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Dozens of residents broke out into cheers and tears of joy after Tulsa City Council unanimously approved an inclusive resolution Wednesday evening. The proposal affirmed the city’s commitment to being a safe, welcoming, and inclusive city for all.
But the celebration was muted by the ignorance of people falsely using Christianity to hate thy neighbor. It reminded me why I remained in the closet for so long.
Introduced by City Councilors Laura Bellis (District 4), Christa Patrick (District 3), Vanessa Hall-Harper (District 1) and Lori Decter Wright (District 7), the resolution didn’t ask anyone to challenge or abandon their long-held religious beliefs. It simply sought to remind Tulsans that we should respect everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Yet before the Council could even vote on the non-binding measure Wednesday, opposition from a vocal minority led councilors to strike references to sexual orientation and gender from the final resolution.
“I’m sorry that it’s not more,” Councilor Bellis said after the vote.
Well, I’m sorry, too. I’m sorry that some of Bellis’ colleagues leaned into their hypocrisy.
Some of the same city councilors who seek to limit the speaking time for people protesting police violence had no problem placing the comfort levels of a vocal minority over the care of the targeted, marginalized LGBTQIA+ community.
City defends community as State attacks
The vote comes months after a person firebombed a local business that had hosted a drag event. In October, the Donut Hole in midtown Tulsa was vandalized for the second time. Security video showed a person breaking the windows with a baseball bat before throwing a molotov cocktail inside the store ahead of a drag event planned for November 3.
The violent attack came after the same establishment had its windows shattered weeks earlier after hosting an art installation featuring The Queens Dirty Dozen, which is run by drag queens.
And on the state level, the Oklahoma legislature has filed over 40 bills targeting trans and other LGBTQ communities.
So-called Christians ask Tulsa City Council to oppose welcoming resolution
Even with a watered down statement that does nothing but ask Tulsans to respect all people, ignorant hypocrisy was on full display.
“We don’t need to be more welcoming,” one resident said, highlighting the opposition that really amounted to denial of the LGBTQIA+ community’s very existence.
As a gay, Black man who spent years in the closet while actively involved as a songleader of my church, the hateful messages I heard Wednesday night reminded me why so many continue to struggle with openly expressing their full identities.
The 10 residents who spoke out against the resolution were outnumbered by the nearly two dozen speakers who pleaded and demanded that Tulsa City Council push back against the hate directed at our communities. Yet their words still stung like a thousand wasps.
“We need a Jesus revolution, not this resolution,” one resident said, arguing that the city’s effort was unnecessary even as her fellow opposers demonized and diminished the very existence of trans, non-binary and LGBTQIA people.
I’ve come to the conclusion that some people truly believe accepting the existence of non-heteronormative people somehow violates their own faith. Did they skip over the part of the bible that reads, “Judge not, lest ye be judged?”
“Tell my son he matters”
As dozens of LBTQ-identifying people and their allies spoke up in favor of the resolution, it took me back to my darkest days. During my freshman year of college, I was forced to confront my inner truth, and I very nearly attempted to take my own life.
Yet the bravery of those who opened up about their own experiences filled me with hope.
’I need my city to step up and tell my son he matters,” said the mother of a trans student, whom she convinced not to end their own life in recent days.
Speaking to City Council in a dramatic moment that drew waves of tears among councilors and residents, her son added, “People are threatening to bomb and murder us everyday. I have friends who have overdosed at school just because kids threatened to murder them.”
Resolution a small step in the right direction
What may seem miniscule to some can become an insurmountable mountain for others. In fact, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control. LGBTQIA+ youth are even more likely to contemplate or attempt self-harm.
“I’m saddened and disheartened,” Dorothy Ballard said on Wednesday, describing herself as a Black, queer mother and ordained minister. She’s also the interim Executive Director of Oklahomans for Equality.
“While it is heartening for me to see these very small steps, just the fact that there was this much pushback on something that’s not even an ordinance when there is no direct consequences for what’s going to happen tells you what the underlying problem is,” Ballard told The Black Wall Street Times after the vote.
“And that’s fear and discrimination. It’s hatred, whether implicit or explicit, doesn’t matter. The impact is the same. People lose their lives. People lose their livelihoods,” Ballard added.
Tulsa City Council took a small, but significant step Wednesday. By affirming the city’s comittment to value the lives of all Tulsans, they sent a message that violence against our communities is unnacceptable. In a state whose leaders are actively seeking to criminalize our identities, we need every positive message we can get.