The Time Has Come

Today, I close the door of my One Iowa office and leave the keys for Daniel, the next Executive Director.

What a great gift it was to lead this organization from its role as ‘the marriage group’ to an advocacy organization that addresses issues of equality from cradle to grave. We moved from a single issue to an extraordinary and necessary portfolio of issues and constituencies.

Just last week we met with our friends at Hamilton’s to discuss grief and loss support for LGBT persons and their friends and families. Those groups will begin at Hamilton’s on Westown Parkway on Monday, February 20th from 6:30 to 7:30 pm and will be held on a monthly basis. In addition, we will jointly offer, on an as-needed basis, programming for youth who experience loss.

Our health and wellness programming has moved from our annual health conference at Des Moines University and ongoing LGBTQ Health trainings for providers to extraordinary partnerships that offer resources, referrals and specific constituencies that include both trans-men and trans-women. I am especially proud of the outreach work our Creative Consultant Carol Sawyer has done for lesbians and bisexual women with lesbian pulp fiction imagery and her series of metamorphic images directed to our trans friends. Staff is working on a Providers’ Guide to help LGBTQ persons find more welcoming and affirming healthcare.

Our work with law enforcement has allowed us to work with jail and lock-up personnel across the state. From the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act to garden variety issues around sexual orientation and gender identity, we have forged good relationships. We are especially proud of our work with Sheriff McCarthy and his team at Polk County Jail and our ongoing relationship with Craig Matzke, who brought us into this work more than three years ago.

Iowa Pride Network became part of our youth programming in 2014. We are now connected to more than 100 Gay Straight Alliances across the state offering an excellent year-round and age-appropriate curriculum, host a student day at the Capitol and offer an LGBTQ Youth Summit. Coordinator Sandra Zapata works with AmeriCorps member Brittany Deal to connect with students, faculty and parents. Hannah Nell, our previous AmeriCorps member, deserves a huge ‘shout-out’ for her excellence and dedication to this work.

Our many trainings, workshops and seminars are now rolled into Academy Q. I believe we trained nearly 4,000 people last year. Most were from non-profits, health-care facilities, social services, education, and law enforcement. We have expanded to corporate trainings. And we now offer a series of daylong Safe-Zone trainings that provide an intensive learning experience, designation as a ‘Safe Zone’ and on-going counsel.

As I retire, I am even more proud of our Gay & Gray in the Midwest programming, especially the Annual LGBT Summit held each year at Grandview University. The more we learn about the realities of our aging community, the more we realize how much more work needs to be done.

And as we move into the next year, a time that is, for many, an uncertain political and social climate, I am grateful for the work we have done around civility. I think it was made public when my conversations with Bob Vander Plaats were highlighted in the Des Moines Register, the Washington Post, Iowa Public Radio and other media outlets. We have reached out, had hard conversations and are in the middle of working with clergy and community members to create a model for civil dialogue.

Thanks to our Communications Specialist, Erica Barz, we experience unprecedented media coverage. We certainly expect to get the calls when a big story about LGBT equality breaks, but we have really become an organization that helps to put a voice to our community. We are a trusted and reliable source for local and national media. We answer our phones, we always tell the truth and we find appropriate spokespersons when we are not the experts.

Keenan Crow has been our advocate at the Capitol. He understands politics. He knows policymakers. And he brilliantly navigates the legal and political challenges we face. His work will be even more important in the upcoming session.

One Iowa has made many friends these past 4 ½ years. The ACLU always stands ready to work with us and they are a great group of folks. We love the staff at Norwalk Nursing and Rehab, led by the fierce Debi Baker. Synergy Clinical Services and Primary Healthcare, Dr. Joe Freund, Denise Hagerla, Dr. Loren Olson, Des Moines University, IDPH, and so many others are always ready to support health and wellness for LGBTQ persons. Our great friend Tami Haught and Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network led the groundbreaking “HIV is Not a Crime” work and invited us along for one of the most brilliant and successful campaigns for people living with HIV.

As I work through piles of paper, and innumerable files, each one reminds me of a day, an issue, a person, a campaign. I could not even begin to have this last One Iowa blog reflect what I have experienced here. I’ll need to save that for the book. You know, the one that will force me into the “Queer Witness Protection Program.” I must confess that this administrative work has been made manageable because Linda Foster is an excellent administrative organizer whose need for order rivals that of my wife. Thank goodness.

I love this job. I love this work. I love One Iowa. I actually even love my staff. I also know, however, that it is important to know when to leave. It is important to note that I did reach that magic retirement age. (I know, hard to believe, right?) I also believe that I did what I set out to do. One Iowa is the robust and important and necessary organization that I hope its founders are proud of.

So, today as I do the glamorous job of cleaning out desk drawers and creating new files and piles for the next director, I continue to have such gratitude for everyone who has offered a volunteer hour, or a donation, or a word of encouragement. I am grateful for an extraordinary staff that has carried this organization with spirit and vision. And I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Board of Directors and my beloved community.

Thank you.