On the edge of town, probably unnoticed by most, there stands a faded sign..."We are Building an Inclusive Community". When I first saw this sign several years back, I wondered what exactly it meant.

On the edge of town, probably unnoticed by most, there stands a faded sign..."We are Building an Inclusive Community". When I first saw this sign several years back, I wondered what exactly it meant. What I had hoped was that it was a step, a hope, and a focus for our community to become one which recognized and valued all of our citizens. Over the years, I have read articles written by various faith based organizations, which often times seemed to do the exactly opposite...they spoke of condemnation first, exclusions, disapproval, and more times than not, judgement. Some would say, "hey, it's Southern Oklahoma, what do you expect?"

I expect better.

More recently, I have heard mutterings of conversations in sunday school classes, some classes have been supportive of people of different sexual orientations, different beliefs, whatever the simply different is without so much judgement. But other classes, they still speak of trying to convert, some outright condemn, and some, well they seem caught in their own purgatory, not sure which way to go...love the sinner, hate the sin? Include without approving the behavior?  Kick out?

As a young woman growing up here, I picked up on couples that seemed to be more than friends, same sex couples who seemed to exist in some unwritten rule of Ardmore that said..."don't ask, don't tell, and you mght survive". I heard stories of older generations who recalled some man or woman that was "that way", a hushed referral to a manner of being that no one really expanded on.

As an adult, I felt angry at my father when he voted in a manner which hurt the right of those seeking validation for same sex recognition of relationships. I also understood why, given our voting population and religious power that at times rears it heads into politics...seperation of religion and state is a difficult concept in Oklahoma.

I know my father regrets that vote. He has been outspoken since that he supports LGBTQ family, neighbors, friends, strangers, and communities.

Our hometown has many challenges as well as strengths, one area that needs to change is our understanding that there are many forms of relationships and love, and as a therapist and as a human who loves our world, here is my stand on the direction I would like to see our community go.

I envision a community where our youth who are LGBTQ can exist and have friendships and gather without fear of being beat up or shut out. Where some churches, as I respect that there will always be a few that simply cannot evolve or question and find other answers outside of the pulpits-speakers' interpretation, but I can hope that some churches will offer classes which specifically embrace the more evolved church understandings of God having created ALL FORMS of life, including LBGTQ. Of accepting not everyone goes to church either, and that those people can be good people without any religion period. That our adults who have lived here 10, 20, even fifty or more years as a couple, can actually walk down the street and hold their lover, partner, wife, husband's hand...without anyone trying to throw things at them or destroy them.

There will be some who read this and decide to pray for me...thankyou, I love prayers. There will be those who choose to attack, and that's ok too. Comes with the territory. But it won't change these words...or this goal.

Everyone in our community deserves the right to live, laugh, love...the freedom of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

In a few minutes, I will go meet with a group who are dedicated to creating a community of hope for all. And I will be a part of creating that environment, one step, word, and action at a time.

Yeah...another adventure in my hometown...project LOVE.

So to all on this fourth of July countdown...here's to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for each of us who call Ardmore, our hometown.

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