Unity is needed now more than ever

At the 2022 PGN Stonewall Awards.

Only a few of us knew where we were going when PGN planned The Stonewall Awards, and fortunately, the event was exactly what was intended: a forum to showcase today’s LGBT issues and the difficult road we’ve traveled to achieve the small gains we have fought for. They are gains that, sadly, we are now in danger of losing. The full program on Sunday highlighted the Trans community, people without housing, the mental and physical anguish of the HIV/AIDS crisis, LGBT History, our community’s impact on politics, and more. The ceremony was very emotional, and it proved we can address current issues and also take pride for what has been accomplished. Bringing all that in one room is, for me, what Pride and community is all about: Unity.

Unity has never been needed more than now. If we are to fight for each of the issues that endanger our community we can’t do it without unity. As that famous line goes: “a house divided will surely fall.” We also need to unite not only inside our community, but also with our allies. Make no mistake about it, when the Supreme Court Takes away rights, they are on a path of creating a world of their very own belief system, and that world does not include any of us.  Imagine if just being LGBT was illegal. That was true in the past, and it can be true again.  

Last week that assault on the LGBT community began with two rulings: gun safety and women’s health rights.  Those rights were simply taken away by conservative justices appointed by Donald Trump.  Trump was elected because some liberals, or those who think they are woke, didn’t vote for Hilary Clinton because she didn’t get a 100% rating on their personal issues score. Trump was also elected, sadly, because so many people simply did not vote. There’s another famous expression, relating to people who don’t like a candidate: “I’ll hold my nose and vote for them.” They do that because the alternative would be worse. And we saw exactly how much worse he was. 

No candidate will ever be 100% on your positions, but without you voting we’ll get more rulings like what we had last week.  Don’t make that mistake again.  If you are not registered to vote, go out and do it today since next up on those conservatives’ agenda are contraceptive drugs and marriage equality. 

It’s great to demonstrate in the street. It’s great to be arrested for a cause.  But what isn’t easy is to go out and knock on doors and ask people if they are registered to vote. Reaching those people who can’t for some reason go to the polls on election day, make sure they cast and mail in their ballot.  And on election day, volunteer to go and help those who need help to get to the polls. 

If not we’ll have more judges appointed like Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch and Barrett. It’s not only the Supreme Court. In Pennsylvania we have a Republican running for governor who states that he will outlaw all abortion with zero consideration for rape or incest. He also wants to outlaw LGBT marriages, and his policy regarding our trans community will result in censorship and even youth suicides. The race for Senator could very well decide who becomes the next Justice of the Supreme Court or even the lower justices on the lower federal courts. 

To all the organizations in our community: it’s time to set aside part of your budget for voter education. By law a non-profit can educate on the election, and while you can’t tell people who to vote for, you can register people to vote and help get them to the polls as long as you don’t do that in collaboration with any political candidate or party. If that frightens you, ask your non-profit lawyers what you can do. On Sunday, Sheryl Lee Ralph was our last awardee/speaker at the Stonewall Awards.  A week before the awards ceremony, when she was texting with her husband, State Senator Vincent Hughes, about this issue, he said of her “she’s one of the best warriors in our struggle.” She delivered a strong message that will resonate with each person who was there…”I am a woman and I will not be a victim….see me.” She then eloquently connected that to the LGBT community.  Join her in this fight. It is a fight for all of us.