Picture this. I’m in my local drug store doing a little shopping, and yeah, maybe checking out that cute guy picking up a prescription at the pharmacy counter. (Oh wait, maybe that’s not such a good idea – Lord knows what he’s being treated for!) Shaking my head, I turn my focus back to shopping, and quietly singing along to the music playing – yes, I’m that annoying guy. “I really can’t stay. But baby it’s cold outside…”
Suddenly I stop short when I realize that they‘re playing the Darren Criss/Chris Colfer version of Baby It’s Cold Outside. In case you don’t watch Glee, Darren and Chris are both guys. That’s 2 guys – singing to each other – in my local drug store! And we’re not talking national chain – this is a locally owned store!
And maybe because I was suddenly hyper aware of my surroundings, later that day when I was browsing in the public library, I noticed that they now carry gay themed DVDs. I had seen that they had been carrying gay themed books for the last few years, but now actual DVDs? Wow. It’s not that I live in the most repressed town in the US – it’s just a quiet little town. But when did it become so open, so accepting, so, dare I say… gay?
All of this made me really stop to think about the recent changes that have occurred in the world. Changes that may have snuck up on many of you, as they did me. And as we often do at this time of year, I starting thinking back over the events of the passing year.
Happily the news in the US this year was not all doom and gloom. The GLBTQ community did make some major strides in 2011. First, although passed in 2010, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the US military prohibition on serving as an openly gay person, was finally put into practice. Had that not been the case, this homecoming photo of Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta and Citlalic Snell would not have been possible.
Secondly, President Obama’s administration reversed policy by stating that the US Justice Department will no longer defend DOMA – the federal Defense of Marriage Act which in essence says that no state can be forced to recognize a same sex marriage performed in another state. This pushes the issue back to the individual state’s legislation. Unfortunately our Congress can decide to continue to defend it, so that struggle is far from over.
Then on the local level, Governor Andrew Cuomo successfully added New York to the previous 5 states that now allow same sex marriage. I know that six out of fifty states may not sound like much, but discrimination didn’t happen overnight, and will surely take many years to reverse. Now if only I could find some guy to marry. Where’s that hot little Buda when I need him?
One of the highlights of this year for me though, was a perhaps controversial, but definitely impassioned Human Rights Day speech given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva. At President Obama’s direction, Secretary Clinton spoke of the US commitment to support all Human rights, and that human rights include gay rights. It is what I’m sure will become an historic speech. From what I’ve read there were a few attendees who walked out of the room once Secretary Clinton’s intent became clear. Look at this excerpt – this speech really is amazing:
“Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. We need to ask ourselves, “How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?” This challenge applies to all of us as we reflect upon deeply held beliefs, as we work to embrace tolerance and respect for the dignity of all persons, and as we engage humbly with those with whom we disagree in the hope of creating greater understanding.”
If you’d like to read the full transcript, follow this link or to see the full 30 minute video on Youtube follow this link.
Unfortunately not all of this year’s news has been good. Tragically we lost several bright lights from our community – those who barely had the chance to show more than a glimmer of the wondrous people that they were to become. And sadly, these senseless losses were often a direct result of bullying which continues to be a problem and not just for GLBTQ youth. Some progress is being made in changing school policies, but there is much work still to be done. We did also continue to see caring and generous allies work to support and encourage our at-risk youth. Although this took place in October of 2010, I wanted to share this very emotional speech given by Fort Worth Texas City Councilman Joel Burns. Be warned it’s sure to make you cry, but it’s also sure to leave you smiling at his message.
I’m happy to say that in 2011 we were more visible in the media than ever. We had transgendered contestant Chaz Bono along with the out and proud Carson Cressley on TV’s Dancing with the Stars. We saw Star Trek and Heroes actor Zachary Quinto come out after Jamey Rodemeyer’s tragic death, not in a big media frenzy, but in a rather dignified, understated way, stating his need to “live an authentic life of compassion and integrity and action”. His coming out seemed to be almost a non issue. Wouldn’t it be great if that were always the case?
I can’t help but believe that this increasing visibility – having so many very talented and proudly out personalities coming into people’s lives through the media – every day, does and will continue to, have a very profound effect on our acceptance. And perhaps more importantly, these celebrities provide a wonderful role model for our youth. I often think how different my own life might’ve been had I had even one of these brave souls to look up to.
So I look back over the events of the passing year with both sadness for the losses and joy for the accomplishments. And although our struggle is far from ended, I also find growing within me, with the dawning year, a feeling of hope, a deeply held belief in the innate goodness of people, and a vision of the way that the world could be. Perhaps not the utopia of my drugstore concert, but certainly a more accepting world, a world that, believe it or not, seems to be slowly coming to life before our very eyes – the proof having slipped into our everyday existence without our awareness.