Originally Heard on the John Selig Outspoken Podcast
The LGBT community has continued to gain acceptance in the mainstream because we have continued to come out to our families, friends, coworkers, neighbors and society as a whole. Coming out is powerful. Not only does it increase our own sense of self worth and enhance our self–confidence, it also puts a face on who we are.
As we share our stories with those around us it is much more difficult for them to dismiss stories about gays being denied rights that they hear in the media. It is difficult for them to accept, carte blanche, the hate speech that spews forth from pulpits across the country each Sunday. It is more difficult to support any politician who runs on an anti–gay platform. When we come out the “they” that is referred to by those who are fighting against us becomes real live human beings that touch their lives.
Those that oppose us want to depersonalize us by attacking a foreign, scary, devilish, dangerous group that is out to overthrow their values, abduct their children and turn their lives upside down. When names and faces become attached to the supposed LGBT demons our supposed horns begin to retract and our attackers desired impact deflates.
Our rights are argued by society at large and the media often reflects opinions against us. But make no mistake about it, our rights are legislated at the national, state and local levels by elected officials and adjudicated from the bench. Our continued struggle to gain equality necessitates out taking an ever more active role in our government.
Whenever there is an election, any election, we must vote and make our voices heard. That requires us to stay informed on the issues and how those running for office will vote when it comes to legislation impacting the LGBT community. It means writing letters to the editor of our local newspapers. It means speaking out to those around us and asking them to keep us in mind as they vote at their polling booths.
It means something else as well. We must take the extra step to meet with our state legislators and take the time to come out to them. When we share our stories with politicians we should remind them that as they serve in office they are representing us along with their other constituents. It will be harder for our state representatives and senators to support anti–gay legislation when they can put a face on how such legislation can hurt their constituents. Not only must we meet with them, so must our loved ones and those who support us.
As Paul Scott so eloquently pointed out, 90% of the laws that impact the lives of the LGBT community are not enacted at the federal level. Yet, we probably spend 99% of the time we discuss politics talking about the policies coming out of Washington, D.C. Certainly all of us should remain engaged at national level. As importantly, however, we must engage at the state and local level as well. Thank heavens for the work being done by Paul Scott and Equality Texas and their compatriots in each of the other states and the District of Columbia.
I just went to equaltytexas.org and clicked on the “Take Action” link at the bottom of their home page. I entered my zip code including its four–digit extension. In less than fifteen seconds from entering the Equality Texas site I had the contact information for my U.S. Senators and Representative as well as both my Texas State Senator and Representative.
To be honest, I had no idea who my Texas State Representative was and I have obviously have never taken the time to contact him by phone, email or in person. As it turns out, his office is a mere1.1 miles from where I live. Even though the Texas State Legislature will not be back in session until January 2009 I have just made it a top priority to pay a visit to Texas State Representative Dan Branch as soon as possible. He is a Republican and his voting record on LGBT issues is not a pretty one. Rep. Branch is about to learn about one of his constituents and about the impact of his voting record on my life.
I challenge each of you to do the same! Check your own state’s LGBT Advocacy organization. I have reviewed the listing on equalityfederation.org’s site by clicking on their link “Find Your State Group” and I noticed that they had direct links to advocacy organizations in forty–six states plus Washington, D.C. Only Alaska, Delaware, Nevada and West Virginia were not represented. Go visit your state senator and representative. And remember to vote!
© 2007 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.