Gay Activist Jacob Jeffery Brings the Love to Deep Red Oklahoma

To a whole lot of NYC gays, Oklahoma is only a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, nevertheless it additionally occurs to be an precise state, one the place issues are subtly altering for queers, partly thanks to the efforts of a 25-year-old firebrand. Chickasha-born Jacob Jeffery has devoted himself to beginning Pleasure Walks — marches by way of city, augmented by speeches and knowledge cubicles — which have introduced openness and a way of neighborhood to rural locations that didn’t have a lot earlier than. The response has been surprisingly optimistic, proving that some queers simply want a bit of nudging out of the closet and a few haters have a tendency to soften when confronted with real-life homosexual people. A lot as I typically detest feel-good tales, I talked to Jacob and was completely gained over.


Hello, Jacob. How did your activism begin?
I turned a homosexual activist in 2009, after I began self-discovering and asking questions that went nowhere. We didn’t have GSA [Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network] or Free Mom Hugs [a pro-queer group] and even PFLAG [Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] the place I grew up. You had to go three hours away. From age 12 to about 16, I didn’t know there have been issues on the market equivalent to sources. I assumed, I’d higher simply say [my sexuality] to myself or inform my finest buddy about it. However I wished to begin opening up and being vocal. My grandparents have been hippies. My grandmother raised me with Nineteen Sixties music and vinyl information all day lengthy.

And that turned you homosexual? [Laughs]
No, truthfully, I watched the live-action movie Scooby-Doo. And it was Freddie Prinze Jr.! I assumed, “You’re a cute boy.” I used to be 5. I knew proper then. I bear in mind popping out to my grandparents. My grandmother mentioned, “What do you want us to say? ‘Shame on you?’ No, we’re going to say we’ll always love you.” They have been my greatest supporters.

What about your mother and father?
I don’t know a lot about my father. My mother and father divorced after I was 2, and after that, I lived with my mom. I got here out after I was 13, and my father mentioned, “No son of mine will ever be gay.” He would inform me, “Who are you? I don’t have a son.” It truly made me a greater particular person as a result of I noticed I don’t ever have to waste time on him — I can deal with extra optimistic individuals. My mom has slowly come over and began to settle for it extra. At first, she hated that I used to be homosexual. She was hypocritical. She would cry over films like Prayers for Bobby and Brokeback Mountain and the way it affected the particular person popping out, but when her personal son did it, it was a no-no. She couldn’t settle for it. That’s what gave me power to go to completely different counties and do the first Pleasure rallies, to present the inclusivity as a substitute of issues being divided. 

You have been in class at the time?
No, I dropped out [because of] my sexuality, in 2013. It received very dangerous, to the level the place I attempted ending my very own life. There was nothing we might do in the small city. There was verbal abuse, in addition to a child who introduced a pocket knife, and he wished to reduce my neck. 

Did you report the incident?
No. I known as my mom and bawled like a child. That’s when she began to understand she ought to be extra supportive of her son. The principal noticed the complete factor on the safety digicam. He suspended each of us for every week. 

Why droop the sufferer?
I don’t know that both. He was very impolite and would objectify individuals. “The rich people, I got your back. The poor and middle class, y’all are the problem.” He was gone with the subsequent faculty 12 months and the subsequent principal was actually candy — however at the moment, I used to be already dropped out of faculty.


“With all the hatred coming, not just to the gay community but to every other community, it’s a risk just to walk out the door some days.” 


When did you may have your first homosexual romance?
The start of my sixth-grade 12 months. I  was 13. Mockingly, I had a fifth-grade bully who used to push me down, and he requested me on Fb if he might apologize in particular person. We went out to a film after which he kissed me and mentioned, “I always liked you. This is why I pushed you down. I didn’t know how to act on my feelings.” As a joke, I mentioned, “So we resort to domestic violence?” He was, like, “Totally.” We dated for six months, then realized we have been higher off being simply mates.

Extra prodigiously: How did the Pleasure Walks come about?
I went to rural communities and noticed that there have been no Pleasure organizations. 

We tried to get a way extra about the cities. We’d apply for permits and begin internet hosting Pleasure Walks — strolling down Primary Avenue with Pleasure flags and posting about it on Fb. This June, we placed on the first-ever drag present in Duncan [population 22,529]. It was finished in a really heterosexual bar and so they have been open to this. There was no hate, no resistance. About 300 individuals confirmed [who were] LGBT, plus there have been even straight individuals.

