Community & CultureSports Partnerships
Jun 18, 2024
7 Minute Read

2024 Blue KC Gamechanger Honoree Joel Barrett – month of June

Carrying On the History by Telling Stories

Joel Barrett considers himself a storyteller. It’s an important role, he says, because people remember stories better than they remember facts and stats.

Barrett has taken it on as his personal mission to tell the stories of the LGBTQ community in Kansas City to a new generation, many of whom have no memory or even idea how tough things were for that community a generation or two ago.

He has formed the KC Rainbow Tour, a driving tour of the area’s LGBTQ history.

“It is a self-guided tour of Kansas City’s very rich LGBTQ history,” Barrett said. “People think that things always start on the coasts and then slowly work their way inward to the Midwest. The Midwest is kind of like the last to know.

“But regarding LGBTQ history, there is a lot that started here and ended up on the coasts. Midwesterners aren’t very good at promoting ourselves, and so stories have kind of gone just untold or just tucked away. I really see the need to keep our stories alive for the coming generations.”

Barrett is willing to have tough conversations with people who disagree with him, politically, socially and morally. But he doesn’t want to argue. He doesn’t believe that accomplishes anything.

“I’m not interested in trying to defend or attack or be on the offense,” he said. “If people are willing to say, ‘I don’t understand why there’s a Pride Month,’ I’m happy to talk about that. If someone is politically or religiously different than me, I’m willing to listen why.

“Actually, I’m quite curious sometimes about why people believe the way they do. I don’t claim to understand everything, but the truth is, I don’t really have to understand, but I think I can listen.”

Barrett, the vice president of the Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce, isn’t a typical activist. He’s willing to stand on the street corner holding a sign, when necessary, but he would prefer to bring people together.

“I am more of a uniter than a divider,” he said. “I think that with activism or advocacy, there are no rules. I’m not the one to be holding the sign, shouting on the street corner. I’m not against that. I think there’s a place for it.

“But I’m much more about building relationships, building community, spreading stories, uniting people and bringing people together. I refer to myself as a gatherer.”

Unity over divisiveness: For that reason, Barrett is the June “Blue KC Gamechanger.” Launched during the 2024 season, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and the Kansas City Current have teamed up to create this exclusive program highlighting local individuals blazing the trail for all women across the Kansas City area. A Blue KC Gamechanger inspires bold ambition in all his or her work, enriching the community around them, and enacting positive change through intentional action.

“We are very excited to honor Joel as this month’s Blue KC Gamechanger,” said KC Current VP of Community Relations, Ben Aken. “His important, impactful work uplifting the LGBTQIA+ community and telling their stories deserves to be celebrated, especially during Pride Month.”

“It came as a complete surprise out of nowhere,” he said of receiving the news about the honor. “I’m quite honored to be recognized because I know there are many, many outstanding people in this community doing good work. By no means do I think I stand above them in any way, but I appreciate the recognition, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

“Joel is a shining example of someone who stands up for his beliefs and wants others to be supportive of each other, regardless of their background,” said Blue KC Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Christina Lively. “We are very proud of Joel, the LGBTQ community and excited to recognize him as our monthly Blue KC Gamechanger!”

“June is Pride Month, which is such an important month,” Barrett said. “If anything, right now, there’s all the more reason to lift the voices of LGBTQ people because there’s a lot of people trying to erase us and to take back the rights that were fought so hard for. So, I think it’s a very timely moment.”

For more information about the “Blue KC Gamechanger” program, please click here.

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