Defining Fairness Local News

LGBTQ Community More Than Black & White: Tiff Gonzales, Defining Fairness

Tiff Gonzales is a fourth-generation Mexican American, native to Texas, who identifies as queer both in gender identity and sexual orientation.

Tiff moved to Louisville five and a half years ago for work. She says when we talk about race in Louisville, we’re generally only talking about black and white. Latino issues re rarely part of the conversation, and when they are, it often only includes immigrants. “There’s so much that draws me to this city,” she says, “but that invisibility is something that I, on a regular basis, would struggle with to determine whether or not I can continue to live here.”

Tiff says there’s a certain loneliness in the lack of a community of folks who share similar identities. “I could name maybe just a couple of other people who I feel like would hold the identities of being a queer Latino here in this city.” But, she says, “I’m hopeful that there will be some change in that in the city that I really do love.”

When Tiff Gonzales spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis, the conversation at one point turned to tokenism and whether the trouble with seeking diversity on panels and projects like this is that one person is asked to represent the experiences of an entire group—whether it’s race, class, LGBTQ status, etc. “I really struggled with accepting this invitation. I thought, I’m going to be put into this position where I need to answer a question as one person, for—truly, when we’re talking about Latinos in the United States—millions upon millions of people.”

“I am one person, who has been shaped by many other people, and many other experiences. I can only tell you what it’s like to be me.”

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Defining Fairness Local News

Bringing Faith to the LGBTQ Community: Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard, Defining Fairness

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard was born in Promised Land, South Carolina, the son of a Southern Baptist Minister, and says, “I grew up in church as much as I was in home.” He was given his nickname at the age of three, when his grandfather noticed his ability to replicate any dance move he saw.

When he came out as a gay man, he experienced rejection from the church. “I was angry at God,” he says. After struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation, he says he came to the conclusion that, “I was created like this, so I can’t believe in a God who would create me bound to hell, as they’re telling me I am.” Blanchard is now a co-chair of the Faith Leaders for Fairness—part of the Fairness Campaign—and leads the True Colors Ministry at Highland Baptist Church. He’s earning his Masters of Divinity at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and will be ordained at the end of May, making him the first openly gay person to be ordained at Highland Baptist.

Maurice Blanchard spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis, beginning with a story he says illustrates how far Louisville still has to go in making public spaces feel safe for LGBTQ citizens.

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On the Work of Faith Leaders for Fairness
“We’re rebuilding bridges for the LGBT community, back to faith. To be honest with you, the biggest conflict I get is from LGBTQ folk when I tell them I’m a gay minister. There is some animosity there, understandably. That’s probably the biggest struggle I see right now, is re-introducing faith to a people who have been wounded so much.”

On Being Called to Ministry
“I began reading deeper into scriptures, speaking with theologians, doing study, getting into the ministry, and realized that there is a place for everyone in the Kingdom of God. That has been a realization that has taken time to soak in. And I have felt the calling to ministry, and no in seminary, and active in my church, and leading a True Colors Ministry, which is the first LGBT-affirming ministry in a Baptist Church that I’m aware of.”

On Ministering to the LGBTQ Community
“The first thing I do, when confronted with a person who’s obviously been wounded, is not to say anything, but to be a listener. I think too many times religious leaders talk too much and listen too little. Sometimes we meet two or three, four times, and I haven’t really said anything about my own faith. Because I need to hear what they’ve been through, and I need to understand that, to be able to respond in a way that would be appropriate. Some folk respond to scripture well, some folk don’t want to hear anything about it. So mainly, with folk, I try to listen to them, hear where they’re coming from, and then start wading in the water and introducing them to the fact that there is a faith community, there are congregations that love you—not in spite of your sexuality, but simply for who you are as a child of God.”

On the Issues Facing LGBTQ People of Faith
“They’re facing outright rejection that they’ve felt their entire lives, from churches or church members. These people are covered in wounds and scars that emotionally run so deep, and we don’t see it on the outside, but they know very well they’re not welcome in many churches. They’re confronted with going back in and opening themselves up to be slighted again, to be condemned, and they don’t want to do that. And I don’t blame them. So, for example, my ministry, the True Colors Ministry, offers them a place almost like a wading pool. You’re not jumping into the pool—the pool being the full church—but you have something you can dip your feet in and get comfortable again, and start learning to trust again. And then when you’re ready, you can move into the larger pool.”

