It’s my second official week with my internship at the WMU Archives and Regional History. It’s a bit deceiving at first, it just looks like a smaller version of Waldo Library. After taking a tour, the size was shocking. There is a back section with factory sized shelves full of boxes and file cabinets. I’ve been getting into the daily lives of women in Kalamazoo. On my first day I read a book with the minutes of the Ladies’ Library Association of Kalamazoo from the 1800s! It was all handwritten (in cursive), and it was awesome to see such an everyday item from so long ago.
Today I’m working with microfilm (I had a difficult time working the machine at first). I’m currently looking through some Kalamazoo newspapers from the 1960s-80s.
After completing my last week at the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center and reflecting on my experience, I could not be more satisfied with my time there. I have grown in so many ways because of this internship. Gender and Women’s Studies encourages students to use a feminist lens and values and I did just this. It is easy to observe the inequalities that the LGBT community faces, but what is in the media is only the tip of the ice berg. There are so many deeper issues within the community that I was able to observe through my internship. Fortunately Kalamazoo is very diverse and has supporters for the LGBT community, but there are still many people and the government holding them back from achieving equality. One of the first things I learned was that people in Michigan can be denied housing and fired for being gay. I knew that I was not the only person unaware of these laws and felt compelled to tell others. This internship has taught me how important knowledge is and being active in your community is to create change. There would not have been ordinances passed in the surrounding townships without all the help from the community members coming together. The Resource Center strives to help anyone in need and creates events to bring everyone together. Every community needs a center like this to help the LGBT community and help reduce inequalities.
Going forward, I will continue to use the skills I obtained through this internship and spreading the things I learned. I now know of resources that are helpful to the LGBT community and feel my role as an ally has strengthened because of my experiences. This internship has helped me grow as a person and use my Gender and Women’s Studies skills in real world settings.
One main aspect discussed in Gender and Women’s Studies that I have also encountered throughout my internship is the issue of inequality. This includes the inequality experienced by the LGBT community as well as those that occur within the community. Many experience inequalities that are more obvious such as not being able to marry the same sex or not being able to adopt a child if the couple is of the same sex. The LGBT community faces other obstacles in Michigan that many are not aware of. Because of my internship I have learned about some laws that help enforce these inequalities. The two specific laws, or lack thereof, that shocked me, are that people in the LGBT community can be denied housing and fired from their place of employment because of their sexuality. I could not believe this is even accepted by society and I had assumed that all people deserve to have a place to live and work. I felt it was my duty to spread this knowledge with others with hope it would plant a seed and create change even if it was small. It is important people are aware of such laws because if enough people rise together amendments can be made.
The past month has been an emotional roller coaster in Michigan due to all of the amendments being made to gay marriage laws. There was a decision stating that the law banning gay marriage in Michigan was unconstitutional and was lifted. This was liberating to so many within the state and lines instantly began forming at court houses so couples could finally get married. Unfortunately the celebration had to come to an abrupt end when the state but a stay on the law. Now, the state of Michigan is refusing to provide the couples that got married any benefits at this time, but the federal government is giving 300 of those couples federal benefits. This week at KGLRC has been busy in regards to the changing laws. Many news stations have came in to ask what the KGLRC’s view on all the issues are and to clarify what the laws mean. I talked to a few people, both a part of the LGTB community and an ally, that felt very strongly about the issues and one person just wanted to vent to me. His main concern is how it seems like the separation between the church and state is becoming less and less. He felt that many of the people making these laws are of a religious affiliation and that church philosophy and doctrine is becoming passed as civil law. He felt as though these people are not looking at what marriage is about, love and the bond they share. Another person I talked to was affected by the law and wanted to let me know they were willing to do anything to be of assistance. I think it is great that Michigan lifted the law, even if temporary, allowing many people to get married. This shows that there may be more change coming in the future. It is important that so many people in the community are passionate about these issues and willing to take a stance. I believe there will be progress made in Michigan, but as we see, it may take a while.
A lot of my time at the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian resource Center is spent planning, organizing and preparing for upcoming events in the community. Currently, I am working on finding members in the community that want to become a sponsor for Pride. This requires me to reach out to the businesses and people by calling and explaining to them what Pride is and how they can expand their businesses and relationships. It is a good way for them to become involved in a great event that supports the LGBT community and brings thousands of people to the Kalamazoo area. Unfortunately, not all community members are excited let alone support the reason for the event. I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I believe everyone should want equality for all. During my time calling businesses, I have encountered a handful of people in Kalamazoo that strongly do not support the LGBT community. I was surprised because Kalamazoo is such a diverse city, but understand not everyone has the same views. I am hoping that more people will support the LGBT community now that Michigan removed the ban on gay marriage. This is a step in the right direction in terms of pushing for more equal rights and reducing the number of people who are opposed to LGBT beliefs. The KGLRC has allowed me to view LGBT issues from a different perspective and get a first hand look at the struggles they face because of society. I have had the opportunity to hear personal stories of how society has treated some people in the LGBT community and has had a lasting effect on me. This has allowed me to take a common topic discussed in Gender Women Studies and relate it to real world experiences.
A theme that is common throughout Gender Women’s Studies courses is that our society normalizes heterosexuality and tends to alienate other forms of sexuality. Many people refuse accept that there are different sexualities and ways people can identify themselves. At the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource center, I have talked to numerous people dealing with this issue. Sometimes they call the center because they are in need of support and to openly discuss their matters with people who understand. Some youth resort to running away from their homes because their families do not accept how they choose to identify. This is why it is important to have places like KGLRC to connect the LGBT community to create a support system. There are many support groups available for youth as well as adults that allow those in the LGBT community to share their stories to learn and grow. Fortunately, Kalamazoo is a diverse community that supports the LGBT community and is filled with many resources and allies.
I have grown in many aspects during my time at the KGLRC. I have been given a variety of tasks that have allowed me to build many skills such as leadership and critical thinking. Many times I am given a task and it is up to me to decipher what is being asked and find the best, most efficient way for it to be completed. Recently, I have been presented the opportunity to be a leader in some very important tasks that will make a big impact on the surrounding communities. The next big event we are putting together is the Kalamazoo Pride, which will be taking place June 13-14th!