HJR-6

TW for discrimination and some talk of killing (a bill, not a living being).

The more I look into the war the Indiana LGBT community has ahead of us when it comes to preventing HJR-6 from ever reaching the polls, or killing it once it does reach the polls, the more hopeless the cause seems here and the less energetic I feel about activist efforts to defeat the measure. I’m overwhelmed. We’ve had so many victories as of late, but I could so easily see this happening here and taking a step back.

My first step seems very simple on its surface: I intend to write letters to legislators and organize a letter-writing party. It’s very simple, very easy to complete, it isn’t going to take too much time, it allows me to work with the Indiana Equality Action, the group that is leading the Nix 6 Campaign. What I want to do with the Innovations class is focus on this theme for the semester – fighting HJR-6 – and do so in a number of ways. Letters to legislators. Target the youth for whom this may be their first vote if it comes to the vote. Etc, etc, etc. It is of absolute importance to me that HJR-6 dies; I have to exhaust every resource I have in my arsenal. This bill and the looming battle we have in front of us terrify me. But I’m stuck in this state until 2018 – I can’t afford to be apathetic. I may ultimately plant down in another more liberal state at some point, but that other more liberal state is a long way off. I hold no affinity for my home state, but I have to fight for her.

Gay marriage is already illegal in Indiana. A vote against HJR-6 is not a vote for marriage equality – it is a vote against amending our constitution for the first time in state history to take away rights instead of give them. What it *would* do would eliminate anything “substantially similar to marriage” that is not marriage. Depending on interpretation, HJR-6 would not only prevent any future attempts to allow for same-sex marriage, but could also eliminate health care benefits for same-sex partnerships, eliminate legally binding documents for same-sex couples that are “substantially similar to marriage” such as wills and trusts, prevent inheritance laws from being applied to same-sex couples, and/or make hospital visitation rights unenforceable. HJR-6 would also affect heterosexual couples in domestic partnerships and endanger legal protections for unmarried families. There are 614 state laws that would be affected by HJR-6 – this is a terrifying bill. Even for those like myself who don’t believe in the institution of marriage and have no intention of ever getting married an attempt to use the constitution to take away rights is bigger than marriage and bigger than all of us. I am determined to kill this bill. Minnesota did it, and we have to be able to do it too.

For further reading on how Indiana is the harbinger of the movement’s future, see: http://www.bilerico.com/2013/08/indiana_is_a_harbinger_of_the_movements_future.php?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BilericoProject+%28The+Bilerico+Project%29

Author: Meg

The Stories Project FAQ

TW: none.

I think it’s definitely time we had one of these up here that addressed the frequently asked questions people have or have had about the Stories Project. It’s fairly extensive as I would like to address it all in one easy-to-find location on the site. Let me know if you think of something I should add or if there is anything else you’d have wanted to know before speaking with me if you have already done so.

Summary (click “read more” below to see the answers):
The Who, What, and Why
– What is the Stories Project and what purpose does it serve?
– Who is behind the Stories Project?
– Why is this something you wanted to do?
– Who do you accept stories from?
– I’m not sure I have a story. I didn’t know (X person) very well.
– How did you find out about (X person)?
– Do you have the families’ approval to include their loved one(s) in the project?
– Is this a school project?
– Is the project open to LGBT people who are not hate crime victims but would like to share their experiences?
– Why are unsolved murders part of a project that highlights hate crimes?
– Would you still be interested in speaking with me if I said no before and changed my mind?
– What happens if I initially want to participate and then change my mind?

The Interview Process
– What is the process of acquiring a story?
– About how long is the process between the time we speak and the time we have a final version?
– How does a Stories Project interview work?
– What types of questions will you ask during an interview?
– How should I approach my story, and does there have to be a message?
– Do the stories have to revolve around the person’s LGBT status?
– Why do you tape the interviews?
– Do you keep copies of the recordings or transcripts?

What Happens Next?
– Will I see the story before it is published?
– Why do some of the published stories read like an interview and others like a narrative?
– How do you promote the stories after they are published?

Ethics and Privacy
– Can I use a pseudonym and/or change the names of the people involved for personal or professional reasons?
– When you reach out to people, how do you find a way to contact them?
– Are you connected to the media?
– Will you post the stories anywhere else but here?
– Do you intend to write a book with the stories you receive for the project / publish them in a major publication?
– What happens to the contacts/recordings/transcripts/etc.?
– Do you profit from any of this?
– Who owns the rights to the stories posted on the site?

Continue reading

Innovations

TW: none.

I mentioned in a post earlier this year that the school I attend has become much more unorthodox and creatively-inclined in recent years. This year, I’ve discovered that it extends so far beyond final exams: there is a semi-new, student-run and project-led class called Innovations, which is among the first of its kind in existence. Last year was the first year it was up-and-running. Innovations is a class where students create and pursue our own entrepreneurial pursuits in business, activism, or what have you. We create our own projects; we set our own standards. We are encouraged to go out and leave an impact in our world, if not *the* world – and the world is watching.

