Our Stories

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Mr. Gallimore. My fiancé & I came in to the YMCA in Rapid City so I can apply for a membership for our family and was very shocked and hurt to learn that being discriminated against was still allowed in such family oriented places such as the YMCA. After I had filled out my application and took your tour I was told because of my sexual orientation that I had to cross off the names of all our children except for my biological child and then was told Mary who has been there before had to apply separately from me, I find this not only being discriminating it also made me & my fiancé feel like we're being bullied not to mention OUR 17yr old ( My biological child) was present at the time of this which made the matter even worse, because we have raised all our children to never discriminate against love!!! My daughter even looked at the woman and asked her why does it matter if my moms are gay or not god created us all to be loved equally & in turn the response my child got was because it's the law and we cannot accept same sex couple applications and they must file separately & even if they were married we still couldn't do it... With the look of disappointment on our faces we kindly said have a nice day & walked out. Unfortunately I will not be proceeding with my application to your facility.

Anonymous December 31, 2016

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I just wanted to tell you I attended the town meeting last night because I am offended as a human being by any kind of discrimination or unfairness. It was a wonderful experience for me. The love and affection in that room was palpable. I will be very interested to see how South Dakota reacts to the lawsuit. I would love to believe they will see how ridiculous they are being...never mind trampling on civil rights. For a state that prides itself on not being told what to do by government, we have a ways to go on these kinds of issues. But every journey begins with the first step...

Anonymous December 31, 2016

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This was my testimony to the Minnesota Legislature in the spring of 2013 as they considered whether to legalize marriage equality. Today marriage is legal for all people on Minnesota: My 15-month-month son Andersen has 6 grandparents. His mom’s parents, my mom and her husband and my dad and his what? …his George? Andersen calls him granddad. My dad and Granddad George have been together for over 30 years. They both had a hand in raising me. They taught me to tell the truth and to be kind. They taught me to stand up when a lady leaves the table. You’d be amazed at how much gay dads can teach you about impressing women! They taught me that the most important thing is “creating memories” with the people you love. He and George took me to the theater and the ballet (cliché I know). We’d go on vacation to the beach or Hershey Park. George used to make frog legs or we’d go out to eat and order snails. That’s what I want for my son. A whole bellyful of exciting and fun memories. As a kid, I never knew that George was my family. Back then, nobody ever told me that. When two people marry, a new family is created. And they weren't married. Of course we were a family. We ARE a family. I think about my friend Josh who always talks about raising a family. The law tells him his family won’t count. I think about the couple I met last week; two women and their daughters. They moved to MN because our adoption law is more family friendly. Even so, their family doesn't count. Most of all, I think about Andersen. I imagine him falling in love with some nice boy like Josh. I imagine they’ll want to marry and raise a family. I imagine my boy being told that his love and his family don’t count. And my heart aches. Pass this law. Protect our children.

Anonymous December 31, 2016

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It doesn’t matter who’s in bed together.” –Gregg They could be almost anyone’s feet. The blurry faces six feet away could be almost anyone’s faces. This picture focuses on a single intimate moment, a point of connection that could belong anywhere, in any bedroom. It’s a snapshot of comfort, commitment, and contentment. But they’re not anyone’s feet. They belong to Josh and Gregg, a loving couple that has been together for eight-and-a-half years. They live the American Dream: college degrees, a beautiful home, three cats, a dog, and three bearded dragons. They even have a brown picket fence. They could be any committed, middle-class couple. They are Gregg and Josh: young, successful, happy, and gay in South Dakota.

Gregg & Josh December 31, 2016

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My expression looks bitter and satisfied.” –David His priest was one of the first people to whom David came out. David was sixteen years old at the time, a student and churchgoer. He chose to talk with his priest before his parents because he needed to know the church’s stance on his sexual identity. Being gay is not acceptable, David’s priest told him. David could not call himself gay, could not think gay thoughts, and could not act on any of his desires. If he remained affiliated with the Catholic Church, he would have to renounce his homosexuality. David left the church. Forced to carve out his own definitions and understandings, David now identifies as a homo-romantic, asexual Atheist. He is satisfied with his path and the strength of character it took to navigate it but feels angry over how many people have experienced this kind of pain and rejection.

David December 31, 2016

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It’s a constant fear we go through.” –Joe grew up three hours away from where Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson tortured and murdered Matthew Shepherd. Since coming out as gay at the age of 15 (?), Joe has never been bashed. Like most LGBTQ persons, though, he has experienced derision, harassment, and discrimination. He’s lost two jobs because of his sexuality. This picture represents the fear and the reality of queer persons in South Dakota. It is 2015, but the threat of violence still looms, keeping some LGBTQ persons closeted, some fearfully out. But this picture also represents hope and strength. Joe, a photographer himself, chose to look defiant in this picture. “This is a fear we have,” he said, “but it’s not going to stop us from living our lives.”

Joe December 31, 2016

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Around 40% of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. Two-thirds of homeless, LGBTQ youth cite family rejection as a cause of their homelessness, while over half cite family abuse. Non-white and transgender, queer youth are especially at risk of homelessness; 65% of homeless persons are people of color, and one in five transgender persons will experience homelessness in their lifetime. Why does this matter? Because homeless, LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of depression, suicide, HIV infection, and substance abuse. Because, even compared to their straight and cisgender counterparts, these youth disproportionately experience hunger, sexual abuse, and exploitation. Because queer youth should never have to suffer because of others’ bigotry. Sources: “America’s Shame: 40% of Homeless Youth are LGBT.” 2012. San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. July 13. “Gay and Transgender Youth Homelessness by the Numbers.” 2010. Center for American Progress. “High Risk of Becoming Homeless.” 2013. Sutter Health. Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “Housing and Homelessness.” 2011. National Center for Transgender Equality. “LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in Focus.” 2013. United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Left Behind: LGBT Homeless Youth Struggle to Survive on the Streets.”

