Photo Credits – Jack Lucas Smith via Unsplash
You may have seen the Borough in headlines from CBS, NBC Philadelphia and 6ABC this week, but not for anything we should be proud of. Following a social media post by the Republican Committee of Chester County inciting anger from citizens, the first annual OutFest was canceled on Sept. 23. The Town Council received dozens of hateful emails concerning the planned celebration of National Coming Out Day, which was supposed to include food and music and serve as a source of unity for the entire area. Many of the bigoted comments related to the alleged “adult themes” of a public drag performance, according to a Sept. 21 article published by 6ABC. Protestors say they feel such a display goes against the values that West Chester stands for. The Council worried that after so much backlash and even some threats, security would have to be heightened for the event on Oct. 1, and it was ultimately called off altogether (although apparently not by Council, which “100% supports an event like this,” according to its President Michael Stefano).
I am grateful to attend a university that makes every effort to welcome and support students of all backgrounds (and whose mascot is canonically nonbinary), but the issue of homophobic censorship on youth reaches far beyond the scale of our hometown. Pennsylvania is not safe from the radical restrictions being placed on inclusive social and civic education all over the country. Tentative legislature such as the “Parental Bill of Rights” — a version of which has already been passed in Florida and Alabama and is pending in multiple other states — would prohibit all discussions of sexual and gender orientation in elementary school. Some states are talking about making teachers report transgender students, while educators across the United States are called perverts for daring to identify their classroom as a safe space for all. Books like George by Alex Gino, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and Flamer by Mike Curato continue to be lifted from public shelves.
Last semester, I sat down with my Child Development professor to discuss what challenges await me as I begin my student teaching as a queer woman. I am terrified that the career I have been dreaming of since I was a little girl will be blocked by colleagues, parents and administrators who view me as a danger to kids’ safety.
Your child will not be “indoctrinated” by a teacher who refers to his husband or her wife. Your child will not announce they are transgender upon learning that boys can wear pink and girls pursue careers in engineering. Your child will not see a rainbow or watch a drag queen lip sync and spontaneously combust.
But if you impress the sentiment that being LGBTQ+ is somehow taboo or unnatural, they will grow up with the same hate in their hearts that continues to slow or entirely halt progress from occurring. Just last week, Cuba finally legalized same-sex marriage. The Vietnamese Ministry of Health just recognized in August that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not a mental disorder, ending health service discrimination to these individuals in that country. Yet here, in the home of the free, precedents set by landmark case reversals like Roe v. Wade show that at any time, Obergefell v. Hodges could be declared null.
I fear for our future, and it starts right here with a local pride festival.
A modified version of OutFest has been adopted by smaller organizations in town, including the Split Rail Tavern. A rally will still occur on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Old Courthouse, followed by an abbreviated celebration at the restaurant. All proceeds from OutFest will be donated to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing the suicide of LGBTQ+ youth. Attend if you can. We will not go back in the closet. Pride cannot be silenced.
Hannah Linkowsky is a second-year Early Grades Prep major in the Honors College with minors in Spanish, Dance Performance, and Civic + Professional Leadership. HL977843@wcupa.edu.