First off, I just have to say this: Lisa, I swear, I don’t actually mention and/or quote you in everything I write. I just happen to mention you in this, and in my phoenix sermon. Please don’t think I’m a total creeper.
This is the speech I delivered at the Bangor, Maine National Coming Out Day Rally
This is a repeat after me phone number!
1 – 866 – 4 – U – TREVOR
Alright, now, take notes because there is a test at the end!
Fabulous! Hi, my name is Andrew Coate and I am a member of The Trevor Project’s Youth Advisory Council. The Trevor Project is a national suicide lifeline for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning youth. We offer free, confidential phone counseling to youth who may be feeling depressed, isolated, or suicidal.
There are also Trevor Project members around the country who are trained to facilitate our Lifeguard Workshops that bring awareness to LGBTQ suicide and bullying. We present in schools, community centers, places of worship… pretty much anywhere we are invited! If you are interested in having a lifeguard workshop in the ellsworth/mdi/bangor area please feel free to come up to me afterward!
There has been a lot of attention around LGBTQ Youth Suicide in the media lately but it’s important to remember that this is not a new phenomena. So speak up, speak out,and be proud of who you are. And remember, the trevor project is always there if you need us!
Now, to that test!
(I threw lollipops to the people who answered these)
Who can tell me the Trevor Project Phone number!
Who can tell me what our workshops are called?
Who can tell me how you should get in touch with me?
Who wants a sucker?
Thank you SO much
Now, excuse me for just one minute.
At this point I removed my Trevor Project shirt
My name is Andrew Coate and in addition to being a representative of The Trevor Project I also wear a lot of other shirts. I am genderqueer, I am pansexual, I am a recent college graduate, an activist, and I am totally, unapologetically , and compassionately in love with the world.
I came out as a lesbian in 8th grade, though I didn’t choose to tell my family at that time. Over the years my identities have become both more grounded and more fluid, moving from lesbian to transgender male to genderqueer to just out and out queer.
When I was asked to speak today I wasn’t sure what I would say. Should I talk about my family? My activism? My school? My ridiculously long final project at college on the No On 1 campaign and the reasons we lost?
I sent out some texts to some friends that said, if I remember correctly, “AGHHH WHAT DO I SAYYYYY WHAT DO I DO I AM GOING TO FAIL AHHHHHH”
Again, more or less.
I got a lot of suggestions from “talk about the importance of your allies” to “tell the story of how you came out as transgender” to “Why legislation matters.”
One friend finally said, “Honey, just speak from your heart.”
So I decided to go with that. And talk about church.
Today I am coming out. Not as LGBTQQIAAbcdefg… but as a loud and proud liberal religious person who is, as I said, totally and compassionately in love with this world. Coming out as queer to this crowd is easy. None of you, for the most part, are going to say anything bad or negative. Coming out as religious is harder. The LGBTQ community has been hurt a lot by religions. There is almost a visceral reaction to religions in many parts of the LGBTQ community.
Which is unfortunate.
I have been rejected a lot by family, friends, and communities for various reasons, some having to do with my identities and some not. I was really in to church in middle school, a very evangelical Christian church, and when one of the pastors there found out that I had come out at school they tried to “cast out of the sin of homosexuality” from my soul. It didn’t work very well. I left the church.
I left all church. I left religion. I was emphatic that I did Not Need That In My Life.
What I did need in my life, what everyone needs in their life, is community. Community that is tolerant and open and accepting and affirming of you and your life choices and your decisions and is willing to say “I do not get why you are doing what you are doing but I support you in it.”
For a lot of people that community comes from friends. For many others it comes from family. For some it comes from a sports team, a college, or your every other Thursday night punk knitting club.
For me I finally found that community in religion. Not specifically in my church, but in religion. In a religion full of good people who want to be good people. In a religion of people who have, as their first principle, their first “standard” that they try to live up to, “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”
Every. Person. That means me, and that means you, and that means that guy at work who keeps keying your car RIGHT across your rainbow bumper sticker no matter how nice you are to him every morning. Every person is inherently worthy. Every person deserves dignity.
Do you know how powerful that statement is? How powerful that would be to a LGBTQ or questioning young person who has NOBODY affirming them? How much that could, and does, mean to people who have been rejected for their identity?
Do you know how powerful that was for me the first time I read it?
You. YOU are worthy. You. Exactly and precisely how you are. Right now.
You are worthy of a community that loves and supports you.
Don’t be afraid to look into alternative communities. Communities that might not pop to mind first thing when you think “accepting of LGBTQ people.” Knitters. Ornothologists. Kickball teams.
We have GOT to stop having these visceral “no that CAN’T be right because of x, y, and z and also because it’s just NOT how things work” reactions to things. We have to stop!
Maybe is has been how things have worked for all of forever and then some, but things change. We change. People change. Society changes.
Yes, it is national coming out day. So come out, today.
You are NOT only gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, queer, questioning, transgender, pansexual, or any other identity. You are not only one thing.
You are a , fabulous, wonderful, amazing human who cares about change, about love, about yourself and your friends. You are beautiful. You are SO many things. Come out as ALL of your identities! Let people know that you are a lesbian, who really likes thai food, who has dreams of becoming a united states senator, who recently completed a complete diagram of the human digestive system using only recycled soda pop cans. ALL of you is interesting.
My name is Andrew Coate. I am queer, I love to read, I am a little bit in love with Barack Obama, and I am a Unitarian Universalist.
The Reverends Lisa Kemper and Janet Parker recently made a youtube video for the It Gets Better Project. I leave you with their words. “God made you. In all of your wholeness. In all of your gayness. In all of your fabulousness. God made you and God loves you and God wants you to be here. And we want you to be here.”
As we say in church, Blessed Be.
As we say LGBTQ spaces, be fabulous.