Since attending the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., columnist Josh Fernandez has gained an appreciation for improved attitudes shown toward the gay community.
I was sitting in my apartment last Sunday with a cup of coffee in one hand and a copy of Naked Lunch in the other, getting ready for a stroll in William S. Burrough’s acid-trip world, when my BlackBerry buzzed. On the other end was a friend from back home, eager to catch up. I was excited to hear from this friend, so I put aside my book and coffee and chatted with her about everything from family goings-on to my mountain of homework.
I mentioned that the upcoming week would be busy for the Queer Student Union Executive Board, myself included, because National Coming Out Week 2009 started the next morning.
Then, the conversation shifted to the ages at which people come out.
My friend said her next-door neighbor, a 14-year-old girl, told her about a friend at her school who came out.
“She told me her friend comes from a very religious family,” my friend said, “and his parents would kick him out if they knew he was gay.”
At that point, every hair on my arms stood. A chill ran down my spine. Suddenly, the mountain of homework on my coffee table didn’t matter much.
The girl, my friend explained, comes from a family rooted in ignorance, but in spite of her surroundings, the young girl was upset that her gay friend could be tossed out of his house like a garbage bag.
It shouldn’t surprise me that our society is moving progressively in favor of the LGBTQ community. It shouldn’t surprise me that each generation is more accepting than the last.
But when I see even the slightest shred of evidence that someone young from my hometown is this supportive, it gives me hope, something I’ve been missing lately – and something no person should be without.
“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope,” the late Harvey Milk – the first openly gay politician ever elected to public office – once said. “And you have to give them hope, hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the ‘us’es’ will give up.”
I want to share my renewed hope, in the names of people like Matthew Shepard, a gay student from Laramie, Wyo., whose murder led to attempts at expanding federal hate-crime law, and Milk – people who’ve been hurt for being LGBTQ.
To accomplish this, I went to the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., Oct. 10-11.
At first, I was against marching in the nation’s capital because I have LGBTQ concerns on a state level. LGBTQ Pennsylvanians are denied certain rights, basic rights unrelated to marriage equality or the right to serve openly in the military.
Staying here to win a battle of a smaller scale at OutFest, where Senatorial candidates Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak were in attendance, seemed like a better idea.
But after my epiphany of hope, I decided to be greedy. I’m starving for recognition as a citizen of equal status when I’m standing next to my straight counterparts. Equality is the twinkle in my eye, and there’s no way to rid me of that twinkle until everyone in the LGBTQ community acquires equality.
And if that means we need Congress to see us in numbers on their lawns, so be it.
So I went to Washington, D.C., with my friends. We participated in the array of events and attended the many speaking panels. We met LGBTQ people from across the country. And on Sunday, after staying up ridiculously late, we woke up exhausted, threw on our “Legalize Gay” T-shirts and marched to the west lawn at the U.S. Capitol.
Our drive home was silent, yet triumphant.
It was difficult waking up Monday. I was drained, and I had a Mount Everest-sized pile of homework waiting for me. But being a part of something so historic was worth the agony of having to spend another night catching up on Naked Lunch.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.