Editor's Note: Ms. Amy Hunter is Director of Operations for One Kalamazoo and sits on the Boards of Directors for Michigan Equality and the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center. Amy loves sharing a home in the woods near Kalamazoo with her four cats and her spouse and inspiration, Cindy.
Seems like an unlikely place for eyes and ears from across our nation to be focused. Although, now that I think of it, there's been the "Yes, There Really is a Kalamazoo" craze, "Direct to you from Kalamazoo" viral advertising for the Kalamazoo Stove Company and then most famously, Glen Miller's Orchestra swing era hit --"I've got a gal in Kalamazoo". This fall it will be everyone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and our allies--along with some of our detractors--who will be watching and listening closely.
So, why pay attention to what's going on in Kalamazoo?
A number of things make it note worthy.
First and foremost is that about 10,000 voters will have a say on the national momentum behind fully-inclusive employment laws. When the Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality (KAFE) proposed an ordinance that would say it's illegal to discriminate against people because of who they are or who they love when making decisions about jobs, housing, or access to public space, the Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously passed the measure--twice! Then, a small group of people were able to derail the ordinance. Is this small group of people going to also derail our efforts at the federal level?
Second: other small towns across the country are watching and looking for an answer to the question, "Can the LGBT movement walk and chew gum?" I know we have some major fights ahead of us--like defending marriage equality in Maine. But-- are we also willing to support the work of local groups trying to bring the laws of their community into line with the more evolved values of the community? Even though the Kalamazoo Non-Discrimination ordinance has nothing to do with marriage, are we willing to put our time, energy, and resources into making sure all people--including LGBT people--can have an equal opportunity to succeed?
Third: We will run a professional, smart and locally driven campaign. We're tired of the age old conversation that happens in these campaigns about insiders vs. outsiders, national vs. local. We believe we've hit on a model that works--and we're going to test it out. We're writing our lessons down as we go so we can share them with anyone that needs help figuring out how to make these collaborations work. Now, who isn't interested in something like that?
Fourth: we're trying something different with our message, too. Instead of trying to refute the claims and misinformation used against the LGBT community, we will continue to focus on what Kalamazoo has told us they value, both as individuals and as a community. Topping that list are fairness, equality and opportunity for everyone--no matter who you are.
And fifth: I have lived in Kalamazoo almost all of my life. I was born here, grew up here and learned my craft here. By profession, I'm a lighting designer -- by passion I'm an advocate. And of course, I am married to Cindy, a most remarkable woman who is also a gifted teacher.
It was probably Cindy who gave me the courage to become Amy. Even though she didn't have a clue about me being transgender, I somehow knew that she would love me anyway. She did.
I'm Director of Operations for One Kalamazoo and we have two important jobs to do. We're here to defend the Kalamazoo Non-Discrimination Ordinance, but also to keep the ball moving forward on equality across the country--and we're going to need your help to do that. I hope you check out our website at www.OneKalamazoo.com and keep reading--and discussing--the posts I write. I'll be there to keep urging you along in your own communities.
I'm Amy Hunter and I want to be "Your Gal in Kalamazoo"