People of all ages participated in Out in the Open’s Liberation March on June 9.
Siri Harrison/The Commons
People of all ages participated in Out in the Open’s Liberation March on June 9.

‘All of our liberations are connected’

Out in the Open leaders organize a Liberation March for Palestinians in Gaza — a cause they see as intertwined with the LGBTQ+ community’s own journey

BRATTLEBORO-On a wet and gray June 9, amid a range of Pride Month celebrations and activities throughout the region, a diverse array of people of all ages congregated in the High-Grove parking lot to prepare for a Liberation March in support of the people of Palestine.

The march was organized by Out in the Open, with the LGBTQ+ nonprofit encouraging participants to make themselves visible.

Raven Rae, of Brattleboro, gave voice to the spirit of the march in simple terms: "I want all beings to be free and happy."

The 100 participants proceeded across High Street into the Harmony parking lot - where a driver of a stopped car blasted the horn for several seconds, either in protest or encouragement - and marched past down Main Street en route to the grassy area by Whetstone Station.

At Malfunction Junction, as several cars beeped loudly, the group kept chanting in support of Palestine ("Up, up with liberation / down, down with occupation") and against hatred ("Hey hey, ho ho / transphobia/homophobia has got to go").

At Whetstone Station, following some group singing, people started to dance to such queer-pop classics as "Smalltown Boy" and "Groove Is in the Heart."

Alex Fischer, of Brattleboro, stated that they were there "supporting all of our queer and trans youth that are taking leadership today and always."

"I'm just here. I've been here my whole life," said another stylish person, sporting rainbows down to the last detail. "People decide that they care."

They pointed out that if they went out on the street without their getup, no one would be able to tell them apart from a non-queer person.

"Be nice to people," they added. "Let people live."

Following the Liberation March, many people made their way to the Root Social Justice Center for a Soul Food Sunday Mixer.

The Root hosts Soul Food Sundays once a month, as an affinity space for people of color, but on this day, the gathering was open to all.

'All issues are LGBTQ issues'

HB Lozito, executive director of Out in the Open, had been planning this event for a long time.

The concept for the event stemmed from a recent movement of LGBTQ+ groups across the country rallying in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

It's also "something that many local queer and trans people, many through groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, are organizing around right now," Lozito said.

The ideas of queer and Palestinian liberation are intertwined, they said.

"We believe that all issues are LGBTQ issues, because queer and trans people are everywhere," Lozito said. "In every community, in every geography throughout the world, having every kind of human experience."

When those experiences are brutally oppressive, "we do what rural queer and trans people before us have done for generations," they said. "Join together, organize together, learn together, and act together! While looking great and having lots of fun, and while making it our work, as [author, academic, filmmaker, and activist] Toni Cade Bambara said, to make the movement irresistible."

Education and advocacy for LGBTQ+ people

Out in the Open aims to "build the power of rural LGBTQ+ people," Lozito said. The organization also deals with changes surrounding policy in the justice system, as well as community organizing and education.

Currently, the organization recognizes the need for safe and affordable housing as an issue for LGBTQ+ people in Vermont, as well as the need to decriminalize sex work in the state and provide safe spaces for people to access and use drugs.

Out in the Open, which has expanded its offerings to Waldo, Maine, has also hosted workshops on rural skills such as butchering hogs and making tofu. Much of the organization's community education focuses on how to give oral history presentations as a technique for participants to distribute the group's queer history and social justice messaging to similar groups or people.

Jake McBride, Out in the Open's community organizer and another key figure in organizing the Liberation March, is involved in "all good stuff and bad stuff" concerning the community's involvement in such events.

He describes his work as very "outward facing."

"I feel like I've always grown up in liminal spaces," said McBride, when asked about his personal connection to activism.

As a queer, mixed-race person who grew up in Massachusetts and currently lives in Plainfield, a tiny town in Washington County, he said he's rarely felt "fully represented in [his] entirety."

The idea of liberation - whether for LGBTQ+ people or for Gaza - strikes a chord.

"None of us are truly free until we're all free. All of our liberations are connected," said McBride, echoing Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 statement that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

McBride concluded with a laugh.

"Keep showing up, keep being gay, keep having fun," he said.

This News item by Siri Harrison was written for The Commons.

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