoming, I was surprised to learn that there are people in this so-called progressive bubble, specifically business owners, who would take such a brazen stance against their neighbors – folks who are simply asking for the same rights that many of us enjoy without batting an eyelash.

When you’re not willing to acknowledge that your neighbors are people, human beings confronting similar and yet strikingly different battles, you rob yourself from enjoying the most gratifying reasons for living. Why else are we here if not to cultivate relationships with other people, including people vastly different from us, whose experiences might just teach us something about ourselves?

Ask yourself, what do I stand to gain by understanding the incredibly varied struggles of people in my community? More importantly: what do I stand to lose by marginalizing their experiences to whatever arbitrary classification society places them in?

Oftentimes The Planet illuminates topics that might make some of us squirm, particularly in a conservative state where alternative voices are not celebrated with the same frequency as they might be in, say, San Francisco or Seattle. As the editor of this newspaper, it pains me to remove a rack from our delivery route, as it means fewer eyes see the stories we have thoughtfully crafted for public consumption.

But the consequences of keeping quiet are simply too great. After all, the media’s number one role is to inform the public. With “Queer in the Cowboy State,” we hoped readers would learn about and appreciate some of the adversity confronting their neighbors.

Perhaps if South Carolina shooter Dylann Roof saw his victims as the living, breathing human beings they were, if he could have empathized with them and some of the challenges they faced, perhaps nine people might still be here today.

[June 25, 2015: After receiving a flurry of requests about the aformentioned business, I have decided to finally divulge its name: Castlerock Jackson. – RV]

About Robyn Vincent

Robyn is the editor of Planet Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Snowboarder Magazine. When she's not sweating deadlines, she likes to travel the world with her notebook and camera in hand. Follow her on Twitter @TheNomadicHeart

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