Out in the Open.

Happy fall, shapeshifters! Today I’m gonna talk about something real close to my heart.

When we achieved escape velocity from the greater NYC orbit back in early 2016, we landed in Brattleboro, Vermont. It’s mid-size, as they go, “rural” to a big city but “in town” if you live up the mountain. We loved it from the start, but I won’t lie: I worried about finding other people who were Not Straight.

I didn’t need to. We went to a Pride Family Picnic in June, found out about the local queer game night, and made friends right away. The next year I joined a trans book club and went to a rural queer summit, where I got to talk about how bees have three genders with current and potential gay beekeepers.

The year after was 2018. Life got harder for trans people last year, and our local community had our backs. We rallied, went to protests, built networks. That fall at the summit I learned about community organizing and sustainable local farming — and more about beekeeping, within a social justice framework.

All of these amazing, wonderful, friend-connecting and community-making things were and are enabled, run, and/or sparked by Out in the Open, our local LGBT nonprofit. Though they’re based in Brattleboro, they do work all through northern New England, connecting rural LGBT folks and building community, visibility, knowledge, and power.

I should say we, now: last year I joined the board, and now I put some hours of my spare time into helping this really essential org do its local community thing.

The 2019 summit is this weekend. I’m going to run a sewing skillshare and participate in a play reading.

This post has two purposes: first, I want to encourage all of you, no matter where you live, to reach out and look around and see if there’s an organization like this near you. There is really nothing like feeling safe while you do totally ordinary friendmaking things like herbalism walks, or board games, or community theater. Or, for that matter, going to a protest to stand tall and claim your basic human rights.

“But Eli,” you say, “we don’t all live in New England. There’s nothing like that outside of your socialist-liberal northeastern bubble.”

To which I say, we’ve donated binders this year to orgs in Wisconsin and North Carolina, so, maybe! Maybe not. But if you check, you might find a Social Justice Center that hosts LGBT groups, or an old Gay Men’s Club with a defunct website that’s quietly expanded its membership. You never quite know. We’re all over the map, after all.

The second reason for this post is to let you know that Out in the Open has a quilt raffle going on right now, and every ticket is a chance to win this ridiculously heartwarming rainbow quilt. Tickets are $5, with discounts for multiples. You can buy one here, if you like. All money goes to the organization that helped Shapeshifters find a home.

It’s so cozy. And well-made! If we win it, I’m going to live under this thing all winter.

It’s so cozy. And well-made! If we win it, I’m going to live under this thing all winter.