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Everyone Stands to Benefit Michelle & Stephanie
For Mother’s Day: Hoosier Moms on How LGBT-Inclusive Civil Rights Protections Could Help Their Families Thrive May 10, 2017

As Mother’s Day approaches, Freedom Indiana is highlighting the stories of moms for whom the fight to protect all LGBT Hoosiers from discrimination is a very personal one.

Hoosier Moms for Freedom is diverse coalition of moms who worry every day that their gay or transgender sons and daughters could be discriminated against by landlords, employers, business owners and other service providers just because of who they are.

The Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition, started by local moms to help their transgender children find an accepting community.

Two of those moms are Oretha Vest and Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, co-founders of the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition. Both are parents of transgender children who started the Coalition—along with their other co-founder, Amanda Vinup-Noell—to help other LGBT children and their parents find acceptance and community.

“Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans. Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids and their parents. Not only trans individuals, but all LBGTQI people.” –Shelly Eldridge-Snyder, ORVPRIDE Co-Founder

Now, the Coalition has blossomed into one of the fastest-growing LGBT community organizations in Southern Indiana.

“Its infuriating, knowing that many things in her life will be more difficult because she is trans,” Shelly said of her daughter. “Things we take for granted, like going to the women’s restroom. My goal is to change that for future trans kids and their parents. Not only trans individuals, but all LBGTQI people.”

Melissa Bickel is another one of those moms. The Bickel’s oldest child, Olivia, is transgender. That means that at birth Olivia was assigned the gender of male, but for as long as her family can remember—and as long as she could express herself—Olivia had an unbending desire to live as a girl. Melissa worries about her daughter, and how Indiana’s lack of non-discrimination protections will impact her future:

Melissa-and-Olivia

Melissa Bickel with her family, including Olivia (center).

“You’re always thinking: Is something going to happen? Imagine being scared to just be yourself and go about your life, and not just fear of being ridiculed, but fear of discrimination, violence and in some cases death,” she said. “This can be transgender person’s everyday reality. As a mom, I want my daughter to be able to do regular things like go to the mall, and later I want her to be able to get a job. And I want her to be able to do that anywhere she feels comfortable.”

“As a mom, I want my daughter to be able to do regular things like go to the mall, and later I want her to be able to get a job. And I want her to be able to do that anywhere she feels comfortable.” –Melissa Bickel

Sheila York is now contending with worries that her transgender son Drake could have a hard time finding a job because he is transgender. Drake is a full-time student who is about to start his post-college job search—a situation that is hard enough on new graduates, without throwing worries about discrimination into the mix.

Sheila-and-Drake

Sheila York and her son, Drake.

“My son means the world to me, and I want to make sure he has every opportunity that everyone else has,” Sheila says. “It would really help to know my son had the same protections as everyone else in Indiana.”

When asked about the RFRA bill that passed two years ago, Sheila said “I don’t think that law matched how people feel.” In fact, despite what proponents of this license to discriminate claim, many are driven by their faith to ensure all people are protected from discrimination.

“My son means the world to me, and I want to make sure he has every opportunity that everyone else has,” Sheila says. “It would really help to know my son had the same protections as everyone else in Indiana.” –Sheila York

Indianapolis residents Michelle and Stephanie are a case in point. According to Michelle, “We are Christians, we were both raised Christians, and we believe in treating other people as they’d like to be treated.” Public polling has shown that a strong majority of Hoosiers support non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, including many Republicans and people of faith.

Together they are raising three sons—one four-year-old and two-year-old twins. As Michelle, who is currently a full-time mom, prepares to re-enter the workforce, she’s hoping Indiana’s laws soon catch up to what she hears from many employers: That they’re serious when they say they don’t discriminate.

“As the boys grow up, I’ll be returning to work. I want to know that when I’m looking for work to provide for my family, I’m not being discriminated because of the make-up of our family.” –Michelle, Indianapolis

Michelle-Stephanie-family

Michelle (right), Stephanie, and their family.

Non-discrimination protections, she says, would help her family immensely during this fast-changing time in their lives.

“As the boys grow up, I’ll be returning to work. I want to know that when I’m looking for work to provide for my family, I’m not being discriminated because of the make-up of our family,” she said. “I’ve been very impressed by the employers who say they don’t discriminate and really mean it. Now it’s time for the state as a whole to catch up. It should be about ‘Can you do the job?’ not about what your family portrait looks like.”

We couldn’t agree more. You can find more inspiring stories from Hoosier Moms for Freedom on our website. And if you agree that it’s time for Indiana’s laws to catch up to reality and protect LGBT moms and their sons and daughters, contact your legislators.

Click here to tell them you support the simple solution: adding four words and a comma—“sexual orientation, gender identity”—to existing civil rights laws to address LGBT non-discrimination protections for all Hoosiers.

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#Trans people shouldn't have to hide who they are while they serve and sacrifice for our country: wapo.st/2vhsYiL #lgbt

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