"Where are you from?"
"We just moved from Chicago, but grew up on the east coast.”
"How'd you end up in Michigan?"
We moved here in the summer of 2008. Young LGBT people were moving out of mid-Michigan in droves. A constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage had passed a few years prior. So naturally, people were curious about why we moved here.
The short answer was that Nicolette got a job. Yet, we were both employed in Chicago, with good job prospects if we stayed.
Something else was at play. We both felt called to Michigan - there was good work to be done, but it took us a while to become a part of that work. Yes, we had church life, and that was great. However it took us a few years and a few false starts before we really felt like we were a part of the Lansing community.
Roller derby helped. Regina (aka Lil Hitaly) was one of the founding members of the Lansing Derby Vixens, the city’s WFTDA affiliated and nationally ranked league.
Showing up helped. Networking events. Protests. Parades. Festivals. Hearings.
Working helped. First Congregational United Church of Christ (Grand Ledge). Tobacco Free Michigan. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights. One Capital Region. Michigan for Marriage.
We met more and more people, and were invited to share in making Michigan a place where all people are treated fairly and justly.
It's hard to leave this state that we've grown to love, knowing that there is more work to be done. It was here that on the 10th anniversary of our first Domestic Partnership we proved that ‘fifth time’s the charm” and were legally wed in front of the Capitol. Yet, even in the afterglow of marriage equality, we see the writing on the wall and know there are threats to our community. Threats directed especially at our transgender and gender non-conforming kin, especially at our Black and Latinx kin.
We see different groups and organizations in Lansing and across the state who are struggling to honor the diversity of our community while also lifting up those common threads that unite us. The LGBTQ movement was always about more than marriage. At its core, it is about our right to exist. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The LGBTQ community is as fraught with sexism, racism, and classism as the rest of society - but we are also a place that breaks down those barriers. We embrace the ability to question gender roles and the status quo. We celebrate beauty in all its forms. We give generously, especially to the organizations that support our homeless teens, so that they might not be stuck in a life of poverty. We partner together and find our work at the intersections, believing, in the words of Dr. King, that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
When we moved here, we became part of the #lovelansing community we've grown to adore. The community and all its good works existed before us, and we know that the amazing work you all have done will continue long after we're gone. The Greater Lansing area has plenty to offer, but its greatest treasure is its people.
As we prepare to depart, our wish for Michigan is that you keep working together. That you fight against legislation that seeks to further marginalize or disenfranchise your fellow Michiganders. That you get to know your legislators - even (especially) the ones you don't agree with - so that they remember that their votes impact you and the people you care about. That you deepen your spiritual roots - whether in a church, a yoga class, a silent retreat - so that you remember that you are a beloved child of God. That you work towards inclusion. Diversity is imperative in all levels of every organization. The question must always be 'who is at the table, who is missing, how can we do better?'
We'll miss this adopted state of ours. We know that we are better people for having been here. We hope that we have done the same for Michigan.