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Washtenaw United: Pride Month-Marking progress amid the battle to maintain and expand rights and protections for the LGBTQ community

4/6/22 Studio headshot portraits of Naomi Goldberg.
Naomi Goldberg
WO# 125994
4/6/22 Studio headshot portraits of Naomi Goldberg.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Naomi lives in Ann Arbor with her wife and son. During the day, she is deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank focused on speeding equality and opportunity. She also directs MAP's LGBTQ Program. MAP drives change for LGBTQ people nationwide through messaging research, policy work, and movement assessment and building. Naomi graduated from the Ford School of Public Policy and Mount Holyoke College. She lived in Ann Arbor in the mid-2000s, moved away, and then returned in 2017. Naomi also volunteers as the LGBTQ Liaison to the Mayor of Ann Arbor, serves on the board of Temple Beth Emeth, and is a volunteer organizer with Bend the Arc Greater Ann Arbor.


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and I'm David Fair, and I welcome you to a Pride Month edition of Washtenaw United. Pride Month falls in June every year in honor of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall uprising was a tipping point for the gay liberation movement in the United States, a movement that has expanded in scope and effectiveness through the years. But there's a long way to go. Our Washtenaw United guest today is using her particular skillset to make sure the path forward continues. Naomi Goldberg of Ann Arbor is deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project and also serves as LGBTQ liaison to the mayor of Ann Arbor. Thank you for making time for us today, Naomi. I appreciate it.

Naomi Goldberg: Thanks so much for having me.

David Fair: What does Pride Month mean to you?

Naomi Goldberg: I think this is a month to celebrate how far we've come and the courage of so many LGBTQ people, particularly people of color, back in 1969 at the Stonewall riots, but also to recognize how far we have to go. So, I look at the celebrations that happen across the country, here in Washtenaw County, in Ann Arbor, and in Ypsi. And I see both hope and I see a commitment to the work moving ahead.

David Fair: And that kind of touches at the heart of the work put forth by the Movement Advancement Project. What specifically is the mission?

Naomi Goldberg: So, the Moving Advancement Project, where I am deputy director, is an independent think tank and our goal is to speed equality and opportunity for all. And for more than six years, we have focused on, particular, speeding equality for LGBTQ people across the country. And we do that through advancing conversations, through messaging, research and communications support, and public education campaigns. We advance policy by helping people understand the challenges that LGBTQ people experience and the actions and the steps that are needed to move forward and improve their lives. And we also do that through collaboration. And we frequently work with national groups, state groups, and even local organizations to provide resources and support to help them do their jobs better.

David Fair: Among the personal passions that you have within this work is statistical data and research. When issues of inequity are front and center, it's hard not to focus on the emotion of it all. You deal with the facts and figures. Where do you find the balance in those components of building equity and equality?

Naomi Goldberg: I think you're right that, you know, it takes both hearts and minds. And so, certainly, you know, building relationships and talking about the journeys that we all are taking toward better understanding is really important. That's the heart piece. But we also know that being able to point to data and statistics, to be able to say this is a problem, or we are part of your community is really important. So, for example, being able to look at data from the U.S. Census Bureau to say there are same sex couples living in every single county across the state of Michigan and across the country is a helpful stereotype breaker. And often, that's how we use statistics and data about LGBTQ people is to show both. We are very similar in many ways to other folks. We live in your communities we're parents, we're business owners, we're students, but also to highlight the places where we experience challenges. So, the examples around experiencing employment discrimination during the pandemic, much higher rates of economic insecurity. Those are important data points that can help build coalitions, that can help drive policy, and, ultimately, help shape a better future for everyone.

David Fair: You are listening to 89 one WEMU's Washtenaw United, and our Pride Month conversation continues with Naomi Goldberg. Naomi is deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project and also serves as LGBTQ liaison to the mayor of Ann Arbor. When you talk to people, like the mayor of Ann Arbor, about these statistics, how receptive do you find people who are serving elected bodies to the information that they're given?

Naomi Goldberg: That's a really great question. And I think it highlights a sort of gap between what we know is broad public support and what we see in our laws and policies at both the state level and, certainly, at the national level. So, you know, thankfully, here in Washtenaw County, both in Ann Arbor, where I live, and in Ypsilanti, in various other communities, we have very supportive elected officials who have not only taken steps to, you know, kind of verbally and publicly affirm the community, but have also passed really important ordinances. And, for example, in Ann Arbor, we have a nondiscrimination ordinance that says you can't be kicked out of a house or denied a job or kicked out of a restaurant for being LGBTQ. That said, I think there's definitely challenges and gaps between the public. We know that more than three quarters of people support nondiscrimination, like the policy we have here in Ann Arbor. And yet, Michigan still lacks an explicit protection under the Elliot-Larsen Act. And the lawmakers that represent Michiganders don't want to move that legislation forward for the most part.

David Fair: I fear that social media plays a role in this, and we also live in a world where the phrase "alternative facts" has become somewhat popular. Are all of the efforts you're putting forth hampered in this age of, let's call it, disinformation?

