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Roey on the Road: What The Dalles is Doing for GLBT Equality

As many of you already know, along with Basic Rights Oregon staff, I am hitting Oregon highways in November and December, visiting communities across Oregon to talk about how we can work together to make Oregon a State of Equality! Based of feedback from activists and supporters of equality across Oregon, Basic Rights Oregon has developed a three-year campaign to build political power and achieve lasting wins for GLBT fairness and equality. Our next step is to go community by community and talk about how to put that plan in to action. With the first of these meeting already complete, our work is already off to an exciting and promising beginning. Throughout these trips I’ll be blogging to keep you up to date about what is happening around the state and to encourage discussion and conversation about this new phase in our movement.

Thursday afternoon, Jessica Keskitalo (BRO’s senior organizer) and I climbed into my car and headed to The Dalles for the first stop on the “Roey on the Road” statewide tour. It was just wonderful. We had dinner with a group of ten dedicated activists, including Linda and Brian from the Wasco County PFLAG, and Trisha from Wasco County Human Dignity Coalition.

After dinner, we headed over to a meeting with 18 people. The group was a mix of some experienced activists and some people who are new to this work, although half of the people there had traveled all the way to Salem to lobby their state representatives during the legislative session! The Dalles is a unique place in Oregon because while many communities have to strategize to figure out how to reach opinion leaders in their communities, in The Dalles those people were at our meeting. The group included a school board member, staff of the city and a state legislator, and someone involved with the local Chamber of Commerce. It was heartening to see people who are so engaged in their town take the time to find out how to make The Dalles a better place for GLBT people and their families.

Conversation was lively and we even got into a debate about the level of discrimination against GLBT people in The Dalles. Several people explained that the reason that discrimination might be invisible to many and easy to ignore was because GLBT people don’t feel safe coming out. Therefore, people don’t even know that they work and worship with gay and transgendered people and that they know us and our friends and families. It can even be a challenge for GLBT people to find each other and the local PFLAG plays an important role in bringing people together.

One highlight for me was a conversation with Jim, a farmer from Parkdale whose daughter is a lesbian. He is involved with the local PFLAG and listening to what he had to say was so special for me because he loves his daughter—and all his children—so much and his perspective as a parent comes straight from the heart. Jim and his wife both are involved because they want their daughter to have the same opportunities in life as anyone else, and they don’t want her harmed by discrimination and hate. There are people like Jim all across Oregon—good people who just want the best for their families.

The group discussed ways to reach community leaders, particularly in the business community, to encourage them to support GLBT equality. Future plans include further exploring an event for business leaders to learn about the issues, whether or not to pursue a local anti-discrimination legislation and BRO-provided training and support for leaders and for community activities. We look forward to more visits to The Dalles and to more collaboration with these fine people.

Our next trips are to Medford on Dec. 1 and Eugene on Dec. 5. In between, I’m heading to Seattle to share what we’ve learned from our ballot measure campaigns with immigrant rights activists in Seattle. Attend one of these meetings if you can or other upcoming meetings where you live check dates here! Want to help organize a meeting where you live? Call or email Jessica at 503-222-6151 or jessica@basicrights.org.
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By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 27, 2006 8:35 AM

How do I find out when you are coming again to The Dalles? I would like to get involved. I would also like to meet GLBT people in this (The DAlles/Hood RIver etc.) community. As a gay woman who has already experienced discrimination in this community (The DAlles), I would like to see how others feel and to develop a network of supports.    



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