Taking It to the Streets

20130819-091653.jpg

Taking It to the Streets

In any civil rights movement that is successful there is a need for radical leaders and foot soldiers. The two people in this photograph are two radical leaders that I respect and admire so much, Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project and Marisa Richmond of Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. These two people truly walk what they talk, and are always on the front lines. They are not radical in the sense of being pushy and obnoxious. They simply stand their ground, move courteously and effectively, and never give up. They are present and accounted for.
There have been no civil rights in this country that have been won without people who were willing to take it to the streets, the foot soldiers. For some people this is somehow distasteful. For me, it has always been energizing, I have marched for the original Civil Rights (racial equality), for women’s rights, and against the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. I am now involved in what has been called the “last great civil rights struggle of our lifetime,” the movement for equal rights for LGBT citizens.
It is urgently important that those of us who believe that no one is free unless everyone is free take part in this movement. The time has come for us to let our voices be heard. The time is ripe for change.
While it is quite true that organizations like the HRC ( just to name one–there are many) work to fight for rights through legal venues, there is always a need to show up and be counted when the street is where the action is. It is the energy that is generated in the street that sparks the consciousness of those who make decisions in the courts, and in the legislatures. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can do this without fear for our lives. The time is now, and we are the called.
It is time to speak up loud, proud, and clear for what we believe in.
For this reason I urge you, if you believe as I do, that the time is ripe for equality, to show up on August 31 at 4 PM at the Metro Public Square and rally for Marriage Equality. The Tennessee Equality Project is partnering with the Human Rights Campaign on this one and it needs to be a great big show. Make signs and bring them. The Neanderthal Tennessee legislature has declared August 31 to be “traditional marriage day” (oh, please) and we need to step it up for diversity and inclusion. See you there.

Rainbow Weddings

20130717-174442.jpg

Rainbow Weddings

This picture is my dear friend, Keith Merrill, right after he presented the HRC Equality Award to me in March.

One of the greatest honors I have ever received was the Equality Award presented to me by the Human Rights Campaign for my many years of being an outspoken ally in the fight for LGBT rights. One of the things that this award made me realize was that I am loved and appreciated by many people in the LGBT community. That feeling is certainly mutual. I sense that many people sort of look at me as a loving, open-minded mom figure, who is there to support and accept them. Since I have no children of my own I am not only happy to play this role, it significantly enriches my life. One of the things a loving, open-minded mom needs to do is counsel without judging.

I was incredibly thrilled recently when the Supreme Court acted on the right side regarding DOMA and Prop 8. I strongly believe in marriage equality, and equal rights in all other areas. I know so many strongly committed couples who have been together for years who can now legally marry if they choose to. I also know couples who are moving in that direction, and I am happy for the love you have found. As much as anything that has happened, the right to marry elevates LGBT love from a second class status, and brings it out of the closet.

However, and this is where “mom” starts talking, just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. If I did have a child, either gay or straight, I would have to tell them to take it slow. No rush. Marriage is a big deal, by far the most important deal you will ever enter into. You need to be sure you know each other well enough to know that you want to really share your lives, for the rest of your lives. If you have any hesitation about merging and sharing your life with this person–hesitate on the marriage. Do you feel confident that you can really trust this person with your heart? Have you been able to communicate well enough to know that you hopes, dreams, and definitions of what marriage should mean are similar. Do you know the areas where you might have to compromise, and are you willing to make those compromises? This list could go on and on. And while whether or not you have good sex is certainly important, a lot more than that is needed to make a marriage work over the years. But, don’t take this to imply that I don’t believe in true love at first sight. I do. I just think taking it slow is the best way to make sure you are really sure.

I suspect that now LGBT people will start to feel some of the same pressure to marry that straight people have felt. Marriage, while it should be available for everyone, might not be right for everyone. The same goes for having children. Contrary to what some people believe, marriage is about a lot more than procreation. Regardless of what your spiritual path is, it is very important to be spiritually compatible. You may not be “religious” at all, but you are spiritual. You may want to be married by a judge, or by a friend who has managed to get themselves ordained. You may want to be married in a church. Here’s some side advise; if you are going to a church that would refuse to marry you, I would urge you to find another church. That, of course, is a different conversation, and a complicated one as well.

It will follow that as soon as we see gay marriages we will see gay divorces. An unhappy marriage is a very bad place to find yourself, and divorce is painful. I would hope, if you were my child, that you would make a wise decision on marriage, and be able to skip the divorce part all together. And if you need a surrogate mom, I am more than happy to give the groom away.