Many of you are the current heroes in the battle of equality, and you might not even be aware of how you helped get us to the small gains we’ve already achieved, so thank you!
Let’s go over what you did. You were OUT and visible, which was and is the most important aspect of creating equality. When we were invisible as a people, it gave society the ease of projecting any and all stereotypes, criminality, and myths about us. There was a theory we used back in the early part of our struggle: if everyone who was LGBT was out, we’d have no reason for a struggle since everyone would have a parent, sibling, family member or friend who is LGBT. But due to those myths and penalties, we were all forced into the closet and the public did not get the true view of who we were.
Those who came out and fought the barriers often lost their personal battle. The early teachers who fought against the prohibition of LGBT teachers lost their jobs at the beginning of that battle (and sadly, some still do), so too were doctors and lawyers, as well as members of unions and government employees. Their fight and struggle to keep their jobs or be reinstated often meant court battles and protest. The very right to serve in the military or be legally married were long battles. Those battles and protests created a platform in the media that focused on those individuals and presented our case to the public, who finally got to see us as people, not myths. We are not that green monster in the closet.
With those battles won and a general public aware of who we are, today LGBT people feel some power in coming out. They do so for a number of reasons but most important is that they feel safer to do so. They have role models who already fought that fight and proved that they can have a profession, family support and an actual community that will embrace them and help them grow. We have places for our youth and places for our seniors. We have organizations in the professional fields and major fortune 500 companies with employee LGBT resource groups. There’s even LGBT Republicans, and one far right militia that actually accepts LGBT members. We are out in almost every part of American life. By being out, you have shown who we are. We’re not people to be feared. On the contrary, with LGBT people in the fabric of America, many in our community are adding to the growth of their cities, state and nation.
The biggest hurdle at present is something we realized at the beginning of our struggle: organized religion. Some religions practice a form of conversion therapy, mostly on LGBT youth, with the support or demand of their religious parents. This is encouraged by many in the evangelical, southern baptist, and catholic churches. And today they stretch that to include trans and non binary people. It’s still a major problem facing the LGBT community.
There are those of you who for personal reasons or reasons touched on above cannot be out. That is a personal decision, and no one has the right to dictate that to you. Those of you who are out should not judge. Do you recall how you felt on making that decision? It’s something we all share. We have a long road to go, especially today when a serious backlash is occurring, but now we are organized as never before, and if history is any indication, we will prevail, and we’ll do so because of those of you who are out. Thank you.