Recognize Our LGBT Leaders Now, Not Just Later
Okay so I was originally going to wait on writing this until I felt better but my last article got my creative and expressive synapses all in a flutter. Earlier today, I was writing about Miley Cyrus and how she’s being a great advocate for supporting the LGBT community. While I was randomly deciding on whether or not I like her latest hair style, I started thinking about our community as I often do and how we recognize each other and the accomplishments towards true equality. I also reflect on how we recognize those that that actively make contributions to this ideal. They are not being honored, at least not the way they should be.
What comes to mind today is why so often in our society places much more emphasis and attention given to the celebrities and movie stars for their support than the ones truly doing the work everyday? Those leaders that are up everyday, from dawn to dusk, out championing for us, refusing to accept anything other than equal rights. We are sadly more likely to hear and see a cooled response from allies than the greats like Dan Savage that demand we be treated fairly and equally. Why does there always have to be that “safe bridge” or the person known in the majority group be heard more often and their words are seen as more significant?
I read about the creative and innovative practices of LGBT leaders everyday. Yet on any given day stories like Miley’s two or three words of support will have more weight in our society than the people that fight and at times risk their lives to ensure that each generation has it easier than before. So that our burdens are not our future’s burden. So that they will be safe from being fired from their jobs, marry the one they love, or walk down the street not being afraid someone will attack them or worse for being gay. So they can be who they are anywhere and everywhere.
Far too often, we hear and momentarily praise the achievements of fighters like Richard Adams during special events and ceremonies when stories like this happen everyday. I want to hear more about stories like Perry Watkins braving against the government so he could serve our country as an openly gay man while they still walk among us. Entertainers like April Ashley remembered only during special ceremonies. People like Frank Kameny that dedicated his life to the cause so we would not experience the same wrongs he set out to make right. So many stories like this heard too infrequently.
When you only hear about these incredible men and women at the end it feels like it was only a footnote in history when they were so much more than that. Their journey alone was remarkable, and the path that they set out for us should never be forgotten, And it certainly shouldn’t be in a few short paragraphs summing up their accomplishments only to be remembered during anniversaries or LGBT History Month.
It aggravates and frustrates me that this happens so often and reminds me of what my great aunt told me as a child, “whenever there is a river dividing right and wrong, the wrong side’s shit still floats downstream”. Pardoning the language, she was right. We always see words of the people that aren’t having to fight nearly as hard sail through while many times our words and the brave actions of our leaders sink to the bottom. We still carry the words of others more than we do of our own. And as a blogger, I am sometimes guilty of this too. And I can do better. We can always do better.
I can only liken this experience to my race, something that I often do because in many ways the reactions to issues are interchangeable. You’d be surprised of the similarities between the two. So often when there is a discussion of racial strife and divide within the African American community the problem is addressed many times by African American leaders, often and repeatedly. Only much later, when the problem is addressed by someone else, usually a straight, Caucasian male, is the issue given any weight and credibility. It’s disconcerting when you witness more people give weight to a movie director’s words of Quentin Tarantino and his fictional tale is praised while African American leaders or writers like Al Sharpton or Spike Lee, who have said the same thing (but more eloquently and are more historically accurate) are rarely given the time of day.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against praising the people that are our allies. The people that get up and fight along side us for every scrap of victory that we are afforded. We still need them as we all need support each other, regardless of the community we are from. And I humbly and profusely thank them for their love and support. But we also need to recognize those within the community that make it possible for those celebrities to know about us and our struggle. Far too often, the only time we hear about the great works of an LGBT leader is when they have met their maker, either through natural causes, or more nefarious means. It shouldn’t be that way. We shouldn’t wait to hear and appreciate the great works of those great activists until after they’re gone. The world needs to know them now.