Meet two LGBTQ community members
Brittany Deal, 23, member and volunteer in LGBT community
Back before President Obama, Game of Thrones, widespread blowout bars, and cronuts, Deal was a sophomore at Johnston High School and a co-founder of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). Looking at Des Moines with enlightened college-graduated eyes she’s noticed there a large number of corporate and individual allies for the LGBT community.
“Principal offers LGBT focus groups for their employees, I think it’s a HR thing,” Deal mentioned. “They’ve been hosting the Iowa Pride Network awards for the past couple years.”
Looking at the advances in the LGBT community since the mid-2000s there has been a steep leap forward.
“The climate has definitely changed. People in Iowa and across the nation have really had to get used to the marriage bill,” Deal reflected. “People come here to marry.”
Deal also had recommendations for how to start getting involved. If you’re in college, definitely look to your GSA or Pride group on campus. Out of college? Look to One Iowa if they need any volunteers for mail stuffing, awareness building or events.
“Whether or not you’re a member of the LGBT community as you start to get involved, go online, look up what issues are affecting each community” Deal said. “Being an ally comes in many forms. If you’re in the workplace and see something come up, tell someone who can help. Get people to volunteer with you. Talk about the current issues.”
Matty Smith, 32, Director of Communications and New Media at One Iowa
Smith has been with Iowa’s largest LGBT organization, One Iowa, since August 2010. In that time he has seem some setbacks, major leaps forward and proactive, positive change.
One Iowa is excited to have recently merged with Iowa Pride Network, a LGBT youth focused organization that manages student organization and Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) efforts. It adds yet another area of dedicated focus for the steadfast staff and volunteers.
“I mean, who would have thought 10 years ago that we’d be where we are today? Nearly half of the U.S. population now lives in a state with marriage equality. Iowa has had marriage for the past 5 years. The Iowa Civil Rights Code has included sexual orientation and gender identity since 2007.”
Many followed the marriage equality case, but that’s not all One Iowa is and was focused on. With laws written long ago and necessary updates that have fallen through the crevices of bureaucracy, the organization has a full agenda with reaching out to communities of faith, addressing concerns about Iowa’s aging LGBT populations and improving resources for transgender Iowans.
“We still need to ensure that our LGBT youth are safe and protected in our schools, and that our transgender brothers and sisters are treated fairly under law,” Smith shared. “While Iowa has sexual orientation and gender identity written into its Civil Rights Code, there are still many states in the U.S. where one can be fired from his or her job simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In this day and age, that’s unacceptable.”
“All of this points to a commonality that I feel many Iowans share–that equality is an Iowa tradition,” Smith said. “That’s what One Iowa is all about. It’s all about everyone being treated fairly.”
So, why PrideFest? It’s like a big family reunion with lots of second cousins.
“Des Moines has a very diverse LGBT community that’s very connected,” Smith reflected. “Everybody knows everybody else, which I think is incredibly unique to Des Moines. For an event like Pride, it’s really a chance for all of us to come together and celebrate the many accomplishments we’ve had over the years.”