BY CJ GIBSON
In honor of LGBTQ History Month, Student Engagement held a virtual presentation on Monday featuring Zaylore Stout, founder of the Zaylore Stout & Associates law firm and author of Our Gay History in 50 States. The presentation was titled “How “Woke” Are You? Identify Your Blind Spots and Create a Better Campus Culture.”
Zaylore Stout & Associates is based in Minnesota and specializes in cases concerning discrimination. Stout is from southern California, where he was home visiting on the day of the presentation. The sounds of chickens and roosters from his family’s farm could be heard in the background throughout the presentation.
Stout began the presentation with a disclaimer that sensitive topics would be spoken about. The presentation focused primarily on explaining different aspects of the LGBTQIA community and historical events concerning racism, sexism, and homophobia.
Stout has had his own experiences with racism telling how he was once assaulted by a Skinhead around the time Rodney King’s murder caused a wave of anti-police brutality riots.
Stout said the Skinhead punched him in the face and called him the n-word, but the Skinhead was never brought to justice.
“The world was going to make assumptions about me just based on my physical appearance,” Stout said.
Stout said he has also been victim to racial profiling by police officers and says he has been pulled over at least 30 times in his life. He then reminded the audience of how most of the movement towards equal rights for African Americans have happened fairly recently in U.S. history.
“I’m only one generation removed from segregation being the law of the land in this country,” Stout said.
Stout explained how the LGBTQIA community also struggles with racism, saying gay dating apps like Grindr show openly racist attitudes and the 2015 Stonewall film showed a whitewashed version of LGBTQIA history.
Stout went on to say homophobia and transphobia are also prevalent in communities of color, despite the fact two of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement are queer. One example of this behavior Stout cited is how African American trans women have been increasingly murdered.
Despite the steps that have been taken in the legal system for equality for the LGBTQIA community, Stout said that there are still over 30 states in the U.S. that allow for conversion therapy treatments. Stout also mentioned how the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival discriminated against trans women and how the author of the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling, openly made transphobic comments on Twitter.
Stout said transgender people are discriminated against even by other groups in the LGBTQIA spectrum.
“Trans women are women. It’s important for us to be able to understand that,” Stout said.
Stout also explained how female genital mutilation is prevalent in the U.S. through forced genital plastic surgery on intersex infants.
Stout recommends everyone should take the implicit bias tests at least once per year.
After the presentation, Stout was asked if he would share some LGBTQIA history in Kansas as featured in his book. He revealed Kansas is the birthplace of the creator of the rainbow pride flag, Gilbert Baker.
He also mentioned Dr. Alan Hart, the first man to undergo gender reaffirming surgery in the United States, was also from Kansas. Hart caused x-rays to be widely used as a method of detecting tuberculosis.
“If you’re comfortable, you’re not doing enough,” Stout said to encourage social change, “The seed has to break open in order for the sprout to come forth.”
The overall message of Stout’s presentation was that it is important for everyone to stay “woke,” which is defined as “knowledgeable about your community and the world, with the willingness to access and critique systems of oppression.”
According to Stout, in the constant process of trying to remain woke in a changing world, mistakes are expected and should be forgiven and by remaining woke about social issues, everyone can be a part of creating a more equal world.
“It is important for us to be able to provide grace to others…None of us are perfect,” Stout said. “Allies result in any and all of our social justice movements being successful.”