Indiana has always been the place I called home. I grew up in Culver, a small town just outside of The Region, which is what we call the Northwest corner of our state. I love the Indiana countryside. Sometimes I take the long way home just to drive through the tiny towns that dot the rural landscape of the Hoosier State.
I have never felt unwelcome in my home state. Until now.
The law signed by Governor Pence does not reflect the state I love, the Indiana I know. The Indiana I know is the place where I first learned to dribble a basketball. There are hoops fixed to silos and the sides of barns. We love basketball in Indiana. I still can't watch the movie Hoosiers without crying. I am never more proud to be from Indiana than during basketball season.
Indiana is the place where high school girls basketball games sold out in high school to watch Skylar Diggins and South Bend Washington face off against the powerful trio of St. Joe's: Melissa Lechlitner (who also went to Notre Dame), Kristin Dockery (Minnesota) and Sydney Smallbone (Tennessee).
Basketball really does matter to a ton of Hoosiers.
Our high school tournament is the best in the country, in my (completely biased) opinion, creating an electric current across the state. Playing in the sectional tournament championship game was a monumental capstone to my high school career. I played against my basketball frenemies, meaning we played against each other for so long that our dislike was familiar and we were kind of friends. Plymouth shot the lights out and we got beat, but I think of the feeling I felt playing in the Indiana State tournament often. The whole state is like a small town, and nothing is more energizing than basketball season.
The Indiana I know is the place full of people who stopped along the side of the road to help me after I crashed my car. On the way to a training for Freedom Indiana - the organization that defeated last year's proposed marriage limiting amendment and recently opposed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - I hit some icy slush, slid off the road, and rolled my car. I landed in three feet of snow, miraculously unharmed. I took a breath and tried the door, which opened much to my surprise and gratitude. My eyes met a group of men wading through the snow.
"Are you ok?" One of the men asked.
"Yeah," I answered with a nod, my hands still shaking. I grabbed my coat and briefcase since they were right next to me. When I got out of the car I proceeded to sink in the ocean of snow. With the help of my rescuers, I made it through the sea of white to a pickup truck on the side of the road. Snow covered my dress shirt, so I quickly brushed it off and straightened my tie.
I sat with Matt, the owner of the pickup truck, for an hour as I waited for the police. In the time I spent in his truck, no less than 30 people stopped to make sure I was ok. The police officer told me funny stories. I had no money, so the manager at the Applebees where I camped for a few hours gave me a free appetizer and a pop. Hoosier hospitality was alive and well for me that day.
The Indiana I know is my small church that employs an openly queer pastor, welcomes a lesbian couple and their children, and has always been supportive of me, a queer agnostic who attends church for the community and good hymns. I cannot stress enough the fact that I don't live in a metropolitan area. In a town of 1,300 people, my church has six or seven queer people in attendance out of the 30 who regularly worship there, plus my mother who sports rainbow whenever she can.
In the wake of Governor Pence signing SB 101, which effectively granted businesses and citizens the ability to discriminate against LGBTQ people based upon deeply held religious beliefs, I'm choosing to remember the Indiana that I know, and the people I love.
There are definitely Hoosiers who do not affirm LGBTQ people, as evidenced by this bill. But what the government did this week does not represent their constituency. Governor Pence signed the bill behind closed doors due to his own fear of criticism. According to a poll in late 2013, Indiana split on whether or not they approved marriage equality, with 48% in favor and 46% opposed. In that same poll, Hoosiers were 58% opposed to the constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, civil unions, and domestic partnerships. There is no polling data on RFRA, but if the data from 2013 is anything to go by, Hoosiers generally do not support codified discrimination.
I highlight that concept for the LGBTQ youth, athletes and non-athletes alike, living in Indiana who may be reading this. I understand so much of their pain, their hurt, and their betrayal. Some of the LGBTQ youth did not have a comparable experience to the one I had. For some, the Indiana they know is the one that proposed, passed, and signed that legislation. And while hate may have won the day in Indiana, I refuse to let it win my heart.
We all must do what can in protest of this legislation. What I can do is reach out my hand to the LGBTQ youth of Indiana and offer them the love and acceptance their state just took away.
Katie Barnes is a writer, activist, and contributor to Outsports. They have been active in LGBTQ+ organizing since college, and continue that work through serving as the Network Director for GO! Athletes, the President of the Campus Pride Advisory Board, and collaborating on special projects with various members and organizations of the LGBT Sports Coalition. Katie is currently finishing their M.S. in Student Affairs in Higher Education at Miami University (OH). You can follow Katie on Twitter at @katie_barnes3, or email them at Katherine.firstname.lastname@example.org