Note from UTF: I wanted to bring this back to the main page. It has sparked good discussion (here and on Facebook), and with the 'Next Steps Summit' coming this Sunday, I thought I'd highlight it again.
Contributor Dawn Cobalt is an independent film maker active in the fight for equality. She and her partner of 25 years Marie Cobalt work with UnitetheFight.org in filming and broadcasting live web streams and both are members of the OUT West Coalition.
After returning from the Equality Summit in San Bernardino I now feel that a great opportunity for our community is at hand. Some who may have also attended can disagree but let me explain.
We’re at a crossroads about when we can regain a right we all lost this past November. Polls, opinions, past experience and fear are pulling us apart. Polls, for the most part, show that we wouldn’t win in any year in the near future.
If we add wording to protect religious institutions we may win. Wording to protect religious institutions was previously put forth in the ruling of the Supreme Court in May of 2008.
The wording on protecting children is a big debate, and rightly so. But we need to send a positive message to the LGBTQI youth that desperately look to us to see if they are “okay”. We need to remember what it was like when we weren’t out and had to live in fear. We are playing politics with peoples lives that can’t vote yet. We are the people that the LGBTQI youth is now looking up to and we must act accordingly with these responsibilities.
Opinions are everywhere and with good cause. We’re a diverse group and we’re part of every minority group out there: race, creed, religious beliefs, non-religious beliefs, etc. We must walk in many different shoes to fully understand each other. The only binding aspect of “us” is our sexual and transgender identity. Because we all belong to other groupings, minority and otherwise, this can alter our view in our fight for equality.
Fear tells us that if we lose again we’re done. No one likes to lose and losing does set things back, but we need to learn from our mistakes. We have learned this time around that the community needs to get up and do something and not be complacent.
This is our time to reach out to each other and really listen. We need to rise up and move forward. Embrace the strengths of each group, praise their accomplishments and use those strengths within our community. Educate each other and not put down the ones that are not aware of the differences that separate us. We need to show the world that we are a strong, diverse community that works together. Until we do this, the Prop 8 proponents will always win.
Here is the reality of the situation. A majority of grassroots organizations want to go again in 2010. A majority of individuals in the community want to go back to the voters in 2010. This will be the movement for the moment, whether you want 2010, 2012 or beyond. We can stalemate all the way to November 2010 or we can put our differences aside and help each other. If our communities can gather the necessary signatures to get the initiative on the ballot, then it is up to the grassroots organizations to work together towards passing the initiative. If the signatures do not add up we must work to change hearts and minds until 2012.
We can show the state, the country, and the world that as a community we can come together, win or lose. And what if we lose, what then? Then we recover and we don’t stop until full equality is ours. But in the meantime we showed everyone how important equality is to us.
And equally important we show our LGBTQI youth that they are supported and loved in this world. We may show someone who’s now struggling will turn toward the movement instead of alcohol or drugs. A gay man walking home late at night doesn’t get bashed because it is frowned upon a little bit more. A transgender person will make it home without a trip to the hospital first because we show that being different is something to embrace. A lesbian getting in her car doesn’t get raped for 45 minutes because we got right back up and said it’s not okay to treat us differently.
It takes time to win a war, as we all know. But the smaller battles along the way, the ones we don’t always know about make the bigger difference. The people that get saved will then stand up, join the ones already standing, and grow. We will embrace each other and we will win.
Let’s not let this opportunity slip away.