Guest Blog: You Want an NP Rainbow Tag? Read this First (2021 version)

Update, 2021 edition: the below update was written by Gail, and I feel it’s important to state my positionality ahead of my addendum. I am a white, cisgender, hetersexual, middle class, disabled woman. I am writing this not as someone from the LGBTQ+ community, but specifically for people who want to actively ally with that community and are using June as a pointed month of reflection and action. While Hallie read the below update, this is from my perspective.

So much of what Hallie wrote, in 2017, remains true today- despite the change in federal administration. In a lot of instances, things have gotten worse legislatively. In 2021 alone, there have been 100 (and counting) anti-trans bills proposed in state legislatures across the country. More anti-trans bills have become law in 2021 than in the last 10 years combined. Athletes at all levels are targets for these bills, which purport to “protect women” by banning trans women and girls from participating in women’s sports. I want to be crystal clear that trans women and girls are women and girls, period, and deserve to participate in the sport that aligns with their gender. From the decision that Caster Semenya should take testosterone-reducing drugs to inhibit her body’s natural hormone production  in order to “ensure fair competition”  to the eight states that have this year alone passed laws banning trans girls from playing on girls sports teams in school, athletes are under attack in the patriarchal name of “fairness” and “protecting women”. As a group of athletes who strive to support each other to unequivocally Just Show Up and come as we are, these rulings and bills impact our community directly. 

This year when we tag our Pride shirts, we want everyone in our November Project Baltimore community to think about how we can honor the history of resistance in Pride by fighting against this wave of discrimination aimed at our fellow athletes and humans. Educate yourself on the bills, and specifically what is going on in Maryland. While our state legislature has not introduced bills like the ones above, we as constituents need to be outspoken with our elected representatives that this would not stand in Maryland and in Baltimore City. If you’re conflicted about the above legislation, please reconsider your rainbow tag – there’s no requirement that you wear it. We want to ensure that we are authentically signalling to LGBTQ+ members of our community that we stand with them and will fight alongside them, and wearing a rainbow tag should be a genuine symbol that we’re in this fight together. 

Want to talk about it more, or have suggestions on how we at NP Baltimore could be more inclusive? Please reach out to us! Either in person at workouts, via social media, or through our anonymous form

Love, 

Gail

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November Project is a group of individuals who come together to workout and through that, we build connections and friendships. Many of us have formed a large part of our support system in Baltimore as a result. At its root November Project is about holding each other accountable to Just Show Up to workouts. But if we are doing that we also need to hold each other accountable to be the best versions of ourselves and that includes pushing each other to think critically about what we are doing. So now we are going to ask you to really truly listen to someone who has been involved with November Project long before it arrived on Federal Hill Park in 2014. She is also a member of the LGBTQ community. She is funny, strong, smart and challenging in the very best of ways and we are better because she decided to join us. We feel like it is important to give everyone a voice so please keep an open mind as you read what it means to her when you wear a rainbow on your chest.

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You Want an NP Rainbow Tag? Read this First.

Note: this blog post is about me. I’ve been a member of NP in Boston and Baltimore since 2013.  I’m white, cisgender (the gender I was assigned at birth is the same one with which I identify today), and it’s pretty easy for me to pass as straight.  All of those things mean that my experience is a pretty darn privileged one and I can’t possibly speak for the entire LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, etc.) community.  So, as you read this, picture my unbelievably adorable face (probably in a backwards hat).  

You’re welcome.

I’ve been queer since I can remember. My first big, head over heels crush was on a girl, and since then, I’ve dated men, women, and genderqueer folks.  November Project has been a pretty fucking awesome space for me—one where I’ve met some of my best friends and been inspired to train for and run four half marathons and a marathon.  I love NP, I love Baltimore, and I love being queer.  So, that’s why I want to talk to you, November Project Baltimore, about your engagement with Baltimore Pride.

This past year has been the first time I’ve been personally afraid—like, afraid for my job, the way I’m perceived in the world, and my physical safety—because of my queerness.   This year I experienced homophobia that hit me deep inside myself and made me want to crawl into bed, or into the arms of my partner or my queer family.  This is also the first year where I haven’t wanted to #justshowup to NP, not because I can’t wake up early or I don’t want to do the workout, but because I’m emotionally exhausted by the thought of being around a lot of super positive straight people when I feel like shit because it’s been a tough year to be queer.

