When Renitta Shannon came out, the timing couldn’t have been better.
A Democrat state representative from Decatur, Shannon was frustrated by an October 2017 vote from the Trump administration against a United Nations resolution that, in part, condemned the use of the death penalty against LGBTQ people.
In response, she came out on the eve of National Coming Out Day and marched in the Atlanta Pride parade a few days later as a newly out, proud bisexual woman.
The lawmaker hit the headlines again when she announced she was boycotting Brian Kemp’s first major speech as governor-elect. In January, she’ll begin her second term in office, where she will continue fighting for LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights and workers’ rights.
Shannon took some time with Q to talk about bi erasure, staying positive when things look hopeless and going thrill-seeking.
What are your takeaways on the last year since coming out?
My takeaways are that visibility is more important than you know. Many people have approached me — including some candidates for public office locally — and said that my coming out made them more confident in being their most authentic selves, and it’s given them hope for the future of our community.
LGBTQ folks hear about ‘Bi Erasure.’ Is it a problem you experience this first-hand?
Yes, I do from time to time, but I think that is changing as the Bi+ community grows.
It seems like the rights of women, LGBTQ people and people of color are in jeopardy. What gives you hope as a bisexual woman of color?
I know that when we fight, we win, and that powers me every day. I know that the needs of various communities I represent will never be met without a continued demand for equality and equity.
All of the organizing I see in the South and the increase of the centering of voices of queer women of color gives me hope, because I know that when we find solutions that work for the most consistently marginalized, every community experiences progress.
I grew up watching my dad as a community leader fight for civil rights and equity in the black community with organizations like NAACP and SCLC, so it’s not even anywhere near natural for me to just lay down so somebody can oppress me or my community.
Respectability politics is not my first concern. Justice and equity for all communities is the reason I fight. The status quo cannot continue.
With all that hard work, what do you do for fun?
I love adventure-seeking, doing things like skydiving, ziplining, going to theme parks, etc. But not go-kart racing, because I broke my right hand once doing that [laughing].
What’s something that people would be surprised to find out about you?
I actually really enjoy homemaking. This is a secret [laughing].
Photo by Russ Youngblood
This column originally ran in Q magazine. Read the full issue below, or click to find more Q&A profiles.
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