Homeless December 31, 2016

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My dad and George pretended they slept in different beds for years, like Bert and Ernie.” --David grew up with two dads. Although his dads have been together for over 30 years, personal and social pressures kept them closeted for far-too-many of them. In spite of their necessary pretense, they lavished affection and life lessons on David, their son by blood and circumstance. “They taught me to stand up when a lady leaves the table. You’d be amazed at how much gay dads can teach you about impressing women!” David says. Now a father himself, David reflects on the meaning of family. Some families may not be recognized by law, may not be allowed the right to marry or adopt, and may look nothing like the families we see on television. Even when the laws have yet to catch up with it, the fact remains, families start and end with love. Just ask David, his wife and son, and his two dads.

David December 31, 2016

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Where is my gay community?” --Rally sign Gay/straight alliances. Adding another “A” for “allies” (in addition to “asexual”) to the LGBTQ acronym. Queer organizations seeking collaborations with various non-queer community organizations. Alliances between marginalized and privileged groups and persons benefit everyone; certainly they are essential in fighting cultural and legal oppressions. But sometimes, the alliance can feel unequal, imbalanced. This becomes apparent during many of the LGBTQ rallies, social gatherings, and organizational meetings in South Dakota, when straight and cisgender people frequently compose the majority of attendees. Where are non-straight and transgender South Dakotans? Perhaps the fear of coming out in a conservative, largely rural state keeps us home. Perhaps we are busy working extra hours, since LGBTQ families are at least as likely, and sometimes likelier, to experience poverty. Perhaps we are too weary suffering family, workplace, and legislative discrimination to imagine taking to the streets. But we must come up, come out, and lead the fight for our rights as queer persons. Queer voices must remain in the center of this movement. Allies are essential. They are laudable. They are also one letter in a very long acronym of social justice. It is our privilege and our duty to ensure everyone is welcome, included, and celebrated in the fight for social justice. Sources: Sears, B. and L. Badgett. 2012. “Beyond Stereotypes: Poverty in the LGBT Community.” The Williams Institute.

Rally Picture December 31, 2016

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I’m starting to get more and more comfortable with a body that finally matches my soul.” --Cori In the picture, Cori is split in half. On our left, we witness how others in her past might have seen her, while the right half speaks to how we see her now. The truth is, she has never been half. Cori grew from a young girl to a mature, happy, self-realized young woman. The only thing that has changed is her appearance; it finally matches who she is, who she has always been. The picture we see on the right is the correct one. It is the reality of Cori’s identity, the manifestation of her soul.

Cori December 31, 2016

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I identify as a lesbian that fell in love with a man.” --Pam It wasn’t a choice. Pam, a lesbian, dated women, loved women, would never have imagined herself with a man. Then she met the man who eventually became her husband. Loving him doesn’t make her bisexual or pansexual; it certainly doesn’t mean she’s straight. Pam is a lesbian whose soul mate just happens to be male. “It’s not like choosing between coffee and tea,” she says. Their love was “a force of nature.” She could no more stop it than she could fathom it at first. After a great deal of introspection, Pam has come to terms with who she is. She and her husband, both queer activists, now live happy lives, but others have not been quite as open to the notion of a lesbian loving a straight man. She’s been called a “wasbian” and “hasbian.” Some people insist she must be bisexual, or perhaps now she’s found her “true” sexual identity. Being with a man is easier in the world, Pam notes with some guilt, but within her queer community, it’s twenty times harder.

Pam December 31, 2016

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Everyone deserves the right to feel safe, no matter their gender or sexual orientation.” –Rushmore Roller Sometimes voices against bigotry whisper. Other times they scream. On many occasions they appear in black, serifed font on a computer screen. But sometimes, voices against hate glide on roller skates. The Rushmore Rollerz, Rapid City’s all-women roller derby team, focus on empowering their members and giving back to their community. They believe in a future in which children are free to be themselves, women recognize their power, and hateful voices don’t have enough traction to reach their targets. The Rushmore Rollerz stand in solidarity with queer pride and the fight for queer rights. Or, perhaps more to the point, they roll.

Rushmore Rollerz December 31, 2016

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You and I did this. You and I got this started." –Nancy to wife, Jennie On January 12, 2015, Federal Judge Karen Schreier struck down South Dakota’s ban on marriage equality, thanks in large part to the efforts of twelve intrepid plaintiffs. In 2014, Nancy, Jennie, and five other couples filed a lawsuit with South Dakota to recognize same-sex marriages performed in South Dakota and other states. These pictures represent Jennie and Nancy’s fight to bring marriage equality to South Dakota. In the first, they demonstrate their anger and frustration with a state that considers their marriage invalid, their human rights dismissible. The second picture, taken after the January 12 ruling, shows their pride, their jubilation, at this hard-won victory. Judge Schreier’s ruling will not be put into effect in the immediate future. Also on January 12, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley filed an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The fight for marriage equality isn’t yet over. But thanks to Nancy, Jennie, and ten other litigants, we have already come so far.

Nancy and Jennie December 31, 2016

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