Can a sandwich change the landscape of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in America?
"BLgTUSA" bills itself as the first 50 state food tour for equality and hopes to raise awareness surrounding issues affecting the LGBT community through food.
Coordinated by Taryn Miller-Stevens and Peter Stolarski, "BLgTUSA" is currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund the proposed cross-country excursion. The trip is slated to take place from May 22 - Sept. 22, 2015 and involve the participation of local chefs and LGBT centers.
In order to learn more about this project, The Huffington Post chatted with Miller-Stevens and Stolarski this week.
The Huffington Post: How did the idea for The United States of BLgT campaign come about? Taryn Miller-Stevens & Peter Stolarski: We were hungry... we were hungry for a fresh approach to do more for LGBT equality. We heard it from our friends and family, too -- they cared, but they didn't know what to do for the cause. We wanted to create something approachable, nostalgic and universal that amplified the good work already happening around the nation. And it had to be crazy fun!
We also wanted to spark local conversations on national issues -- BEYOND marriage. National news has focused on marriage equality over the past few years, and rightfully so, as we’ve experienced kick ass historic wins. But what often doesn’t make the news are the realities -- like in 29 states you can be fired for being LGBT, or that 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. When we learned this we thought, "Are you for real?!" We can do better. We must do better. All of us. In every state.
We reflected -- in Provincetown of course -- where do people connect best? The first image that popped -- smiling faces, breaking bread. We got lucky with the BLT sharing the same letters with LGBT. Hence the creation of a brand spanking new sandwich, the BLgT, and a national tour partnering chefs with local LGBT Centers.
What does food have to do with fighting for equality? Food is universal -- young, old, black, brown, white, rainbow, LGBT or straight -- everyone needs to eat! There is also a human connection that happens around a table when people eat together. Food unites us in a moment of shared experience -- especially if you're sitting down to eat, everyone is at the same eye level. What better way to break awkward silences and create lasting bonds than with delicious food (and maybe a little dance party, to boot)?
What can people expect when they visit you on you journey across the country? The plan is to set-up shop in at least one city per state. When we roll up in the BLgT Truck we will host, with the help of our Partner Chef and Center, an epic event. Here people can eat, learn, share, dance and, most importantly, connect. For those who can’t make it out to one of our BLgT Tour stops, we will have a special online experience to get people excited, engaged and connected to the cause.
Do you think that queer people have a special affinity for food and food culture? Why? There are all kinds of foodies out there! LGBT or straight... food does not discriminate. What might draw LGBT people to food culture is that food inherently builds community. LGBT people are 3.5 percent of the U.S. population (Williams Institute 2011), which means we have to proactively search for our people. Food feeds that connection.
At the end of the campaign, what do you hope has been achieved? One Million People Getting Out For Equality -- online and in the flesh. This means supporters backing us today on Kickstarter to make the BLgTUSA Tour happen. Sharing stories and content. Purchasing sandwiches with proceeds going to Centers. Giving time or donations to local LGBT nonprofits. Doing good, spreading love. And at least 60 dance parties -- one in every city. Food. Equality. America… We got this!
Head here to visit the "BLgT" Kickstarter campaign.