So there’s by no means been any blowback? I discover this tough to consider.
Generally. Some have a primary want to scream out hate, however then they’ll come to the occasion and be taught that we’re together with not simply LGBT, however anybody with a distinction, and so they’ll begin understanding and collaborating. I’ve by no means seen an act of violence. We’ve had 5 to six Pleasure Walks — three in Duncan, the different three in Chickasha and different cities. I don’t like to go to the larger cities like Oklahoma Metropolis to do Pleasure occasions. I really feel it’s extra wanted in the smaller cities. They really feel so alone. Oklahoma Metropolis has an entire part only for LGBT: “District 39” is the gayborhood. [The area has had Pride events for 30 years.]

Has anybody advised you these occasions have modified their lives?
A bunch of highschool college students advised me they lastly stood up for who they’re as a result of they noticed us in a newspaper. Additionally, a transgender feminine got here up to me not way back and mentioned she’s been to at the least three of our Pleasure Walks and he or she doesn’t really feel alone anymore. I would like to hear tales like these. I would like to see them doing the similar factor I’m doing. Additionally, an aged heterosexual woman mentioned, “This event would never have happened in our time. But I love the gay people. They’ve inspired me to feel love, and my husband feels the same. We’re so happy there’s someone standing up where no one else did.” 

You’re fairly achieved for 25.
Somebody known as me a junior Harvey Milk. I don’t know if it’s a very good factor or a foul factor. I’d say it’s a very good factor as a result of he was an inspiration to many individuals throughout his time. It’s highly effective to watch him in documentaries, uniting gays, Black, white, and trans in such a giant space.

However let’s not whitewash the total scenario right here. Normally, Oklahoma is approach much less queer-friendly than New York, proper?
Sure, as a result of we’re extra pink than blue. Some Republicans love the homosexual neighborhood, however predominantly, they don’t settle for us. They beautiful a lot hate us. I am going to some areas the place they don’t like homosexual individuals and used to chase individuals out. I’m risking my life so others really feel protected. I really feel like I do it daily. With all the hatred coming, not simply to the homosexual neighborhood however to each different neighborhood, it’s a threat simply to stroll out the door some days.


“Where I’m from, you face homophobia and racism and fear of not being able to go to school the next day because some people want to beat you up.”


I assume you’re a Democrat?
I don’t even have any standing. I’m simply myself.

However absolutely you’ll be able to’t align with Republicans, contemplating what you simply mentioned about their views on queers, not to point out their mania for demonizing drag queens and pushing “Don’t say gay” payments?
True. However my grandparents raised me to love everyone. My grandmother couldn’t stand Donald Trump, however she mentioned, “I still respect the president. I don’t respect what he says on Twitter, but I’ll respect him because he’s the commander in chief.”

Rising up, did you all the time have the righteous urge to change the world?
Sure. From an early age, I all the time advised myself I would like to be a voice for one thing. I wished to be a preacher and use my voice to preach love and acceptance.

I really feel like too many individuals use the Bible for what they select to use and that’s why so many wars have began and so many lives have ended.

Do you advocate for LGBTQs in Oklahoma to come out, regardless of what they could face?
I’d say sure, however relying the place you’re. When you’re in considered one of the larger cities, it’s simpler to try this. The place I’m from, you face homophobia and racism and worry of not having the ability to go to faculty the subsequent day as a result of some individuals need to beat you up. At first, I used to be scared for individuals to come out and be themselves. Over time, I’ve gathered sources equivalent to LGBT hotlines, and I inform them, “Whenever you feel comfortable, come out. There are issues, but these are the ways to end them. If you’re being bullied, report it. If you see someone else being bullied, stand up for them. Be a voice.” I’m joyful to be that voice of motive for southwest Oklahoma.   

What are your ideas on the latest midterm elections, whereby the threatened “red wave” failed to materialize? Was {that a} mass rejection of the Republican agenda?
I’m not likely open to discussing politics, however my ideas relating to the midterms are that no matter whether or not you establish as a Democrat, Unbiased, and even Republican, we ought to be preventing collectively quite than being labeled and preventing in opposition to each other. We will all agree that this world wants to change and that the solely approach to accomplish that is for every of us to take a stand for what is correct. 

What are your plans for 2023?
We’re dedicated to bringing modifications, love, and hope to those that really feel unvoiced and unseen and really feel as if they aren’t value love. Final October, my companion and I created Rural Oklahoma Pleasure. We go to the rural areas of Oklahoma to unfold data about the LGBTQIA neighborhood and to deliver sources, training, and variety. We work to arrange Pleasure occasions and festivals in smaller cities. Our objective is to unfold the phrase that they, too, are welcome to host Pleasure celebrations and occasions at any time. Being alone hurts, and we don’t need anybody to expertise that. Due to an absence of satisfactory sources and help, particularly in our smaller cities, it may be troublesome to be who we really are.   


Michael Musto has written for the Voice since 1984, finest recognized for his outspoken column “La Dolce Musto.” He has penned 4 books, and is streaming in docs on Netflix, Hulu, Vice, and Showtime.




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