To celebrate LGBT History Month, 2013, Polari is publishing a daily series of LGBT Heroes, selected by the magazine’s team of writers and special contributors.
Terri Cole – Activist
by Walter Beck
I first met Terri Cole when I hooked up with Wabash Valley Pride, the local LGBT group in Terre Haute, IN. It was back in 2010 at the first annual Wear Purple Day, where we wore purple to show our support for our fallen brothers and sisters who had been murdered by society. She got up there and gave a hellfire of a speech, pounding the podium about justice, equality and tolerance. She ended it by saying “I’m with Wabash Valley Pride and if you have any spare time, come and see me, we’ll put you to work”.
So after her speech I went up to her and said, “What do you need done? You name it, I can do it.” She looked at me sort of funny, but my buddy Darren was there, and he backed me up. “Trust me, this guy will bust his hump if you ask him to.”
The first gig she had for me was putting up flyers for their chili fundraiser. I had been to the dentist that day to get a tooth pulled, so I’m back up in my room, dozy from pain pills and Novocain when my phone rings. Terri had the flyers ready for me, so I went over to ISU and picked them up.
Instead of doing what many would call the “sane thing” and going back to bed to sleep off the pain drugs, I walked up and down Wabash Avenue, the street I was living on, and had all those flyers posted within roughly twenty-minutes. I called her back and asked if she had any more flyers and she replied, stunned, “You seriously did not get all of those flyers up already.”
Terri and I hit it off pretty well; she admired my hard work ethic and knew if there was anything I could do for Wabash Valley Pride, all she had to do was ask. Plus, she was an old-school militant, not violent, but pretty hardline in her opinions. The time for justice and equality was now and by God, she was going to do what she could to get us there.
What endeared Terri to me was her willingness to put me to the test and see what I was made of. I hadn’t had much success with the campus LGBT groups, I butted heads with them over a wide variety of things, tactics, politics, personal appearance, the works, but Terri Cole was willing to look at me, this long haired grungy looking freak, and say “Yeah, I’ll give you a shot.” She looked beyond my ragamuffin dress and saw this burning passion in my eyes and a willingness to do whatever it took. I was willing to do the grunt work, put up flyers, help with the tables and booth at the Downtown Terre Haute Block Party, I was willing to sweat.
But it’s more than that. Here in Indiana, local organizations for LGBT people can be few and far between. This is often a very conservative part of the country and yeah, for the most part we’re tolerated, but it’s one of those “best if seen and not heard” kind of deals. Terri has had the drive and passion to raise the Pride Flag high here in the heartland of America and for that, she is a hero to LGBT Hoosiers.