It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for the work you do and, for me, the past couple of years have been full of those occasions. All are goosebump moments — some a little more than others — but few offer surprises. Last week was one of those delightful surprise moments and pinpointed a major change in the LGBT struggle for civil rights and equality.
I was on stage at West Chester University, waiting to receive a lifetime achievement award from the department of Holocaust and Genocide — an award that really gave me goosebumps — then deliver an acceptance speech. Looking over the audience, I didn’t see anything particularly unusual, mostly students and a small number of older non-students. All went as expected until the question-and-answer period.
In an attempt to discover what kind of crowd I was addressing, I started by asking the audience a few questions.
At this point, my question was, “How many of you know there was a National Equality March last week in D.C.?” To my surprise, almost all the hands went up.
Out of curiosity I asked, “How many of you are LGBT?” Here’s the delightful part: only a few. And then members of the audience stated that President Obama had promised action on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and other LGBT issues and hadn’t delivered.
My translation of that was twofold. First, it was the left-leaning students who support LGBT rights taking the opportunity to show their anger. And second, and most important, is the fact that so many non-gays feel comfortable enough to not only show their anger on an LGBT issue, but also to join with us in our demonstrations.
Until this point, the largest contingent in any LGBT demonstration of non-gays was PFLAG. Why is this important? It goes to the point that Obama has made and it’s almost been ignored: The LGBT fight for equality is on the same level as the civil-rights movement of the 1960s.
It also demonstrates that this younger demographic has heard the message of the last 20 years. And if you were a part of that struggle, take pride. It worked.
Our allies are coming out of the closets and actually walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].