ABOUT LARRY: Larry DeShane is a 44 year old gay man living in Grand Rapids Michigan. Originally from Grand Rapids and never quite fitting in, Larry ran away to NYC and then Philadelphia for 20 years to be who he was without explanation or exception. In 2013 he returned to Grand Rapids bringing with him the knowledge and strength he found living on the east coast. Tired of the for profit world he gave up a lucrative career to do something that truly matters and now runs the same LGBTQ community center that offered him a safe space in the late 80’s.
ABOUT GRAND RAPIDS PRIDE CENTER: Since 1988 the Grand Rapids Pride Center (Formerly The Network) has empowered our LGBTQ community through supportive services and awareness.
Why is LGBT activism still so important?
Kids are dying because of who they are or learning to hide who they are for the sake of survival. Everyday we see a new batch of laws proposed to limit our right to be equal all disguised as “Religious Freedom” We are under attack now more than ever. The right to marry was just a battle in the war we are forced to fight in.
What’s an important issue facing the LGBT community that we aren’t addressing as well as we should?
Apx 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. This highlights the lack of education in their parents and homes. With homelessness comes addiction, crime and sickness. Children are never learning how amazing they truly are.
We need to keep kids from becoming homeless in the first place and for the kids who are, we need homes for them to heal.
What inspires your activism?
Not one more kid dies.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give LGBT allies to be better and stronger allies?
Listen, learn and understand your role. We love our allies but allies need to be allies 100% of the time. Not just when it’s convenient or for some parts of our community…all of it! Understand that it is sometimes thankless. If you are doing it so someone pats you on the back and you can feel good about yourself, you are doing it for the wrong reason. Finally, remember, Allies (in and out of the LGBTQ community) walk behind and by the side of us, never in front. As a cis man, I fully support trans rights but I can not speak for trans people. I will be there to back them up. I will be there to hold a hand, give a hug and march by their side and when I am faced with transphobic situations I will, without hesitation, stand up and reject fear and hate and explain why I am an ally. Its not about me.
What’s one simple action that readers could do today that would positively impact the LGBT community?
Visit your local LGBTQ Center and donate your time and please donate your money. There are so many small centers all throughout the US that are struggling but they are on the front lines and receive no money from mega orgs like HRC or GLAAD. Not hating on them but support local.
Oh and if you can safely, COME OUT. Be the inspiration you wish you’d had growing up.