Show Don't Tell: Strategies for welcoming queer folks

Cultural values that exist in our wider lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and gender non-conforming community also keep appearing in what we call queer organizations. Here Kaytee Ray-Riek and Matthew Armstead offer seven queer cultural values that show up in community, and translate these values into lessons for organizations, so you can build up your organization’s queer spunk and amplify a signal that queer folks are welcome.

"Five Students Named Jonathan Lax Scholars"

In 2016/2017, I received the Jonathan Lax Scholarship for Gay Men. The Philadelphia Gay News interviewed me in an article about the recipients.

“I’m really interested in helping people who do social-change work and social-justice work move out of reaction mode and into proactive mode,” Armstead said. “Part of that is giving us opportunities to [envision] what are we trying to create and what we are trying to do."

Read the full article.

Interview with ACLU of Pennsylvania

After becoming the 2016/2017 Frankel-Adair Scholar with the ACLU of PA, I did an interview about issues facing the LGBTQ community.

"Globally we are seeing that trans rights are increasingly in the forefront. I appreciate how this re-centers gender in the community narrative. Much of the violence against LGBTQ people comes when our behavior moves outside gendered expectations. And this issue of gender-policing affects trans and cis-gender people. Organizing that pushes for our unique genders to be recognized will benefit us all as it would mean an end police harassment, enactment of pay and hiring equity, and the implementation of fair housing policies."

Read the full interview here.

More Than One Truth

Written by me in December 2015

One of my best friends is moving away. And I will miss them dearly. When we parted there were happy tears about our friendship and sad tears about being so far away.

These days call for us to hold more than one truth at a time.

There were shootings in Paris and many other places around the world, Donald Trump is considered by many a serious contender for President of the United Sates, and there is a stream of citizen journalism refocusing attention to how polarization feeds into terrorist groups. 

For over a year, I’ve grappled with the reality of being in Ferguson, surrounded by black love and resilience, then returning home to a mostly white environmental justice group. The transition left depression in my body and my mind full of hope.

These days call for us to hold more than one truth at the same time.

A movement has emerged to pressure us all to remember and live into Black Lives Matter. This week five protesters were shot in Minneapolis. I have friends who’ve been out at the 4th precinct every night.  And when I went to my local solidarity protest in Philly, there was a multi-racial crew of folks out in support. Yes. Black lives do matter. All lives do matter. Our lives do matter. And we can make a difference.

One gift this past year has been Niyonu Spann and her Beyond Diversity 101 workshop series. I got my start years ago doing diversity training, and have been frustrated by the ways it sticks to the same scripts, that don’t make [enough] space for transformation, and that we center white [read: straight/cis-gender/middle-class/Christian] people’s growth. But Beyond Diversity 101 did something different.

It shifted the levels of oppression into a easily workable framework that I use regularly now. It’s a training that has real respect for the body-wisdom, while making room for our heads and spirit as well. Other tools I learned there, now help me sort out what’s going on in a group, in myself, and in the world so that I can choose sharper interventions that get to the root. And I didn’t have to work for anyone else’s learning (read: I didn’t work for the white people). I focused on my learning, but became more mindful of when my learning connects me with the people around me - whoever they are.  

And in this moment, I’m reminded of one of the goals. “Practice the skill of tracking three (and more) levels at once.”

This round of global crises, I’ve been holding more than one level. I am sad by what happened to peaceful protestors, my people, in Minneapolis. My mind saw this coming. My body feels enlivened and wants to run into action. Our society is in the midst of massive shifting, me included. As a Black man, I am pissed off and sick of this shit. And I am so grateful to be aware of what’s going on, with friends who care and are doing something and are in it for the long haul.

So when I was out at the solidarity march, I cried, I sang, I prayed, I watched friends, I joyfully reconnected. We are are going to make this happen. Something is shifting, and we get to be a part of choosing what it will be. 

Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT)

From 2013-2016, I was the Coordinator for Earth Quaker Action Team, a nonviolent direct action group. This intergenerational group was a wonderful place to practice bold and creative actions.

In 2015, we won a campaign that had PNC Bank stop over $600 million of mountaintop removal coal mining.
Read this New York Times Article on the campaign. 

Later that year, we launched the Power Local Green Jobs campaign to have PECO Energy Company create over 10,000 jobs in the Philadelphia area through a solar transition.
Read this in-depth article in GRID Magazine about the campaign.

Check out their ongoing work at 

Photo Credit:  Kaytee Ray-Riek

Photo Credit: Kaytee Ray-Riek