Jenn Oestreich

I was honored to walk in a parade this month with 400 participants from a group called Mormons Building Bridges in the second largest parade in our state: the Utah Pride Festival. 50,000 people participated in the weekend. People of all ages, sexual orientations, gender identities and religious affiliation came together in support of the Gay, Lesbian, Bi Sexual, Transgendered, Queer and Questioning (GLBTQ) community; expressing a common bond of love, understanding and acceptance.

Yet, within 48 hours of the parade I discovered two things.

First, members of our community publicly expressed disapproval of a courageous young man, born and raised in Moab, for having a drag show, stating that sort of thing doesn’t belong in our community.

Secondly, PREP Moab, effective immediately, has had their funding pulled, even though our county’s teen pregnancy rate continues to climb.

My work and who I am is right in the middle of it all; in a small rural town I call home.

There is still much work to be done, locally and nationally towards equality and acceptance of all humans’ right to the pursuit of happiness.

The political, religious climate surrounding gender equality and female reproductive rights along with GLBTQ rights have the old model searching for solid footing on broken unknown territory.

As a dear friend said, “it’s not homophobia, it’s fear of the unknown phobia.”

My now former position with PREP served the youth in the community comprehensive sexual health education. The funding may be gone, but the commitment remains. The very few Moab youth that I have been in contact with, through the PREP program know this: how to honor their bodies, how to keep themselves safe and protected from harm.

I will continue to advocate and educate for empowering teens in our community and do my best to inspire them to be their best selves. I want youth to know that to not protect themselves, is equivalent to self harm. Filled with negative self talk and actions; actions that have consequences, for not only themselves, but for their loved ones.

Personal responsibility, taught through PREP; now, the same skills, commitment and advocacy is applied to my work at Moab Pride.

In reflection, PREP and Moab Pride overlap and complement each other. I have spent the past year energized by the work and offerings of consensual healing, due in part by the true safety provided in this community. It has been quite fascinating to see that my interests lay in two very controversial, taboo areas: Sexual Health Education and GLBTQ Equity.

I refer to the divine feminine in me – the mother in me that wants to care, protect and nurture.

When faced with the choice to be a mother myself, although I identify as a woman, yet present gender in a non-conforming way, I would have to answer to, prove worthy, under the current laws and social structures.

All the while, I’m fully aware of the ease and privileges a heterosexual, gender-conforming female, married or unmarried has to being a mother.

I consider that child’s experience amongst his peers and other adults, for which the headlines show time and again much torment and judgment. I’ve seen firsthand what bullying casts on a young person’s life and how it appears in the adult self later in life.

Most of all I consider what kind of world I want to leave to them and their loved ones.

How appropriate that this realization comes during Gay Pride Month, in recognition of the Stonewall Riots. The five days of rioting that ensued changed forever the face of gay and lesbian life; widely considered the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for equal rights in the United States.

Excited that on this day, as one door closes, my trust, faith and commitment to what Moab Pride contributes to our community will offer others a safe space to seek and discover their authentic expression in their world; reclaiming the word gay, from the widely used negative connotation, to its true meaning: “Happy.”

And finally I leave you with this excerpt from a book I recently re-opened, that speaks to what I am offering and pretty much sums up my take on a world view I dream for everyone.

From the book, “Toward a Recognition of Androgyny”.

“I believe that our future salvation lies in a movement away from sexual polarization and the prison of gender toward a world in which individual roles and the modes of personal behavior can be freely chosen….Androgyny seeks to liberate the individual from the confines of the appropriate.”

“The future lies with those who believe salvation likelier to spring from the imagination of possibility than from the delineation of the historical.”

May all beings be free, may all beings be healthy, may all beings be safe and may all beings be happy.