HRC Blog

Out for Good in Arkansas

Post submitted by Kendra R. Johnson, HRC Arkansas State Director

I came out to myself at 18 just before going to college. I came out to my parents at 21 years old in a heartfelt letter that cited many of the great black thinkers and writers who were gay or bisexual:  Langston, Zora and Baldwin. I came out to my community during my senior year at Spelman. I introduced a film showing on James Baldwin’s “The Price of the Ticket,” citing a fact too often left from narratives of his life; that he was a black gay male. In 1993, just saying the word “gay” led to guilt by association.
 
Since that time, I have been "in" and "out" of the closet depending on the setting and the circumstances, leaving bits of my identity – my race, sexual orientation, Southerness or gender – behind. I was initially "in the closet" at work. I was "out of the closet" in my social circle; "in" at church, where my partner was only able to serve as a godparent when our girls were baptized; "in" and "out" at our daughter’s schools; "out" in my work for social change with the Women’s Project, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), the Living Affected Corporation (LACorp) and Better Community Development (BCD).
 
Throughout my journey, I've learned that sometimes we have to come out to people to change hearts and minds, to illustrate why legal protections are necessary and to begin building more inclusive institutions.
 
So on July 29, 2014, I came out to the world as I stood in the Arkansas State Capital rotunda, with Bill Clinton’s portrait serving as both the background and my backup, for the release of the largest survey ever conducted on the realities of LGBT people in Arkansas and my subsequent hire to lead HRC Arkansas.
 
Now that I’m rolling up my sleeves and joining HRC Arkansas, I am officially Out For Good, For Arkansas Forever.

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