A.J. Bockelman Parting Words:
There are no actual enemies, just people we’ve not yet made our friends.
Today is my last day at PROMO, and for that reason, I ask you first for your continued support of the organization. Even after my departure, the incredible PROMO team will continue to work day in and day out to make all of our daily lives better. Please support this ongoing work with a gift to PROMO.
As I think back on my 8 years as Executive Director at PROMO, it is difficult to believe how far we have come. I originally joined the board of PROMO in the fall of 2005, not long after the harsh reality of the constitutional battles played out across our state and many others. Those challenging years left the broad community battle worn and fractured.
As I assumed the Executive Director role in 2007, I was overwhelmed with how big the list of needs were and how much support was necessary for the community to move forward. After a time, one common phrase kept rolling through my head – “How do we impact the lives of the LGBT community on a statewide basis?”
Since that time, the battles have been many. Rep. Jane Cunningham calling a young queer student “offensive”; the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (which we defeated), during which Rep. Andrew Koenig stated, “When it comes to sexual orientation, that is a discussion that should be left for the most part up to the parents.”; and taking to task those who were supposed to be our friends — not our adversaries — like the many times we have called out Democratic leaders for not sponsoring MONA or making anti-LGBT comments. As we grew, we also learned to use our voice judiciously – to push back against the worst injustices, allowing us to coalesce our power behind key issues.
At the same time, we found new ways to improve the lives of LGBT people and families across the state, by passing 17 local nondiscrimination ordinances, to learning how to leverage federal policy changes to impact cultural shifts within the healthcare industry.
At one point, the strongest metrics we could offer was to be excited about identifying 50 co-sponsors for MONA, but now we have over 1,000 businesses in support of MONA, and we’re talking about impacting over 120+ pro-LGBT policy changes in 50+ hospitals and training over 2,600 employees.
Over the last few months, we have been prepping the organization to plan for the future. In the near term, we ready another fight against faux arguments on religious liberty, which would erode the gains we have made. We also know to expect more of the erroneous “Bathroom Bill” arguments taking over the halls of Jefferson City.
On another front, we have begun to actualize a plan to be more intersectional in our approach. The merger brought a SAGE affiliate under our operations, and with a planned expansion across the state, we will together address a growing, unanswered call for support. We believe that in order to have healthy LGBT adults, we have to have healthy LGBT young people. This merger allows us to approach all of our work from a lifespan perspective. We will continue to integrate even more ways we can look at how are many identities intersect and what that means for future work. Notably, the trainings we coordinate for the healthcare industry are increasing, and we are getting calls for adaptation to other fields. In fact, just today we are providing a training for the VA in Columbia, MO.
For me, I find it necessary to take off my own battle armor for a period of time. I am proudly passing the torch to a person who has been the with organization almost as long as I have, and who has been my right hand for many of those years. Steph Perkins, our Deputy Director, and now your Interim Executive Director, is more than capable of continuing PROMO’s important work for all of Missouri. If you haven’t had an opportunity to meet Steph yet, look out for an introduction email in the next couple weeks.
It has been a privilege to do this work. It has been as amazing as it has been challenging. I personally want to thank you all for that opportunity.
For these reasons and more, I ask you to make a gift to PROMO, perhaps a one-time gift in honor of the work we have accomplished these past years, or a sustaining, monthly gift in honor of the work to continue.
P.S. I’ll leave you with one final thought: We are in a moment of time when everything seems so polarized. One hallmark of our work in Jefferson City and across our state is that you never know when you will make a friend. There are no actual enemies, just people we’ve not yet made our friends.