Kyle Troutman: Free to be

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Though we do not see many expressions of it locally, June is recognized as LGBTQ Pride Month, a celebration of people enjoying the freedom to be who they are.

The LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community has over the past few years found a greater level of acceptance, but much more can be done, especially in our area.

Two weeks from today, it will be six years since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage. This was a landmark decision for LGBTQ rights and one I reported on right here in Barry and Lawrence counties.

After that case was ruled, the Barry County Circuit Clerk’s Office, which at the time operated the Recorder’s Office, as well, said licenses would be issued immediately, but then had to push back their issuance 25 days to allow updating of its computer software to say “Party 1” and “Party 2” instead of “Groom” and “Bride.”

Clerk Craig Williams said the office recognized the divisiveness of the issue, but it also respects the judicial process.

Lawrence County had its system updated within a week, and issued its first same-sex couple marriage license within two weeks of the ruling.

In the next few years, we at the papers heard rumblings of difficulties obtaining marriage licenses in Barry County, for heterosexual and gay couples alike, juxtaposed with an increase in licenses given in Lawrence County.

In Barry County, licenses were available only two days per week and by appointment only. Lawrence County offered walk-in appointments during regular business hours, benefitting greatly in the form of license fees paid by Barry County residents who could not get licenses in their own county.

The limited hours in Barry County were explained away as a necessity, but the timing of the limited hours in relation to same-sex marriage legalization was always suspect. That said, even more than 60 days after the Supreme Court ruling, Barry County had not had a single inquiry for a same-sex license.

The heat of that topic has subsided over the years, but other issues and discriminatory behavior are certainly stoked on occasion.

A big issue that often goes overlooked is LGBTQ youth and their treatment in local schools — something that is also exceptionally hard to report impactfully. I think people accept there are gay and lesbian students that attend our schools, but I think many people would be surprised to know there are transgender students, as well.

As recent as three months ago, I had an extended conversation with an individual who graduated from a local school in the past 10 years and was denied the opportunity to take a same-sex partner to prom in Cassville and Monett.

This person described living in a constant state of fear, refusing to continue being subjected to it and ultimately moving away with very little money and few possibilities just to escape the constant pressure of being judged, not accepted and discriminated against.

“I had no friends. No laughter. Nothing. And, I know there are kids there experiencing the same.”

My heart hurt for this individual, and I know the assessment of others is correct.

I personally know another local trans person who endured years of being denied being called the name she chose. I saw this first-hand and was frustrated by it.

Because of her transition, using her birth name actually made things more confusing for those who met her. Most who meet her for the first time — and she works in a pretty visible position — have no idea she was born male. That included me, by the way.

Those who used her birth name were selfish, essentially saying they knew who she was better than she did because of what was between her legs at birth.

This kind of thinking is also why LGBTQ youth are often misunderstood by their peers, their educators and even their own parents. They are not hurting anyone, only trying to do like the rest of us and find their way through life with happiness and acceptance.

Instead, they are often outcast, hated and vilified, only for loving whom they love and generally based on cherry picked verses from a book that promotes love above all else.

According to the Child Mind Institute, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders, anti-gay bullying is a nationwide issue and has dire consequences.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among adolescents, and gay teens are four times more likely than straight teens to attempt suicide.

If we want to leave a better world for our children, shouldn’t that come with acceptance and support so they can enjoy the world we are leaving them?

Treating LGBTQ individuals equally does not remove any rights from straight people.

Unfortunately, I know many who read this will probably not make it this far before disagreeing and falling back to that most-read book in the world to justify putting another group of people down.

Not all who follow the Bible will do that, but where we live, LGBTQ acceptance is an exception, not a rule.

My hopes are that in this Pride Month, people who look down on the LGBTQ community might step off the preaching pedestal and get to know a member of the community.

Ask them what hardships they have to endure just to be themselves. See the are through their eyes and understand how they have to navigate it differently.

Maybe, one person at a time, we can make the world less hateful and more accepting — that’s the kind of world I want to leave.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Monett Times since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-235-3135 or editor@monett-times.com.

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  • As a long time property owner on Roaring River and reader of the Cassville DEMOCRAT I could not be more proud of Klye’s commentary Free to Be. The wisdom of many of the commentaries from Kyle and Bob Mitchel (calling out traitor Hawley) is so refreshing.Leadership during a time that it is really needed. Stay strong and keep going

    -- Posted by Kevineasley on Tue, Jun 22, 2021, at 7:57 AM
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