I'm gay. That's not that big a deal to say these days but forty years ago it would have been huge, dangerous for that matter. It's easy to forget just how good we have it today as a group. Sure, it's not perfect-we're not equal under the law, we can be fired in a majority of states for our sexual orientation, we can't serve our country openly, and if I get drug behind a truck there's no guarantee as of yet that the federal government will come in to make sure my killer's trial isn't hijacked by Sheriff Big John, Judge Bubba, and the gay panic defense. That said, progress is being made, with several states allowing folks like me and my better half to get married, several benefits and protections in various states and localities, and a new generation that is extremely supportive of civil rights for LGBT people. What's more, for the most part our community doesn't have to worry about the kind of police brutality that set off the Stonewall riots.
To understand where we are we have to understand where we've come from. Sure things aren't the best now, but forty years ago they were far worse. The fact that the debate has shifted to a battle for full marriage equality and protection from violence and discrimination, the fact that a popular President is being held to task for his lack of action on behalf of our community is something that should be reassurring. Think about it. Instead, we could be facing the same things those that went before us did-organized state oppression, a world where hatred of LGBT Americans isn't simply a disgusting fact of life but something to be expected and uplifted, and venom spewed by the likes of Anita Bryant being treated as gospel rather than ridiculous drool.
Things are better now because of those who came before us. If not for those that stood up at Stonewall, for people that came later like Harvey Milk, things would be much worse than they are. The challenge for LGBT people of today, for progressives today who want to see things change for the better is to emulate the courage of those who stood up in much more difficult times. If we want a better world, we have to work for it just as hard as they did. We have to take a stand, even when it isn't easy, though knowing that our skulls aren't as likely to be bashed in by a cop should give us a little more confidence to stand up for what's right.
On the state level here in Arkansas we've seen some progress, even if it doesn't seem like it. We now have one open member of the LGBT community in the state legislature and there are some folks here who've got our backs. But let's face it, we've got one political party that really, really, really doesn't like us and the other one just wants us to shut up and go away. Oh, but they want our votes so they give us the wink-wink, nod-nod, routine to promise that things will be better for us if they win and then don't want to do a damn thing for us because WE'LL MAKE THEM LOSE!!!!!! It's time to wake up politicians across the state and across the country. Let them know that bigotry is not acceptable and neither is pandering to bigots. We can make gains even here in Arkansas, but only if we rattle the cages and don't back down in channeling the courage of Stonewall.