NP fam, I really, really thought that homophobia was over. It’s 2017, for Babadook’s sake!  But, it’s not.  And if I’m feeling the effects of deep-seeded homophobia in this country, I know that the experience is amplified for my more marginalized LGBTQ siblings (trans folks, people of color, disabled folks, among others). This year, I need Pride more than ever.  More than ever, I need a weekend when I don’t feel afraid to celebrate myself and my community, where I can assert my queerness and not be accused of pushing some sort of agenda—when I can be unapologetically myself and celebrate the diversity of my community.  And I’ve got it easy—if I need it, others need it way more.

You may already know that Pride comes from a tradition of resistance.  It’s held in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, when LGBTQ New Yorkers (led by trans women of color) fought back against discriminatory police raids on gay bars.  This year, when murders of trans women of color are at an all-time high, when protections of LGBTQ students in public schools are being rolled back, when hate crimes, transphobia, and homophobia are rising, remembering this spirit of resistance is more important than ever.  As my friend Jabari Lyles, one of the organizers of Baltimore Pride, wrote in an open letter last week, “In Baltimore, our celebration transcends the parties, parades, and performances.  In Baltimore, our celebration is much more than bright colors, loud music and flashy outfits.  In Baltimore, our Pride is a celebration of survival.  We celebrate that, in spite of injustice, hatred or apathy, we continue to exist, we continue to grow, we continue to mobilize, we continue to love one another, and we continue to love ourselves.”  

So, what does this mean for you?  Well, if you’re a cisgender straight person, it means that you should think hard about what it means to wear a rainbow on your shirt.  A rainbow is not just an accessory (YA HEAR ME INSTAGRAM, SNAPCHAT, TARGET????).  A rainbow should mean that you’re continuously actively working in your own life to be an ally to LGBTQ folks.  “But I have gay friends!” you say.  “I go to Pride every year!” you say.  I say, that’s not enough. Here are some ways to put your allyship into practice:

  1. Interrupt transphobia and homophobia in your everyday life.  Actually. Do. It.
  2. Educate yourself.  Figuring out the right language can be intimidating, especially when the acronym keeps getting longer (LGBTQIAA2SP….!!!), but the more fluent you are, the easier it is to advocate, support, and connect with people who are different from yourself.
  3. Work to make the running community more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ folks by: disrupting gendered language (e.g. some people you might be calling “ladies” may not identify as ladies), not making assumptions about folks’ sexualities or genders, educating yourself (see above!).
  4. ive money to Baltimore-based LGBTQ organizations like Baltimore Safe Haven and the 2021 LGBTQ Prom 
  5. At Pride, know what spaces are for you and which spaces aren’t. Most spaces we inhabit are ones that center straightness and binary genders (read: NP is one of those spaces).  Pride weekend has some spaces that are reserved for different identities—for example, there are spaces I won’t go to because they’re POC or trans specific.
  6. Vote for politicians (like Senator Mary Washington) who do active work to support and protect LGBTQ citizens.
  7. Recognize that there is a lot of work to do to make our city, state, and country a truly equal and safe society for LGBTQ+ folks.  Cool, marriage equality happened!  Now, let’s fight to, among many other things, end violence against trans women of color, protect LGBTQ students in schools, and implement workplace protections for LGBTQ folks in every state.
  8. Listen to your LGBTQ friends and family—really listen, even if what we say challenges what you believe to be true (and resist the urge to reply with a defensive “but…” or to play devil’s advocate).  Recognize that it’s scary to ask the people we love to stand by us in this way, because we know how easy it is for our narratives to be ignored or denied.  Understand that when we tell you we feel something, that’s our reality and truth, which makes it real and legitimate

Can you commit to doing these things?  If the answer is “Yes!” then buy lots of paint and rainbow the shit out of your shirt.  If the answer is “I’m not sure,” or “That sounds like a lot to ask,” or “I’m okay with the gays, but the gender stuff is too much,” or “No,” then reconsider your attendance at Pride this year.  Engage with some personal reflection, discussion, and further learning, and try again next year.

I’m more than happy to talk further about this with any of you, so feel free to shoot me a message or find me at a workout.  In the meantime, Happy Pride Month!

 Love,

Hallie

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