Archive for August 10th, 2007
Civil Rights Movements each have their moments in History and the GLBT Rights Movement has many. Everyone has heard or can look up the information about the Stonewall Riots but I want to share my personal journey and the moments that stand out in my mind and heart.
As a young Gay male in North Carolina, I was active in politics and had been for a long time. I attended my first Gay Pride March in Raleigh, North Carolina at the age of 25. It was a march and not a parade. There were no floats, no corporate sponsors, or famous stars or politicians in the march. It was a bunch of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people walking in groups or just with friends. PFLAG was there of course but you did not see corporate groups marching as you do today in many Gay Pride Parades. We were Out, Loud and Proud and wanted everyone to know. We were also dealing with the onslaught of the AIDS Epidemic and the lack of understanding or care from the Reagan Administration. This was the time period when it was still legal to fire someone fro being Gay in every state. Raleigh, North Carolina was the first city to add a non-discrimination clause to their city charter that include sexual preference. This was the first Gay Pride March but was not my last. I have now marched in Gay Pride Marches and Parades in North Carolina, Oregon, California, Arizona and Texas. I will keep marching until I have to ride a scooter or a wheel chair but I will still be there.
I attended the first World AIDS Day planning event in Raleigh and have been involved in those every since. While many would not consider this a civil rights event, I do as we educated the world about HIV and AIDS. The stigma of the “GAY” disease had to be removed and the world needed to be educated. I worked with people who would never have attended a Gay Pride March but who were driven by the need to help the Community overcome and bring awareness to the public.
Once I moved to San Francisco, I immediately became involved in politics, civil rights and AIDS/HIV Awareness. I also attended a memorial march to commemorate the night Harvey Milk and George Moscone were murdered. The sight of thousands of men, women and children marching down Market Street with candles will stay with me forever. The sadness and anger that still burned in the hearts of those gathered was a powerful force. It was a force that said we will not be taken for granted and we will not be forgotten or shunted aside. The same went for the Candle Light Vigil for World AIDS Day in San Francisco. There is a power in numbers which is hard to relate unless you have been there and felt the love, pain, fear, anger, and hope burning in each person as they walk holding that small flame out against the darkness of hatred and despair.
In Arizona, I watched Ellen come out on prime time TV at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center where I started volunteering 2 months after moving there. I was even shown kissing my lover and then interviewed by one of the TV stations in Arizona. I spoke about the history of the moment and how maybe it would help people understand that we were just people.
I remember when very few politicians- even our allies- would speak out for the community. Justice Jan Patterson was not afraid to march with the Stonewall Democrats of Austin in the Gay Pride Parade in 2004 when she was up for re-election. Senfronia Thompson was not afraid when she gave one of the best Civil Rights speeches I have ever heard at the Texas Legislature in 2005 as she opposed the Marriage Amendment bill. Mark Strama was not afraid when he attended the Gay Pride Festival in Austin that June and came to vote in the HRC straw poll about the amendment and speak with the community as we geared up to fight to defeat the marriage amendment.
I have watched so many little things change over the years that in total are great BIG changes that I sometimes forget how far we have come or how much the people in the trenches do to make a difference. I am one of those in the trenches. I speak out, march, vote, protest, write letters, blog, podcast, design, rant and try and educate every chance I get. Many candidates can tell you how blunt I am about asking question about GLBT issues and how fierce I can be in fighting for a candidate who supports our issues and how equally fierce I will fight to defeat anyone who is not willing to stand up for the community.
Tonight I saw something which I would never have dreamed of when I was 15 years old and coming out in a small town in North Carolina. I saw several of the Democratic Presidential Candidates take part in a forum on GLBT issues on a GLBT network and ask for the GLBT vote. Many presidential candidates have asked for our votes in the past and many have attended Stonewall Democrat or Gay Pride events but to spend 15 minutes being asked questions by Gay and Lesbian about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender issue? No, that has never happened. The pride I feel as a Gay Political Activist tonight is one I am sure many in the community feel. For the first time, n ot only are we being courted by politicians but they have been recorded answering OUR question and talking about OUR concerns. This was available to anyone who has LOGO in their area or has access to the internet.
This happened because people have spoken out, marched, voted, protested, written letters, blogged, designed, ranted, raged and worked to educate the public, candidates and elected officials. Every GLBT person who has done any of these things helped make tonight possible. We have moved GLBT Rights one step closer to the day when Equal Rights For All People is a reality. While the answers were not anything we have not heard before, the fact is they are now on record as being our allies not only in little sound bites but at a GLBT Forum. Does this mean the struggle is over? NO! It does mean we have come a damn long way and everyone should be thrilled at how much we have accomplished and ready to continue the struggle to move towards day when the struggle is over and Equal Right For All really does exist.
The work is far from over but tonight I am bursting with Pride for all of those who have struggled and fought so courageously for what is right and just. I honor those who are the well known figures but I also honor those people like me who have been in the trenches their entire lives but keep fighting. The fight is not about self glory but about self fulfillment and the satisfaction that comes with knowing you have done your best to make this a better world for everyone. The warriors in this battle are to many to name but their efforts have done so much and will be appreciated forever. One day when a young man or woman can turn to the person they love and ask them to marry them without fear of hatred, intolerance or prejudice no matter who their loved one is, then we will have done our duty not only to the GLBT Community but to the World. Tonight is a night of Celebration. Tomorrow the battle continues.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )