Animator Spotlight: Matthew Neumann

Matthew Neumann shares his journey as a Kansas Animator in Larned, KS
Kansas Animator: Matthew Neumann

This post is a spotlight from Matthew Neumann. Matthew is a participant in the Kansas Animator Network, a program of The Neighboring Movement  Kansas Animators are using the principles of Asset Based Community Development and neighboring to grow thriving and authentic communities across the state. Thank you to Matthew for sharing his story!

Sometimes, the greatest stories start with a tragedy. I live in a small town, about 4,000 people. I am a transgender male. In 2018, I kept to myself and didn’t speak to many people in town. I was a live-in nanny in a home with four children. The mother of the house came home one day and brought me outside, away from the children. She asked me if I knew of the other transgender man in town. I did not. She told me he had committed suicide the day before. 

My mind was swirling with thoughts and emotions. I could not stop asking myself, how did we not know each other? Such a small town, and the only two transgender men in the town. What if I did know him? Could I have given him support? Could I have been able to change the outcome? And how can I help to prevent this from happening again?

I decided it was time to get to know my queer neighbors. We needed to support each other. So I created a Facebook group called LGBTQ of Central Kansas. I went onto the local buy, sell, and trade site and posted the group. Doing this was a big step for me as I was telling the whole town who I was. I jumped out of the closet and advertised; I am a transgender man. A few people joined, and we started what I like to call people helping people. The idea was to support each other. What change could happen if we knew each other and could help each other out?

Today we have over 600 members and are growing daily. We have expanded over the last two few years into LGBTQ Support of Kansas. I went from a team of one to a team of seven running this group. So let me tell you a little about the support we do on this page. 

One day a lady posted in the group that her daughter is a transwoman, and she is unable to find size 14 in a woman’s shoe. Three to four moms posted back with websites for larger shoes. This whole question was something you can’t just ask anyone, but we provided a place for it to be asked.

A young lady posted that her mother was refusing to come to her wedding. This post was filled with responses of people giving support and others offering to attend in place of her mother. So again, this was a place for people to help people. 

We have helped a few people on the verge of giving up. I know of one that even attempted suicide. We are fortunate that the attempt failed, and they reached out to our community for help. People post daily, so I could give you hundreds of examples like these.

Being with so many people, I was able to start networking. I have met people from all over Kansas, and I was able to identify people that I like to call “the helpers.” One of those helpers connected me with the Kansas Animator Network. I went through a cohort and learned about The Neighboring Movement, and I realized this was what we were doing. We are meeting our Kansas neighbors and supporting each other. 

Where are we now? Currently, I am using the Asset Based Community Development method and working toward making my Facebook group a real, live, non-profit organization. I am meeting with people in my group and talking with them, finding what gifts they have, and I’m learning how to connect these gifts to help each other. My neighborhood is more extensive than most, as I work with Queer people all over Kansas, but the concept is the same. I am meeting people and learning from them the same as if they lived down the street. Most of my meetings are on zoom, but the connections are genuine and helpful. 

Neighboring movements are going to change the world. I know this movement has changed mine. My non-profit is going to provide education to law enforcement and businesses. We are going to create a helpline to connect people in a way that identified gifts can be activated. The only way this is possible is by having learning conversations with all the people that I am able to.

It started with a tragedy, but it will end with lives saved and connecting the LGBTQ+ community all across Kansas.

In memory of Kayden and all others lost. Gone but never forgotten.
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