Naomi Goldberg: I mean, I think you're right. Social media can be our best tool and our worst, you know, dagger in many ways because more people can share their stories and share who they are. And I think that broad public acceptance is really important. We know that far fewer people know someone who's transgender, for example, than know someone who is gay or lesbian or bisexual. And so, we know that social media can be a great way for people to meet other people and to experience and learn a little bit more about their lives. At the same time, you're right. We can see disinformation and, what I would refer to as, really far-right fringe ideas making their way into the mainstream in really hurtful ways and then shaping conversation. And I think good examples of that include what we saw in Florida around school curriculum bans and certainly kind of very harmful attacks that we're seeing against LGBTQ people that really harkened back to the 1970s in California and Florida.

David Fair: So, as we talk about these things, the reaction from all sides of the issue have tended to lean toward the emotional. And then, there is the knee-jerk policy decisions that are being made. So, as we explore that emotion further and how it manifests in our personal lives and in our communities, what role did emotion play in your personal journey?

Naomi Goldberg: Yeah, that's a really great question, and I really love to think about the sort of journey story that all LGBTQ people have in terms of understanding who they are and how to live their authentic lives, but also the stories and the journey of the people around us who love us. And that, for me, you know, seeing that progress within my own family from when I came out to when I became, you know, when I got married and my parents being at my wedding, and then when I became a parent, I think my family mirrors that journey that many people are on. And I find that that is a place of compassion for me when I meet someone who maybe is not as welcoming or accepting to think about how we're all on a journey, and if I can help move people along just a little bit. So I think that that helps inform my work and my decision to work in the LGBTQ movement, because I ultimately believe that people are inherently kind and good and do understand that everyone should be treated fairly. And so, how do we help move people along their own journey toward that broader goal?

David Fair: We're talking with Movement Advancement Project Deputy Director Naomi Goldberg on a Pride Month edition of WEMU's Washtenaw United. As you've pointed out, we've come a long way. We still have a long way to go. And, right now, you touched on this. Transgender people are being targeted on a variety of fronts. What does your data and research tell you about where we as a society are headed on the policy front?

Naomi Goldberg: It's really sort of a story of two different Americas in many ways when it comes to transgender people and the issues that impact them. We have a large number of states that have actually taken very important steps to ensure that transgender people can't be fired and can't be denied housing and can't be refused service in restaurants and that transgender youth can go to school and use the bathroom and play on sports teams with their friends. At the same time, particularly over the last year and a half and this year, we have seen just incredible attacks, particularly against transgender children, denying them access to best practice medical care, denying them the ability to play on teams with their friends, you know, in middle school sports. And we've seen those laws passed in 16 or more states this year. So, it's definitely a challenging time for trans kids and their families in particular.

David Fair: And, obviously, a consequential time for the LGBTQ community and the youngsters within it. When we look back, Naomi, on this, five years from now, ten, or even 20 years out, what do you think we'll collectively find out about ourselves in the quest for equity and equality?

Naomi Goldberg: I think that what we have seen in particular over the last couple of years with just many more conversations about equity, not just around sex orientation and gender identity, but around race and ethnicity and about economics. I'm hopeful that we will have built a more strong, diverse kind of ecosystem, and that will include having more diverse leaders, elected officials and otherwise, and that we will be in a place where we recognize that difference actually makes us stronger and more interesting, and it builds better communities. And I really hope, particularly around LGBTQ issues, that we will have moved beyond the sort of fear mongering that, unfortunately, we are back to. This has happened in the 1950s. We saw it again in the seventies. We saw it certainly around marriage in the 1980s and the early 2000s, including here in Michigan. But my hope is that we will move past that and actually build stronger relationships with one another that are rooted in the idea that we are different and that that's okay.

David Fair: I'd like to thank you so much for your time, and thank you for sharing with us today, Naomi.

Naomi Goldberg: Thank you so much for having me. And happy pride!

David Fair: That is Naomi Goldberg of Ann Arbor, our guest on a Pride Month edition of Washtenaw United. She serves as deputy director of the Movement Advancement Project and also serves as LGBTQ liaison to the mayor of Ann Arbor. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way of Washtenaw County. And you can find out more about today's conversation at our website at WEMU dot org. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM and HD one Ypsilanti.


Movement Advancement Project (MAP)

LGBTQ Events in Ann Arbor

LGBTQ Events in Ypsilanti


Did you know? Approximately 4% of Michigan’s population identifies as LGBTQ, there are more than 61,000 LGBTQ youth in Michigan, and one-quarter of LGBTQ people in our state are raising children. A 2019 survey by GLSEN of LGBTQ students found that 94% of students heard anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, and most students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A 2019 UCLA School of Law study examined the impact of stigma and discrimination in Michigan and found that LGBTQI+ high school students were almost two times as likely to be bullied and three times as likely to seriously consider suicide then their straight and cisgender peers. Anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination isn't just wrong, it's deadly. All Michiganders, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be treated fairly and live in safe, supportive communities.

Watch this quick video to learn why using correct pronouns is so important. Add your pronouns to your email signature, to show your advocacy for LGBTQI+ individuals.

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Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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