Published Work

KC CARES to raise $50,000

June 2016

Within thirty-six hours following the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub, eight Kansas City gay bar owners met together to answer the question “What are WE going to do?”  The answer to the question became a reality Saturday night when Missie B’s hosted the largest, unified fundraising event in Kansas City LGBT history.  With less than two weeks to plan and only four days to prepare, it took the hard work of hundreds of people not from Missie B’s alone but from Hamburger Mary’s, Woody’s Classic Sports Pub, Bistro 303, Cucina della Ragazza, Buddies KC, Sidekick Saloon, Sidestreet Bar and nearly every drag queen, LGBT performer, musician and band in the metropolitan area.

A personal reflection about the massacre in Orlando

June 2016

Sunday morning, June 12. 7 a.m. Why am I awake so early on the weekend? Like most mornings, I roll over and grab my phone. Before I unlock my screen, my blurry eyes see a news alert. The words “shooting” and “gay club” jump off the screen. My heart sinks. All I can think is, “No. Please, not again.”

I read the headlines. I check other news sources. Suddenly I am fully awake. Over coffee my husband and I sit silently on the couch, jumping from news sites to Facebook to Twitter and back to news sites. The story unfolds as the morning progresses. Twenty fatalities climb to 29 and then to 50. A dozen injuries grow to 30 then to 58. Suddenly it occurs to me: “I have friends in Orlando!”

The Future of Faith

June 2016

Pastor Frank Schaefer had the honor of performing his son’s wedding: A beautiful act of love that cost him his pastoral career in the Methodist Church. His crime? Declaring his son and partner “husband and husband”. Six years later a church member filed an official complaint with the United Methodist denomination.  Unapologetic for his actions, Rev. Schaefer found himself on trial.  His refusal to deny future same-sex couples the same opportunity resulted in his defrocking. 

KC Cares: An LGBTQ Community In Action

June 2016

Monday morning after the Orlando shooting, Michael and Jan of Missie B’s asked Jessica what the plan was, and Jessica suggested they put on a show – but not just any show. “Let’s make it something that’s different.  Let’s do something wild,” she said. “Something that will get people inspired no matter where their sacred place is. No matter who you are.” By that afternoon, all of the gay bar owners in KCMO met together at Missie B’s as one nightclub family. The result of that meeting? KC Cares: A benefit for the victims of Pulse.

Pride in Kansas City, Missouri

June, 2016

Perhaps my favorite t-shirt spotted at Kansas City PrideFest this year read: “The first Pride was a RIOT,” referring to the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village of New York City in 1969. The Stonewall Inn was a safe haven for marginalized people of the day: drag queens, transgender citizens, effeminate gay men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes and others all found safety, camaraderie and the freedom to be themselves once inside the walls of this welcoming, mafia-owned tavern.  A police raid on June 28, 1969 turned into what is now known as the Stonewall Riots which are recognized as the beginning of the gay rights movement.  The following year, Pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and other cities across the US to commemorate the anniversary of the riots. What became known as the Gay Liberation Movement began.

Viewpoint: South Bend Tribune

April 5, 2015

March marked three years since the passing of the South Bend Human Rights Amendment. Thanks to Charlotte Pfiefer, Oliver Davis, South Bend Equality members like Catherine Pittman and many others, the city of South Bend became a safer place for LGBT residents by barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, education and public accommodations.

As Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s said: “Ultimately this is about something very simple. Is it or is it not acceptable to discriminate against employees for reasons not related to their job performance? The answer in my view and that of most Americans is no.”

Those present at one of the many meetings over the eight years it took to create and pass this amendment remember the cries of its opponents warning us of the impending negative consequences that would be inflicted upon our community if the amendment passed.

They warned our city would be forced to construct additional bathrooms everywhere to accommodate a third gender. Instead, we have local businesses such as South Bend Brew Werks move to gender-neutral single stall bathrooms, cleverly named the “Necessarium.” Additionally, thanks to Meghan Buell of the LGBT Resource Center of Michiana, South Bend is the proud home of Transgender Resource, Education & Enrichment Services which is committed to bringing knowledge of the transgender community to help educate and bring resources to local governmental and business leaders.

We were also warned that predatory men disguised as women would be lurking in women’s restrooms. Instead we have wildly successful monthly events such as Guerrilla Gay Bar where 300-plus fun-loving people gather at a local restaurant/bar in South Bend socializing, dancing, eating and drinking, bringing thousands of dollars into our economy. GGB is now regionally recognized as the monthly LGBT event to attend, drawing people from Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne, Chicago and beyond. Their dollars are being spent at our hotels, restaurants and shops. Not to mention the immeasurable value of their positive reports to friends back home as they describe the great spirit that is evident in the welcoming city of South Bend.

We were told that the ordinance was unenforceable and would result in outrageous and costly city legal battles. Instead, we now have legally-wed same-sex couples throughout South Bend who are contributing, active citizens making a difference in their community and economy without fear of losing their job or residence due to their sexual orientation. More LGBT residents are calling South Bend home when they see the affordable cost of living that is available to them in a prime vicinity. They enjoy the amenities of our budding, urban lifestyle that includes affirming churches, unique local shopping, fine museums, delicious local eateries, live music, local brews, entertaining events and all the other fantastic offerings of South Bend.

Three years later, it is clear that the warnings of those opposing human rights were little more than fearmongering designed to keep South Bend on the wrong side of history. Thanks to the affirming votes of Common Council members Tim Scott, Gavin Ferlic, Valerie Sehey, Fred Ferlic, Oliver Davis and Karen White, our city has protection in place for people like my husband and me. Without reservation, we invite our LGBT friends and allies to come experience South Bend.

The Human Rights Campaign just released its 2014 Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide evaluation of municipal law. South Bend scored 67 out of 100 tying Bloomington for second place in our state. Indianapolis scored 82. Thanks to South Bend’s amended Human Rights Ordinance we are in the top 50 percent of 353 municipalities.

The index considers many factors such as: the recognition of domestic partnerships; transgender health benefits; the existence of a LGBT liaison to city executives and law enforcement; enumerated anti-bullying policies; accurate reporting of hate crimes; openly gay elected officials; how well the city advocates for full equality and more.

Our challenge is to raise that score so we can proudly stand with the 38 cities that received a 100. My goal is for South Bend to be a model among cities leading the way to equality in our nation and to be nationally recognized as a diverse city that is open, welcoming and affirming to all people.

Joel Barrett lives in South Bend.

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Joel Speaks Out

Kansas City, MO