I am joining the class in its second year of operation. I was recruited last year by one of the students, and I had to prove I could handle being a part of it with an interview with the instructor and a few of the students. I came into the interview saying, “I already have two projects I’ve created”, to which they replied, “Oh, you have an idea for a project?” and I said, “No, I *already have* two projects that I created on my own.” We’ve only just begun and already I am feeling the pressure; I have a number of ideas and the one thing I do understand is networking, but I’m becoming a bit stuck when it comes to evaluating the time frame and plausibility of each, as well as determining the first steps to take. I am looking into collaborating with other grassroots activist groups in Indiana to run an awareness campaign against HJR-6 (the proposed law, set to do on the ballot in 2014 if it passes in the two houses again this year, that would define marriage as strictly heterosexual in the state constitution). I’ve thought about targeting high school students with said campaign, because HJR-6 could potentially be the first law they are able to vote for. I am considering trying to change the school’s anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity / expression. I am looking at the ways I could include the Stories Project in my efforts. And of course, I would appreciate suggestions or groups / individuals I could connect with. This blog may be about to get much more active in the months to come.

Author: Meg

Michaux, Shenandoah, and the Colonial Parkway: The Places Where Things Happened

TW: Murder, specifically: Rebecca Wight, the Colonial Parkway victims, Julie Williams and Lollie Winans, and Abraham Lincoln. Some reflection of death in the abstract. Description of blood in paragraph 2.

When I was thirteen, my family took a trip to Springfield, Illinois over Memorial Day weekend. Where we’re from, Abraham Lincoln’s name comes up often when scoping out a place to take a weekend trip, as every state in the region likes to boast some claim it has to Lincoln – Kentucky is his birthplace, Indiana has claim on his boyhood home, Illinois is where he lived out his adult life, Ohio…will swear up and down that it was important to Lincoln somehow, not to be outdone. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but we still wanted to go somewhere for vacation, so being the lot of nerds we are, we decided to pack up and head to Springfield for a couple of days. While there, we visited the Presidential Library and Museum and the office where Lincoln worked as a young lawyer, and it was fascinating! As we stood in the room where he had once worked, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized, despite the fact that the restored room was largely bare and unimpressive. I was standing in the same room that the president had once stood and worked. I remember looking out the grand windows and wondering if he had ever looked out the same windows and felt inspired. If I looked hard enough at his desk, I could almost see him writing at it – hard at work on an important document, surely. It was as if we had connected, if only for that brief moment that I stood in his office, just by being in The Place Where It Happened.

At the museum, I had a similar experience upon reaching an exhibit that showcased Mary Todd Lincoln and the items that had once belonged to her. There were elaborate dresses, and those were nice, and there were letters and tiny framed photos, and those were nice, but toward the end of the exhibit, there was one item, just one, that stirred this same kind of reaction. It was the white fan she had held at Ford’s Theatre, bearing one small, visible drop of her husband’s blood. I remember looking at it for a long time, tying to picture Mary Lincoln holding it, calmly watching the play and maybe laughing when her life suddenly changed forever. In that moment, I wanted to visit Ford’s Theatre, to stand at The Place Where It Happened. Being that close to it all was a fascinating experience.

I have always been one of those people who desires to go to the Places Where Things Happened, for reasons that are hard to describe. There is something about walking the grounds where something important occurred that is powerful, at least it has always been that way for me. And I’ve thought about it for years, going to some of the sites where the victims spotlighted here lost their lives – but I’ve never put any plans into motion until now. I think I have always been a little hesitant about this, never certain I want to see the sites where people were murdered, never certain of how I would react once there. This year, I made the decision to act on what I have been thinking about since I was that thirteen-year-old standing in Lincoln’s office. I made plans to visit Michaux State Forest, the Colonial Parkway, and Shenandoah National Park next spring as part of what I have taken to calling my “senior trip”.

It’s a personal trip for me. I have roped my family into coming along with me, but it is truly my trip. I need to go, for me. I am not sure what I want to get out of visiting the sites, but I want to experience them, see them for myself. It’s not about “closure” – that’s such a meaningless word. At one point long ago, I thought that I might be able to achieve “closure” with these stories and move on from them, but I’ve long realized that I can’t, and in all honesty, I don’t want to. These sites are important; these people are important. These are The Places Where Things Happened. There’s a certain power in these sites – these are the places where five members of our community fell – and I think I need to make peace with them. Right now, I have the full intention of staying over at at least one of the sites (I have not yet decided whether or not I feel comfortable staying overnight in Shenandoah, given that Julie and Lollie’s murders are unsolved.) I have already given my family the instructions for when we visit the Colonial Parkway: you do not pull over, for anyone, if we are on the Parkway by ourselves. Not for officers, not for park rangers. No one. You will drive into a town before you will consider stopping. The same goes in Shenandoah.

This trip is significant for me for a few reasons. Not only will it be the first time I have visited any of the sites, it will mark my first “real” trip out in nature, and as the others coming along have made it abundantly clear that they do not want to stay overnight in the woods, especially not at a murder site, it will also mark my first semi-solo experience in the wilderness. You see, I only had my “environmental awakening” last year, a little late at sixteen. I grew up in the suburbs of a small town that didn’t have a lot to offer nature-wise with a family that Doesn’t Do Nature – combine that with a fear of crawly things (insects, etc.) and you have a kid who thought she disliked the outdoors. As it turns out, I don’t – as I discovered when I went out into nature one time determined to discover what it was that had so allured Rebecca Wight and the others to it, refusing to allow myself to return until I’d found it. I did, and returned with a new-found appreciation and an unexpected adventurous side. This will be my first time staying in the woods for any extended period of time. Though they feel less safe than they might have had I no knowledge of the deaths that have occurred there, I am determined to reclaim them. These are The Places Where Things Happened, but the killers can’t have the trails. This trip, like the one to Springfield, Illinois, is certainly going to be an experience.

Author: Meg