For anyone with a question to ask, a concern to air, or a story to share related to LGBTQ equality in Idaho, Jess McCafferty wants to hear from you.
Jess is the first LGBT Fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, which marks its 20th year this year. The 26-year-old assumed her position in January and will continue through at least July, thanks to a State Equality Fund grant. ACLU of Idaho has applied for a three-year extension of the grant, she said.
An out lesbian who grew up outside of Portland, OR, Jess is now a Boise State University graduate student seeking a master’s degree in public administration. Jess sees as one of her key missions in life to be an advocate for anyone marginalized, with a particular passion for those discriminated against in the LGBTQ community.
In her role as LGBT Fellow, Jess said her job in a nutshell is to make sure people in Idaho are informed and educated about what’s going on regarding LGBTQ-related issues in the state.
“I’m trying to be a resource and educator—and the keeper of all the progress that each of us is doing to create LGBTQ equality,” she said.
Much of her work involves the ACLU of Idaho’s educational efforts to get Idaho municipalities to pass citywide non-discrimination ordinances with protections for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in housing, employment. and public accommodations—something it has already helped successfully do in Sandpoint, Boise, and Ketchum. Pride Foundation awarded ACLU of Idaho a $2,000 grant in 2012 for its ongoing ordinance outreach work in the state.
Whether it be meeting with city leaders and faith organizations to offer advice and resources, or helping set up community gatherings, Jess sees her work as “answering a lot of questions and helping dispel fears,” as well as networking with grassroots organizations doing LGBTQ equality work in their local communities, “so they don’t feel alone or like they’re working in a vacuum.”
An upcoming example of Jess’ outreach is a March 20 “Bridging the Divide” panel discussion in Pocatello she’s helping organize as city leaders there continue to mull their own citywide non-discrimination ordinance. The panel will address questions such as “What is an anti-discrimination ordinance?,” “Is it necessary?,” and “How will it change the city I live in?”
Jess met last month with human rights organizations and faith groups in the area, including 2Great4Hate and Portneuf Valley Interfaith Fellowship—both co-sponsors of the panel discussion along with the Pocatello chapter of NAACP—to discuss the ordinance and brainstorm the panel discussion, at the same time giving them a boost of confidence.
“I have more hope than fear,” she said. “In my meetings with people doing this work in their communities, I tell them it’s OK to be afraid, but that they don’t need to be as afraid anymore. It’s more hopeful than it seems.”
Jess can be reached at 208.344.9750, ext. 204 or 503.709.8915 or email@example.com.
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.