Throughout June I made the Pride Circuit. Every weekend, sometimes at a banquet mid-week, in Michigan and beyond I have been talking to audiences large and small about how we – the LGBTQ community – are going to get from here to there.
What’s here – fear, bias, hate speech, economic disparity, political gridlock, bullying, homophobia and the constant threat on our freedom, our lives and our families?
Where’s there – that more perfect union laid out in the Constitution’s preamble; that nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that we all, each and every one of us, is created equal?
How are we going to get from here to there? We’ve been talking about getting there for a mighty long time.
In 1963, one hundred years after Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the promise of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence – “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
Almost fifty years after King’s historic speech that promissory note – that “promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” remains unfulfilled.
Today not only African Americans, but other people of color, the poor, immigrants as well as gay and transgender are bound by the chains of discrimination, economic disparity and homophobia.
And the harsh rhetoric and politics of extremist at the far end of the conservative spectrum forces us- Black, Brown, immigrant, poor, female and LGBTQ to ‘languish in the corners of American society and find ourselves an exile in our own land.’
So how are we going to get from here to there – to the day when we no longer have to say “It gets better” because it is better?
It’s going to take more than just talking about it. So here are five things I believe, if we each do, again and again over the next five years will get us to that mountain top.
My Five Steps to Equality
1. Be OUT – not just at the clubs or in the safe places like at PRIDE but over the fence in your back yard talking to your neighbors, at community meetings, in church, at work. When you hear a mis-speak about our community set the record straight. Be OUT about things other than LGBT issues. Don’t let politicians pigeon hole you to only LGBT debates. Yes we want marriage equality, but we want good schools, paved streets, jobs, good government – the same thing as every citizen.
2. Touch five people – it doesn’t have to be strangers. Go for the low hanging fruit – those friends and family who say they love and support you and ask them to be warriors for YOUR equality. To not laugh when they hear the “gay” joke or sit silently when someone makes a homophobic or ignorant remark about our lives. Ask them to be a “Warrior for Your Equality” and shut the bigotry down.
3. VOTE – Vote in every election. We have not been turning out to vote and look at what has happened. Those who want to take away our rights show up at each and every election. Look at North Carolina. We are waiting for the big dance in November and/or every four years, while they show up each and every time, and are filling up the legislative dance card. If we don’t start coming out to the polls when the big dance gets here only the ugly dancers like Mitt will be left on the dance floor.
4. Be self- sufficient. We have entrepreneurs, artists and money in our community. Support our businesses. Support our organizations. If they don’t want to hire us or are ready to fire us for being gay then it’s time we start taking our time, talent and treasures and investing it in our own.
5. Teach the children! Teach the children! Teach the children! Children aren’t born with hate. Teach the children the value of each and every person. Teach the children the beauty of diversity. When the daughter of a lesbian couple I know started school she talked about her family. A little boy commented that she couldn’t have a family because she needed a father and that two mommies couldn’t make a baby because “you need sperm.” She looked at him and said “you can buy that.” And from that day on the entire schools perspective on family changed. Six years later – a family is a family. Teach the children our lives, our loves, our families are just that our lives, our loves, our families – nothing more nothing less
I have a dream this and every day that we will all one day live in a nation where we will not be judged by what makes us different or who we love but by the content of our character and what ultimately makes us all the same – our humanity.