Springfield LGBTQ individuals to lead forum on kindness

Global Education and Peace Network’s ninth program of the season focuses on fostering connections and understanding with LGBTQ individuals.

The program, “Equality Springfield: Stories of Kindness” is part of the network’s 17th season, “Practicing Kindness in Changing Times.” It takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 9 in Room 105 of Shouvlin Center at Wittenberg University.

“This event is significant because it provides an opportunity for people to learn about the life experience of others,” said Jack Legg, president of Equality Springfield. “The event will also offer insight into ways we can all be supportive of the LGBT people in our lives.”

»LOCAL: Here is where high schools in Clark, Champaign counties rank on national list

Equality Springfield, a community organization which promotes awareness of LGBTQ issues, planned the event as part of its monthly education program. The event will feature stories from LGBTQ individuals, a panel discussion, informative videos, and a Q&A, according to Legg.

The program will begin with “A Conversation with J.R. Hook,” hosted by Winkie Mitchell. Hook is the owner and proprietor of one of the oldest gay bars in Ohio who has worked to create safe spaces for LGBT people, according to Legg.

The rest of the evening will feature speakers on a panel discussion entitled, “”Trans 101: Practicing Kindness and Fostering Understanding.” Speakers including Shea Beal, Fallon White, and Rev. Avery Sledge will share insight relating to the experiences of transgender people.

»LOCAL: 'We'll make it': Heritage Center in Springfield officials say after building floods

Beal, a member of Equality Springfield, will be sharing his experiences as a transgender man. He said he hopes others can learn from and relate to his story.

“Being trans for me is mainly just accepting who you are and loving who you are no matter what that might be,” Beal said. “As a community, it’s important to find people you can relate to. Being able to help them through that and kind of guide them … I think is the reward of the whole thing.

Beal’s advice to others is to be true to themselves, no matter what. “Know that being who you are is not wrong,” Beal said. “It’s beautiful to be yourself.”

»LOCAL: 'Vintage Ohio South' coming back to Clark County, this time for 2 sessions

“The thing that I always tell myself is, ‘honor yourself and honor your truth no matter what that is.’”

Fellow speaker Fallon White also plans on discussing what being transgender has been like for him. White said events like these are good learning opportunities.

“Exchanging ideas and exchanging information is the first step toward understanding people who are not like us,” White said. “Forums like this are opportunities to have conversations, and conversations lead to understanding even if you maybe haven’t experienced it yourself or known someone who has experienced something like this before.”

»LOCAL: New downtown Springfield restaurant makes progress

Beal echoed that point by encouraging community members to attend the program regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. “It’s not something that is just for the LGBTQ community itself,” Beal said. “I really want everyone, regardless of who they are, to feel like they are a part of something.”

“I just want peace and love for our community and I’m really hoping this is going to show our community that’s possible.

About the Author