Tuesday, October 4

Healing with Humility & Openness: Stonewall Columbus Executive Director on Day 100

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“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” –Maya Angelou

Day 100 –

I am sitting in a somewhat public seat as I guide an LGBTQIA+ organization that aims to serve the Central Ohio community through actions that uplift and empower all of the identities within our LGBTQIA+ spectrum while trying to center those most underserved and recognized by our government, social systems, and community services—that is why we, Stonewall, exist.

In 2021 that seems a gargantuan task—honestly at any point in our organization’s history that would seem a large lift and those who have served in this role and similar can often (not always) be seen as exemplars of humanity among humans; those who have stepped up to guide an organization working to achieve something communities have yet to fully realize. Those who sit in these seats guiding organizations are expected to have a capacity of cognition that takes into account a great deal of stimuli while having a clear vision for a better future.

In my short time in this seat what I’ve come to embrace is that while leaders may have vision it is those around them that truly allow that leader’s vision to be set in motion…to come to fruition. There is a beautiful symbiosis that occurs when individual responsibility and community accountability meet–often times this is when true progress forward happens.

Humanity seems to go through cycles of reawakening to ideas and ideologies; 2020 was a reawakening to the systemic injustices of racial inequalities in our world. It has only been in recent history that our societies have come to re-embrace a notion of shared responsibility in accountability—it is not simply resting and having faith in flawed systems, its accepting that in order enact true change we must continually question and review the systems and those who guide them to ensure we are always fully striving to work for the most among us.

“Be the change.”

In this moment of reawakening we consider what George Floyd’s death sparked and the numerous transgender community members of color who have been murdered by their fellow citizens of humanity–we must also sit for a moment in this and ask how did we contribute to enabling this to happen? We then remember we only truly allow ourselves and those who guide us to go as far as we empower them.

Stonewall executive directors before me have all faced their respective challenges of community, space, and time; but they have all worked to sustain this organization…a reflection of the LGBTQIA+ community’s presence and power in and around Central Ohio. And we are truly stronger when we come together—we’ve seen that time and time again.

Community healing with humility and openness is a robust task to engage—for those in all parts of the LGBTQIA+ community here in Columbus; frankly across the United States and beyond. Stonewall is not an anomaly in a bifurcating spatial timeline; we are an instance of an experience along a singular timeline…a timeline from which we can learn how to move forward together to serve our rainbow of identities in the best way possible. However, our community has to give space for healing with humility and openness—something that seems easy…but frankly we know it is hard to trust at face value…at the basic level of our humanity.

Healing happens when we…

  • Always believe in positive intent
    • If you read a message looking for ill then you’ll find it; if you believe there is only love in a message then all you’ll see is love—until someone convinces you otherwise
  • Embrace community accountability
    • Feedback and check-ins from the community should be seen as a desire to help—again, always believe in positive intent
  • Just do the right thing
    • Often times we know the right thing to do and yet we are so concerned about others reflection of us. Dr. King said “the time is always right to do right.”
  • Leave our ego at the door
    • Embrace your space and the platform you’ve created; but also be willing to step aside because this work is bigger than any one person and we are doing this for all of us and those who come behind us


I know that those who understand the space we are trying to maintain as well as those who are unsure of that space will find challenge and tension in the forward direction of our organization and the work we are striving to do with the community. I continue to trust one more time and hope that that our community healing can happen with humility, openness, and grace.

I know this work won’t be easy; yet, I am excited to see our growth and evolution as an organization and community.

With pride,

#pride365 🔥

About Author

Densil Porteous is the Executive Director/CEO of Stonewall Columbus. He has over 20 years engaging in nonprofit work as a volunteer and leader, at local and national levels, primarily working with organizations focused on issues of equity and access. Porteous’ nonprofit service work has been with groups like Advocates for Youth (Board Secretary), Human Rights Campaign (Board of Directors; former national Board of Governors), Equitas Health (Board Vice Chair), the Legacy Fund of the Columbus Foundation, and Create Columbus Commission (Chair).

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