by Jen Harris
For St. Joseph Pride board member and entrepreneur Kelsey Anderson, everything is a joke.
“I think the best way to show and to teach people how to accept each other is through humor,” Anderson said. “That’s my favorite way. Nobody’s going to listen to you if you’re screaming, yelling, being an angry person. People are more willing to listen when you’re lighthearted. It’s not so scary.”
Humor is Andersen’s specialty. As the owner of the online shop “Kelso’s Couch” she works as a visual artist in mediums such as watercolor, mixed media and a digital drawing board to create humor-drenched art for the queer community. Her project “Little Sexualities” was inspired when she began a relationship with a transgender individual.
“‘Little Sexualities’ incorporates 26 different pictures of random household objects with sexualities associated to them because I want to involve everybody in the discussion of sexuality,” she said. “Since the beginning of my relationship with Jake, I’ve learned a lot about the huge spectrum that is sexuality.”
Andersen said she initially was confused about how dating a transgender person would affect her identity as a lesbian, but rather than cut ties from a gender identity she wasn’t familiar with, the experience transformed her perspective.
“It’s not cut and dry who you’re attracted to,” she said. “(Our relationship) opened me up to want to learn more about sexuality, and you can’t just wait for other people to educate you, you have to do it yourself. This is the most educational relationship I’ve ever been in. There’s no black and white here.”
Andersen’s motivation only increased when personal experiences taught her that even people in the LGBTQIA community have conservative viewpoints on the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity. Her mission is to spread her knowledge through her artwork.
“People said, what, you’re straight now? It’s just not that simple,” she said. “Jake does a lot of public speaking about being a transgender person and he’s so good at it. He’s easy on the ears, really relatable and an all-around good person. He shares his story by talking so people can understand the trans community. I share my experience through art. To me, humor is what gets people’s attention in a positive way. They’re going to leave any experience feeling good, and I want everyone to feel good.”
Andersen’s ambitions aren’t limited to her creative expression. As a board member of the highly successful St. Joe Pride, she revels in the acceptance of the community and aspires to grow the event.
“The first year I volunteered for any way I could be a part of it,” she said. By the second year, Andersen was on the board of directors and played a role in the event’s wild success. “We had 700-plus people at the Friday night drag event. There was a huge, huge turnout the entire weekend. It’s awesome to say you yourself are a part of the growth of the community for the better.”
We all know them. They are our friends, our family, our neighbors and our colleagues. They are a collection of diverse, passionate leaders who do not gauge their work in hours, but rather, results. They are tireless and ever-confident in the possibility of transformation, seeing every need as an opportunity for improvement.
LGBTQIA activists, paid or voluntary, are the backbone of the Equality movement. They are the courageous conductors of change. Without the individuals who place the betterment of the whole over the priorities of self, the front lines of the revolutionary movement would be stagnant, or worse yet, nonexistent. Invoking their skills, talents and resources, these individuals are sterling examples of good people doing good work in our community. Throughout upcoming issues, Community Spotlight will focus its lens on the people behind the logos, the commercials, the rallies, the fundraising and the legislation to acknowledge, with great pride, their efforts that unite our communities and keep equal rights to the forefront of the debate.