Sunday, May 31, 2009

Change, one person at a time.

Yesterday began at 5:00 AM for me with the most unwelcome ringing of my alarm clock. I joined Cleve Jones and Lt. Dan Choi in the shuttle van, which transported us to Selma, CA where we began the march to Fresno. It all seemed a bit surreal to me, being in the van with those other people and being involved in all the events of the day, but as I approached the microphone to address 5,000 people standing in the hot sun of California’s central valley, I remembered the “why” of it all.

I want you to remember an earlier time in your life [I addressed the crowd]. I want you to remember that time when you first realized that you were different. For most of us, it was when we went through puberty. We were kids, when we first discovered that we were gay or lesbian. The greatest fear that most of us had at that time, was that we would be rejected by the people we loved the most--our families. So, we learned how to “pass.” We learned how to lie about our selves because IF people really knew the truth about us, they would not accept us and they most certainly would not love us.

The obvious cost of all of this is that we learned to hate ourselves. Lying separates us, from others. One of the great ironies here is that we lied for the sake of relationships with family, relatives and friends. Yet, those very lies erected walls between our true self and those people we loved and esteemed. Another cost of those lies, was that they caused a loss of personal wholeness--integrity, deep within the core of our own being.

In 1999, the Center for Disease Control published a study, which found that 33% of gay youth attempt suicide. THIRTY-THREE PERCENT!!! It is no mere coincidence that there is a higher incidence of alcohol, substance abuse, depression and suicide by LGBT people. These are the results of lives lived in shame, lived in fear, cloaked in lies which are intended to be shields against an onslaught of never ending attacks and abuse.

That is why we are here. That is why, even though we may lose a battle, we will never surrender. So that someone else does not have to suffer all of this crap!

That is why we will not “shut-up”, why we will not “go away.” That is why we have brought a lawsuit, invoking the equal protection clause of our Constitution, which will ultimately end up before the United States Supreme Court. That is why we have placed an initiative on the 2010 California ballot to repeal Prop 8. And we will do it again in 2012 and 2014, if we have to, UNTIL WE WIN!

All of this costs a huge amount of money and work, but it costs those who would oppress and abuse us a huge amount of money too. They will have to fight us in California, and in Maine, and in Iowa, and in New Hampshire, and in Connecticut, and in Massachutsas, and in Illinois, and in New York, and in Wisconsin, and in Vermont. They will have to fight us before the U.S. Supreme Court. They will have to fight us on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. They will have to fight us as we repeal DOMA.

This will cost them HUGE amounts of monies. Funds that have been donated to them by the faithful, funds that they are misspending, they are not using these funds to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, house the homeless, educate children, heal the sick, or comfort the dying. They are using them to try and “keep the lid on” to try to manipulate and control civil society and to maintain themselves as political power brokers.

AND THEY WILL LOSE. They will lose, because the faithful will call them on misuse of funds. They will lose because they have to pay with dollars in order to maintain the status quo of inequality and abuse, but we have to pay not only with our dollars BUT WITH OUR LIVES if we do not win. That is why we will never surrender.

As I walked away from the speaker’s area, I encountered a young woman wearing one of the volunteer staff tee shirts. She came up to me, holding back tears, she said I want to thank you, because you came out, I was able to come out to my family. We hugged each other and I asked how did they react? She said, at first it was a little hard, but they have since come around and are very supportive of me now.

We hugged again and I said to her “you’re going to be fine; you’re going to live in freedom and be at peace.”

The encounter with that young woman made everything worthwhile. Years from now what I will remember about Meet in the Middle 4 Equality, will be that brief encounter with a brave young woman. That is HOW we will win, when each of us musters the courage of that young woman and speaks the truth, to our families, friends, co-workers. That is how minds and hearts are changed in Fresno and elsewhere throughout our world. A reporter once waved his arm at the depravity of Calcutta and asked Mother Teresa “How can you possibly hope to change all of this?” She responded: One person at a time.

11 comments:

Husseinmama said...

You were wonderful yesterday, when you spoke. I am held in awe at what you have given up to be who you are, and I admire you for it. You're right, we can't give up, eventually they WILL lose and hopefully, they will be called on it.

Kevin said...

Thanks for the post father and everything you do. I once heard an incredible line a character said to another on a daytime soap opera. I'd like to share: If any so called bible christian brags about their victory to "save" marriage, just think or say to them,"If you are hoping and waiting that we will go away, then you will wait and wait and you will die waiting!" I love that line! Cheers..Kevin

SO Katie said...

I was there too, and I didn't get a chance to come up and shake your hand. I figure since I read your blog all the time, it might be nice to meet you in person. Although, I did get a picture in of me and Rev. Eric Lee.

Keep fighting! Keep moving forward! And it is great to hear people of faith willing to stand up to the right wing of our various organizations.

Faith, Hope, and Love - but the greatest is Love!

Marky's MADWORLD said...

I am so moved by you, your words, your courage and all that you do now & are going to do, because I am sure you will do much as your wisdom will move many more as I was moved.

You are a personal Hero of mine and although I did not get to meet you when you spoke in Fresno a few months ago, I knew i had to try to meet you yesterday. I saw you walking away when it was all over and I was determined to tell you that you have affected my life, that I will no longer be silent because of you and that you were a Hero to me.

I was glad I made myself move forward to get to you. It was an honor to meet you in person and I will never forget that moment. I thank you for the photo, which I will treasure always and as I said to you there, I will follow you where ever you will lead and I intend to be a voice as well, for all those that don't yet have the courage, you have inspired me that much.

Thank you for your courage & words and for being yourself. I will continue to follow your blog & on twitter and will look to you for inspiration always

VpO said...

Your work is so powerful and uplifting for our community. Thank you for all you do and will continue to do in the future.

God bless you!

Benjamoon said...

So well said.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Well said, indeed. A tip of the beretta to you, for your considerable courage! for your ability to inspire!

Steven said...

It sounds like it was a wonderful day and turnout at Meet in the Middle 4 Equality. And it always helps when there is a sense of pride when only a moment makes everything worthwhile. Thank you for sharing your good news.

I can so relate to what you mentioned about walls erected around us. While I came out 16 years ago, my "wall" has come down to about the height of my knees where my "internalized homophobia" is the last to overcome.

Sister Mary Agnes said...

Thank you Father for speaking out and what's just and right.

Joe said...

Great -- you give me hope for a renewal of our much degraded church.

Pater Nostra said...

Amazing post!

You are doing much for us. I only hope and pray that in time, we will all be equal in the eyes of man as we are in the eyes of GOD.

Amazing, just amazing.