Personal Space

A one on one conversation with Josh Coleman 

When Mayor Randall Woodfin made good on his campaign promise to create the position of an LGBTQ liaison, Josh Coleman was a natural choice. He has  been quietly building a reputation as a public voice for the LGBTQ community for years as the vice president of Central Alabama Pride, Inc. And at just 29, he has already played major roles as a campaign volunteer for candidates who support LGBTQ rights—including Barack Obama, Doug Jones, Hillary Clinton, and others. He also serves as national committeeman for the Alabama Young Democrats.

Coleman took a moment to tell us a bit about progress that’s been made in forwarding LGBTQ rights, the work that’s left to be done, and how he sees his newly created role with the city.

B-Metro:  You’ve stated one of your main priorities is working to ensure public safety for the LBGTQ community. What are the biggest public-safety issues facing LGBTQ individuals today?

Coleman: I would say discrimination in the workplace, bullying, and feeling accepted in certain businesses and spaces. There are still people even in our city who feel necessary to attack LGBTQ community just for who they are and whom they love. I believe that’s the main form of public safety, making sure everyone in the city feels safe no matter where they go or who they are. Also, LGBTQ homelessness is definitely an issue in Alabama and the South. I feel some people don’t know how to accept their child who is coming out, and it’s easier to turn a blind eye.

B-Metro: With a lot of political and social issues, it sometimes seems like the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth lately. Do you think that’s true of LGBTQ issues?

Coleman: It definitely carries over. This is the three-year anniversary of marriage equality in the U.S., but now we have a president who wants to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.

B-Metro: Do you think new generations of teenagers who identify as LGBTQ face an easier time than kids in the past?

Coleman: I think teenagers are definitely being accepted more now than earlier generations, and we have great resources in Birmingham like the Magic City Acceptance Center that helps LGBTQ-identifying youth through the coming out process by having a safe, accepting space that they can come to. It’s a really great thing that we have that in Birmingham.

B-Metro: Is there any other way to say ‘LGBTQ’? I’m always afraid I’m going to get the letters wrong.

Coleman: No.

B-Metro: As a public representative for the LGBTQ community, what do you consider good questions people can ask you, and what are dumb or inappropriate questions?

Coleman: For myself I don’t believe there’s ever a dumb question or an offensive question. If you’re willing to ask and you’re willing to learn, I think that’s the first step, and we should all be mindful that nine times out of 10 people are asking because they’re genuinely curious and not because they’re trying to be negative or disrespectful, even though it may come across like that to some people. But for me, I just believe that if they’re taking the initiative to find out, then we should do our part to help them.

B-Metro: This might be one of those questions that seems ignorant or disrespectful, but can you explain what ‘Q’ means?

Coleman: Definitely. There’s a whole movement now where some people say that it’s ‘queer,’ and some people say that it’s ‘questioning.’ But I think it is an important (word) to have because it allows people to express themselves however they feel the need without judgment and really just lets people be part of the community that they feel the safest in.

B-Metro: What do you do for fun?

Coleman: I love to read and love to travel. A lot of the last three years of my life has involved pride-related activities. I really love going to other cities and seeing people celebrate themselves and have a good time.

B-Metro: You’re originally from Cullman. Compared to smaller towns, does Birmingham feel like a more accepting place of LGBTQ-identifying individuals?

Coleman: I think Birmingham is the shining beacon of hope in Alabama for people to come to live their lives and feel accepted and have fun. 

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