LGBT community to host Pride Fair Saturday

By Heather Ruenz

SLN staff

One of the dreams for Jody Rendall, director of LGBT of Walworth County, which started in 2011, has been to host a Pride Fair to support to people in the area that are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender.

“We’re trying to establish awareness and be a resource for the LGBT community. We want people to get to know us and see we’re just like everybody else – we care about our communities, what’s going on in the schools and other issues in the area,” Rendall said.

Pride Fair will be held 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19 at the Elkhorn Area Chamber of Commerce, 203 E. Walworth St. and will include services and resources for those in the LGBT community, as well as the opportunity for individuals, organizations and businesses, to show their support.

“It’s kind of our group’s coming out event and we’ll have a lot of the resources and help we have on our website, live and in-person, There will also be a gathering tent where people can sit and talk and connect,” Rendall said.

                       Jody Rendall

Rendall knows first-hand the challenges people who are transgender can face.

Born “a woman in a man’s body,” Rendall lived her life as David until 2008, when she transitioned to Jody and has been a woman since.

“It’s hard to put into words but my earliest childhood memories are that I felt like a girl. This was in the 50s, in rural Illinois. It was very scary and I felt lonely and confused,” she said.

Rendall said she went through her entire childhood hiding her true self.

“When puberty hit, it was devastating because everything that could go wrong, was going wrong at that point,” she said.

In junior high, she was watching the Merv Griffin show. He was interviewing Christine Jorgensen, the first person to become known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery.

“When my dad got home from work I asked him about it and he explained it. My mind exploded because I had no idea that was possible,” Rendall said.

In high school, people assumed Rendall was gay.

“I was physically and mentally abused throughout high school. It was awful,” she said.

In college, Rendall – who was David at the time – met and fell in love with a woman.

“And I mean, fell in love, and it was reciprocal. I thought maybe I was cured and that I only needed to meet the right girl, but that feeling was short-lived. I never told her the truth because I knew it would be an end for us,” Rendall said.

After graduating from college, David and Beth were married and began their careers as teachers in Walworth County.

“About 10 years into our marriage, my wife discovered my stash of women’s clothes. I knew I had to tell her the truth and was sure we would be over,” Rendall said.

“But she was accepting and kind. She’s told others that when she found the clothes, she thought I was seeing another woman so was relieved that I was the other woman,” she said.

They’ve been together for 47 years and are approaching their 43rd anniversary.

“It hasn’t all been rainbows but our love has transcended through it all,” Rendall said.

Though Beth knew the truth, Rendall didn’t tell anyone else and by all appearances, they were a heterosexual couple.

“Once I retired from teaching, I did some soul searching and went to a dark place but finally decided I needed to do something. So I started transitioning to a woman, which is a long process,” Rendall said.

She said her and her wife told some people in person, wrote letters to others and Beth told her family.

“For the most part, her family was accepting. When the legal notice appeared in the newspaper for my name change, I immediately began getting calls from people including former coworkers, checking on me. They were very positive,” she said.

“Like anything else, there are things in your life that get thrown at you and you can work with it or fight it and deny it. It has to do with the willingness to change and ties in with the Buddhist philosophy of impermanence – nothing stays the same; everything changes and evolves.”

 

Making connections

Rendall said the main goal of Pride Fair is to offer support to the LGBT community and connect them with services and resources.

“It’s limited in this area somewhat, for example, a same sex couple that wants to have a child through insemination or medical services transgenders need. Legal services and even counseling can also be challenging in the rural areas,” she said.

As of last week, groups that will be at Pride Fair include: the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (information and free, on-site AIDS/HIV testing); Lake Geneva Wellness Clinic (information and a calming/meditation area); Planned Parenthood; Walworth County Suicide Prevention Coalition; Walworth County Democrats; St. Croix Hospice; Family Equality Center; Walworth County Veterans Services; Aurora Health Care; Wisconsin American Civil Liberties Union.

Four churches that have shown support to the LGBT community will also be in attendance: Unitarian Universalist Church of the Lakes, Elkhorn; Luther Memorial Church, Delavan; United Church of Christ, Delavan; Calvary United Church of Christ, Twin Lakes.

Gift bags will be given out to the first 50 attendees and a limited number of tickets to see the Gay Men Choir of Los Angeles in their performance at Young Auditorium. Food offerings will include hot dogs, soda, water, sweet corn, desserts and more.

“And there will be a radio station out of Milwaukee there. I’m not sure if they’ll be broadcasting live or not, but they want to talk to people and hear their stories,” Rendall said.

Rendall said the LGBT group of Walworth County has also evolved the past six years and there are signs the culture is changing.

“Some businesses in this area have come forth to support us and that shows acceptance. There’s growth but we have a long way to go,” she said.

The group has a governing board and has been averaging about a dozen people at its meetings, which are held at varying locations in the area including Elkhorn, Delavan, Lake Geneva, Burlington and Whitewater.

Rendall said human beings have a natural instinct to fear things – and people – that are different.

“It’s healthy to have two sides to any issue, including LGBT – but then we need to find common ground,” she said.

“There’s a difference between tolerance and acceptance. To be tolerated is a good step, but to be accepted goes back to us being out in the community and people taking the time to get to know us,” Rendall said.

For more information about LGBT of Walworth County or Pride Fair, follow the group on Facebook, email admin@lgbtwalco.com or visit www.lgbtwalco.org.

 

 
 

No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment