Hearts and Minds: Making a Cause Personal

February 27, 2015 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


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It’s that moment when someone realizes that, while they may have been saying the right words to support a cause, their words were just that, only words.

There is a great and distinct difference between the intellectual clarity of understanding something and the moment when that knowing becomes part of who you are, when you become someone who believes.

So often goes the case with the topic of LGBT equality or as the media has most simply qualified it – marriage equality.

There are those on an extreme end of the spectrum who would call the topic of gay marriage an abomination. When I first embarked on my path of LGBT activism in 2008 I learned quickly that when it comes to engaging people, and the ever-crucial changing of hearts and minds, these are not the people upon whom attention should be placed.

Rather it’s the vast majority of those in the wide swath of middle – those who may theoretically believe in something but who lack personal connection to a story. This vacuum inclines them to follow whatever major public opinion may stand. It is with these people where the great progress lies.

Say what you will about the current Administration, but when Obama first ran for office in 2008 one of the most powerful tools leveraged in that campaign was the power of going door-to-door, engaging on a face to face basis and telling stories, personal stories that helped ground an amorphous topic (hope) in substance, in real people.

So when Proposition 8 passed that very same year, a number of people who worked on the campaign thought to take the same approach on a very different sort of endeavor. Thus the present day equality effort took shape. The gathering storm, which began at the dawn of 2009 collected power. From merely 12 states with approved gay marriage in 2009, there now are 37 states where gay marriage has been approved.

Though great progress has been made, the journey is far from over as is evidenced by the reaction of this woman who, in her bio for Huffington Post, calls herself an LGBT activist. Perhaps a newly minted one, as the revelations she describes regarding marriage equality aren’t exactly earth shattering to one who has been laboring for more than a minute on this front.

Freshly formed or otherwise, that she has had this light bulb snap on, perhaps means that her engagement will change and get even more deep and powerful.

It is in moments like this when true, powerful advocates are born. I recall having a sizable number of straight friends at my table at a GLAAD event several years ago. Stories were being told on stage about couples whose unions were discounted, dismissed and derided by society. In one case, a woman who died alone in a Florida ER while her partner and kids were kept in the waiting room, their family status nullified by bigotry. A straight friend across the table sat staring at two of my other guests, a lesbian couple who held hands, tears in their eyes, riveted on the speaker, fully understanding the story being told, knowing it could happen to them…

My straight friend, her face drained to a pale white and eyes glistening with fat tears, leaned towards me and quietly choked out that she had never thought about such a thing being possible. THIS is why I speak out that I am gay and always insure that I do my part to show that these things for which we fight aren’t “gay” rights… they’re human rights.

The sooner we all speak out, openly walk in the daylight, embrace our true selves and make no excuses, the sooner that these revelations may be turned towards other things.


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