Kelsey Reynolds has had an “eventful” life, to say the least, and this year is no exception. In April, the nonbinary social worker was named Houston’s 2020 Nonbinary Pride Grand Marshal.
“I never expected to win, and was honored just to be nominated,” they say. “I feel honored and humbled to be a 2020 marshal.”
Becoming a Social Worker
Reynolds was born in Houston on November 7, 1991, and grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They graduated from Parkview Baptist High School, which was considered to be a “Bible Belt” school.
Civil engineering was Reynolds’ first career choice as they began college at Southeastern Louisiana University. But the first day of calculus class changed that. “I had no idea what the professor was talking about,” they laugh.
Instead, Reynolds decided to be “a part of something bigger than myself,” and opted for a major in social work. “I wanted to be a changemaker,” they say. After graduating in 2015, they moved to Space City to further their education at the University of Houston (UH) by earning a master’s degree in social work.
Reynolds then worked for two years at the Salvation Army Young Adult Resource Center, helping homeless adults find housing.
Earlier this year, Reynolds joined the Houston Food Bank, working with volunteer services and engagement. “When the COVID-19 crisis is over, I’ll be working to increase the number of volunteers again.”
Finding Their Identity
Reynolds came out as queer in 2012. “There really wasn’t any other option for me,” they say. It took their parents two years to adjust to a new reality and accept Reynolds’ identity.
Reynolds first heard the term “nonbinary” in sociology and gender-studies classes. “I thought, ‘Hmmm, that really fits me,’” they recall. Then, in the summer of 2016 during a class lecture on social-work practices within the LGBTQ community, students were asked to introduce themselves. That’s when Reynolds publicly identified as nonbinary for the first time. “Suddenly, I felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. It made me feel so comfortable within my own skin.”
“Celebrating Pride provides a space where each person can celebrate the LGBTQ aspect of their life, whatever that may be to them.”
Outside of their Houston Food Bank day job, Reynolds serves on the board of Gender Infinity at UH, and as a planning committee member at Gender Infinity. That committee is responsible for developing and creating a national Houston-based two-day conference on gender diversity, featuring dozens of speakers, two keynote addresses, and over 400 attendees.
Reynolds has been in a relationship with Camah Asha Wilson for seven years. They currently reside in the Hobby Airport area, but plan to move north to either the Heights or the Jersey Village area. The couple planned to be married this October, but have postponed the event until October 2021 because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
To explain gender diversity, Reynolds uses a simple but effective metaphor. “Most [cisgender] people are in chairs bolted to the floor. Some transgender people unbolt their chairs, move them, and bolt them down again. And some of us—the nonbinary individuals—are in chairs with rollers.
Reynolds says that individuals need to define their gender identity in a way that makes them comfortable. For Reynolds, it’s all about not being put in a box. “It’s a matter of being myself and being comfortable with who I am, with no set gender definition.”
Reynolds explains how validating it is to recognize nonbinary as a gender option. “One doesn’t have to exist on a binary in order to belong. Celebrating Pride gives people that sense of community. It provides a space where each person can celebrate the LGBTQ aspect of their life, whatever that may be to them.”
Reynolds is also pleased with Pride Houston’s renewed focus on racial equality and the Black Lives Matter movement. “It’s time for white people to recognize their place in all of this, and that silence is no longer an option. We must rise up with our fellow Black and brown community members to speak up and speak out against the racism that has run rampant in our country for centuries. No longer can we idly sit by and let [the victims of racism] do all of the emotional, mental, and physical labor alone. It’s devastating that it took George Floyd’s death for a lot of us white folk to realize our role in all of this. We should have come to this realization centuries ago.”
For more information on the Houston Food Bank, visit houstonfoodbank.org.
This article appears in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.