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Changing the World

Back when I was in College in another city, and visiting with friends here, I was asked to come to Milwaukee’s first Gay Pride Parade. There wasn’t much parade, but the picnic was fun.

I wasn’t asked to be there because of my sexual orientation. I was asked because I was from out of town, had no family in Milwaukee, and was a college student. This was a time when people could lose jobs and invite harassment of their family members by being openly gay. Gay people would call each other long distance, and say, “I’ll march in your Gay Pride Parade if you’ll march in mine.”

Angel, who was as much involved in the gay rights movement during her high school years as someone underage could be in those days (even with the understanding that if anyone passed along the message “angel fly” she would vanish) tells me of what she calls the “p-town marriage”, where people had an opposite-gender legal-spouse, and then after dark, people walked down or across the street to spend the night with their heart-spouse.

More heart-rending is Angel’s tale of watching a transgender person bleeding in a public park. This was known to be a gay hangout, and ambulances didn’t show up very quickly there, as a rule. When the EMTs did arrive to this scene, the EMTs wasted time laughing at the “man wearing womens’ clothes” while she lay dying.

BUT today things are very different. Equality hasn’t been achieved yet, but everywhere you look, gay people are living openly in their relationships, demanding that their families be legally recognized and protected, getting and keeping jobs while openly gay, being ordained and made bishops while openly gay. In lots of places, you have openly gay elected officials, and gay couples allowed to adopt children. Hate crimes against gay people are illegal. And the families of homosexual people are gaining recognition and rights, from marriage to civil unions to domestic partnerships to private companies granting them insurance coverage and other benefits offered to married folks even in places where government doesn’t yet grant them rights.

There was a time when “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was a genuine step forward, letting gay people who were willing to live closeted prove that they can, indeed, serve in the military. Now there are gay people who serve openly in defiance of that rule, and there’s talk of repealing that rule altogether.

I think about the stories of Susan B. Anthony and other women who worked their entire adult lives to get women the vote, and who “passed the torch” when they died, to women who didn’t see the start of that fight, without ever getting to cast a single ballot.

And I think about how long it’s been between the Emancipation Proclamation and electing a man of African descent to be our President.

And I thinkabout that mayor who ran for office in a conservative part of California, opposing gay marriage, but came out and made a public statement for it about a week ago (filkertom has a link to that speech, if you didn’t catch it, in his LJ).

I was bitterly disappointed when Wisconsin’s voters failed to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment here; but it was clear from the demographics that younger voters were in support of gay marriage, that it was just too soon for our society to have changed enough. Yet.

If we keep reaching out to people, I think this is a battle that can be won in my lifetime. It will be harder, now that some states have had their constitutions sullied by grafting discriminatory language into them, but I still believe that it can happen. More to the point, I believe it will happen, IF we don’t give up.

To steal a line from an e-mail I received, “Many of the people who voted for Proposition 8 and other anti-gay ballot measures in states like Arkansas, Arizona and Florida do not have hate in their hearts -- they lack understanding and too often have been misled by the endless barrage of right-wing distortions and rhetoric.”

If you have to choose who to believe—your friends and family or alarmist TV commercials—most people will believe in, and act, to protect their friends and family members. And those loved-ones’ families.

So I’m proud of the people who go to rallies for equality and freedom; I’m proud of the people willing to drag their lives through lawsuits in front of conservative judges; I’m proud of the kids joining gay-straight alliances at their high schools; I’m proud of people who refuse to be ashamed of being seen with obviously queer folks; I’m proud of all the people who stand up and, in so many different ways, say, “different doesn’t have to be scary” and “different does not mean wrong.”

All of these things change the world for the better, a little at a time.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC)
No wonder your humor is so sharp! (-'

It's the morality of blind faith that they need to question.

If you don't want to think for yourself, you're responsible for whose thoughts you choose claim for your own!!!!
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 6th, 2008 11:10 pm (UTC)
“What faith isn’t blind?”

The idea that faith must be blind is just as limited as the idea that an atheist must be amoral.

My youngest sister answers your question very succinctly, "The faith that recognizes the difference between knowledge and faith."

I would be much more wordy, and probably WILL be much more wordy, but not right now. Right now, work has been stressful enough that as soon as rush hour traffic clears a little bit, I want to escape this desk!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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