On January 21st, our President gave an awe-inspiring and historic address that linked women’s rights, civil rights and the struggle for LGBT freedom: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” marking the first time the LGBT community has ever been mentioned in an inaugural address.
Obama’s most stirring words, however, came several moments earlier when he said, “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”
When I heard the words, I began to cry and shout for joy…for America’s first black president had squarely placed the gay community’s defining struggle into the mainstream of the nation’s fight for equality, alongside the women’s movement and the African-American civil rights struggle. With the President coming out for marriage equality in 2012, along with his moving inaugural declaration: the embrace of mutual interests between the African-American and LGBT communities holds bright political promise for the future.
At this year’s 25th Creating Change conference in Atlanta which took place in late January, I was proud to celebrate and organize with nearly 3500 activists working in the frontlines for social change. As a collective, over 300 workshops, trainings, caucuses, films, receptions, meetings and events were organized as there are many challenges remaining to support those fighting for immigration, reproductive, labor, and economic rights…for we are not a one-issue movement! I arrived before the conference began to attend the Racial Justice Institute and the first-ever ED/CEO Institute which was truly inspiring. I returned home: exhausted and ecstatic; drained but charged up; ready to sleep and ready to rock the LGBT movement and the world.
It is clear that we have made steady progress but I am also struck by how uneven the transformational change continues to be; all one has to do is reflect on this past month’s peripatetic range of events:
*President Obama included LGBT Americans and immigrants a major element of his January 28th speech on immigration reform; and a new HuffPost/YouGov poll which was conducted Jan. 29-30 found that 45% of Americans support granting LGBT Americans the same rights to sponsor their spouses for residency, while 38% are opposed and 17 percent said they’re not sure.
*After roundly defeating the Patriots, Baltimore Ravens linebacker and LGBT ally Brendan Ayanbadejo reflecting on the media attention he would receive with his upcoming Super Bowl appearance sent an email to “Brian Ellner, a leading marriage-equality advocate with whom he had worked before, and Michael Skolnik, the political director for Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul who has become involved in many issues, including same-sex marriage,” as Frank Bruni wrote for the New York Times. “Is there anything I can do for marriage equality or anti-bullying over the next couple of weeks to harness this Super Bowl media?” Ayanbejo asked in a 4am email.
But on a discordant note, in the lead-up to the Super Bowl, Chris Culliver, cornerback for the 49ers, publicly announced that he was against the idea of playing with a gay teammate; he later was pressured to apologize after the 49ers management offered their own. Many LGBT advocates and allies were outraged at what many understood to be an act of bigotry aimed at gay athletes.
These two events were significant not only for the sports community but for larger society and reflect the nation’s pulse, and this national dialogue is sparking activism from often surprising quarters. That is why I love sports: it includes much of what makes America both beautiful and ugly. Which is why all the discussion concerning gay rights and marriage equality at this year’s Super Bowl was so potentially groundbreaking, even if much of it was so disagreeable. In the end, for gay players to come out, more brave straight teammates like Ayanbadejo need to step up publicly to continue to change hearts and minds.
*And finally, even though President Obama stated February 3rd that the Boy of America should end its divisive ban on gay members and Scout leaders, its Board of Directors on Wednesday decided to form a task force to further “study” the issue, upholding its discriminatory policy in the interim.
As my central role model in life, black lesbian poet Audre Lorde once said, “The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.”
Until Next Month In Pride…..