by Sean Kosofsky
No, this column is not about Wal-Mart and I certainly haven’t chosen, as Prince did, to use a symbol to express myself. Actually, this column is about appreciation…and expressing it. Last week I attended a taping of Dr. John Corvino’s lecture “What’s Morally Wrong with Homosexuality?” and although I had heard it before (and loved it), I was struck by a comment he made near the end as he was talking about moral courage. John said that people frequently approach him and allege that he is trying to throw morals out the window by justifying homosexuality. Really, though, he is doing something that takes tremendous moral conviction: standing up to ignorance and homophobia.
Every few weeks or so I get a warm feeling inside that just makes me feel really good about the work I do. It is unexplainable, but you know it when you feel it. I had it that night. Folks like John, the staff of all of our LGBT and AIDS organizations, and certainly the thousands of volunteers in our movement, never get the praise they deserve. Each day we throw ourselves in the direct line of fire from the right wing, and it goes largely unappreciated by our community. John loves giving his lecture, but he puts himself in real danger every time he opens his mouth to speak the truth. All of us do. The work of serving this community is not only admirable, it is dangerous.
So I am proposing this week with my column that every single reader send a smiley face to someone they admire. Like this J or this :). Send it to someone in the LGBT or AIDS movements, or just someone who works for justice every day. This may sound cheesy but I want you to do it – kinda like a, “have you hugged an activist today,” thing.
But don’t just send a smiley face. Spend a good three to five minutes sending a note to them telling them how much you appreciate what they do. This work can be lonely, thankless, expensive, taxing and certainly risky. We need to know it is noticed and valued. I run the risk in proposing this action that it will seem self-serving, but that is not my goal. I don’t want or need anyone to send a smiley to me – but if you do I still want you to pick someone else as well. Here at Triangle we receive encouraging notes from the community every. I feel the love from our community, but I feel strongly we need to make thanking our leaders a priority.
When you send your smiley face tell your favorite activist or friend what they mean to you. Tell them why you appreciate their vision and sacrifice. Articulate how they have made the world a better place. And then send this column on to your friends and family. Maybe, just maybe, it will cut the tension of your day. Maybe it will provoke you to think, for the first time, why we need activists and advocates in our lives. Send a sea of smiley faces, but send them and send them today or you may forget.
Why would I pick such a cheesy and simplistic symbol as the smiley face? Because it is a simple gesture. It will make you smile and the person receiving it smile. It is the right thing to do. But if you feel that a smiley face is not enough, send a note; if that’s not enough, send more. But send them.
John Corvino is a good friend of mine. I have deep admiration for him. He travels the country and directly engages heterosexual audiences, of all stripes, to think more deeply about a controversial and uncomfortable topic for many. He encourages critical thinking. He moves people in the direction of inclusion, comfort and equality. And he does it for me, for all my readers and for our entire damn country. He is a healer. All of our social justice leaders are healers, healing the wounds that have been caused by our reckless heterosexist and homophobic political and religious institutions. So for a day, we can all be healers by sending a little TLC to the people to whom we are all indebted. JJJ