Defining Fairness Local News

Defining Fairness: Diane Moten

Years before the city of Louisville offered legal protections to residents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, Diane Moten was fired by her employer for being a lesbian.

She told her story to the Board of Alderman and was part of the Fairness Campaign in its infancy.

Diane Moten told her story to WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis as part of the Defining Fairness series. You can listen to the interview here, and find extras below. Diane begins by reflecting on how her role in the community has changed.

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When asked to describe herself, Diane Moten says:

“I’m just a simple person. I work with the homeless. I’m a part time nanny. I like to bike, I like to run and walk. Actually, I’m also a minister. The church ordained me last year. I say that in some situations to be helpful to folks when I do jail visits or hospital visits. I’m a pretty outgoing person, and I’m the type of person, if you’re willing to ask me a question, I’ll answer any question anyone wants me to answer.”

Defining Fairness Local News

Defining Fairness: Walter W. Walker II

Walter W. Walker IIWalter W. Walker II has lived in Louisville since his family moved here in 1986. Here’s how he describes himself:

“Honestly, I would say I’m Walter. I think that everyone is different, everyone has their own identity, everyone’s unique, and I think that I’m a unique person. I do consider myself an African American, a Christian, a Presbyterian, and also a gay man. When you put yourself in these boxes and you start labeling, you know, being African American you’re going to experience the African-American experience. Being gay, you’re going to experience the gay experience. When I was younger, before I did come out, I was living in those boxes. So as I matured, as I got older, as I got comfortable with myself and started loving myself for who I am, I’ve kind of stepped away from those categories. And that’s the reason why I say, I’m just Walter.”

Walter Walker spoke with WFPL’s Phillip M. Bailey and Laura Ellis as part of this month’s Defining Fairness series. You can listen to the interview here. Walter begins by talking about why some LGBTQ African Americans might choose to remain in the closet.

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On Self-Awareness
“I knew when I was five years old that there was something about me that I guess quote-unquote wasn’t norm, or wasn’t right. And I did the boy things—I was into Transformers and He-Man. I was raised in a military family. I came here to Louisville in 1986, and as I was going through school I kind of suppressed those thoughts those feelings that something was wrong. And I became severely depressed. When I was 23 I met someone who was a male, and became involved with that person, very briefly. I finally decided to come out.”

On Coming Out
“I came out to my friends first. I remember it was my birthday, and I was with my friend and we were sitting at Red Lobster—she took me out to dinner. And I told her, ‘Well… I’m gay.’ And she was like, ‘Okay,’ and she continued to eat her food on her plate. So I said, ‘Did you not listen to me? Hello? I am gay. I like men.’ And so my friend says, ‘Okay, but we’re friends. You gonna eat that?’

When that happened, I came out to my family. I was with my mother over at her house and we were watching the 5:30 news, and I just kind of looked at her. And I stood in front of the TV and I said, ‘Mom, I have to talk to you.’ And she’s like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Well, this is important.’ She said, ‘Well, what is it?’ And I said, ‘I’m gay.’ And she was like, ‘I am your mother. I’m not stupid. Now would you move out of the way? I’m trying to watch the news.’ So I’m like, ‘Okay! This is not bad.'”

On Reconciling Religion and Gay Identity
“Religion, especially in the African-American community is so… it’s big. It’s everywhere. I didn’t want that backlash from the religious community. My family, we grew up, we’re all Presbyterians. But Presbyterian, the denomination as a whole, is very GLBT-friendly, which is lucky for me.

But at the same time, you still have the black religious community as whole kind of shunning you or frowning down on homosexuality. That’s the reason why I went into a depression. Because I just thought that, from a religious standpoint, that was wrong. Like, oh, well, I feel this way, but I’m told that this is bad. So then ultimately I just finally said, you know, ‘God, I don’t know why I feel this way, but if this is wrong… sorry.’ And that’s how I’ve come to terms with it.”