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Former Kalamazoo resident, Avery Green (he/him) explains that he was the only queer person he knew growing up in his small home town of Eau Claire, Michigan. The lack of representation of queer folx as a child was an interesting experience for him, he shares.
FAMILY & SCHOOL
Green’s family was always very accepting of who he was, so he never felt like he needed to come out to them. “My grandma … who just passed this past year, would watch RuPaul’s Drag Race with me, and took me to see Love, Simon—the first rom com focused on a queer story,” Green recounts.
While Green was welcome to be himself at home, he would hide who he was at school to avoid being bullied. He shares, “…I was naïve and didn’t know that I would have to edit myself to try and fit in.” The bullying didn’t stop there, though. Not only would kids call Green names, they would even get physically violent with him. Green ended up switching schools because of the intensity of the bullying.
Then, his junior year of high school, Green studied abroad in Italy, where he truly found himself. There was an abundance of representation of the Italian queer community, and his host family was very accepting of him. Green explains, “Getting a view of a different culture and seeing how accepting they are of their gay community … was so eye opening.”
When Green returned home to the states to finish high school, he knew exactly who he was, and was proud of it.
“In college I had the opportunity to study in Tokyo. The queer culture there was amazing. It was the safest I ever felt. No guns, low violence… I had a boyfriend who I could be affectionate with in public. I wished I could be this way in America, so when I came home, I was very open and very involved with the LGBTQ community.”
PUTTING EXPERIENCE INTO ACTION
Green, who was on staff at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan, has been matched with his Little Brother Christian since May 2020. Even though Green has moved away, he stays committed to his match relationship and returns to the area often to spend time with Christian.
He shares, “You basically get to play a role in shaping a young queer person in your community, which is just one of the most precious gift you can receive and give. It’s give and take. I’ve learned so much from him and he learns from me too.” Green also served on the agency’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
These days, Green is the Special Events and Operations Specialist at Slalom, a business consulting firm in Detroit. He is a part of the firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion counsel, and is the head of PRISM, an LGBT employee resource group, which has grown threefold since Green started with the company.
We asked Green: what advice would you give your younger self?
“Be yourself, be unapologetic. It’s going to be okay, you’ll find your people and your place. Sometimes it can be hard and people may not understand you, but you are strong. Everything that makes you different or stand out- people will value those things the most. And along the way, once you see that for yourself, it will change everything. Keep your head up, keep pushing, get good grades, keep moving forward.”