Last night we had a wonderful event in the store. A reception for the local pride center. It was very well attended and we both were happy to host.
The Pride Center has been doing outreach to Tracy. One of their missions is to create safe spaces for LGBT youth. They support educational and training programs for those who interact with LGBT adolescents. They host annual Proms for LGBT students. It’s hard, but important work.
Visibility today is easier than it was when Mark and I were young. Even more so than when pioneers like Harvey Milk were kicking down closet doors. While society and culture have become more accepting, LGBT youth still face many challenges.
Last night the Executive Director of the Pride Center intimated a story that resonated with me. He told the story of a young man who was thrown out of his home because he is gay. The local county shelters would not give him a place to stay. Had it not been for a good Samaritan, the youth would have found himself on the street.
This is less common today than it was in the past, but it is still shocking. It is a parable of how easy it is to become disposable due to difference. In these moments we make the most vulnerable of us invisible.
One could ask how a parent can do this to their child. What creed or believe would cause someone to turn their back on their own flesh and blood? It is sadly why so many young LGBT individuals find themselves living in the shadows. Taking risks and living with fear that most of their heterosexual counterparts don’t experience.
For me though the anger was directed at the system. How on earth does a shelter turn away someone in need? It galls me no end that personal beliefs still have sway within our institutions that are supposed to serve all of us.
ALL of us.
Those most in need. Those most vulnerable. Those for which the system was set up to assist.
We have a lot of work still to do. Everyone should have equal access, equal opportunity and equal respect for who they are as an individual regardless of their difference. Our promise as a culture and nation depend on this, otherwise the sacred words of our founding documents will remain unfulfilled.
The Executive Director asked me if we had any issues with flying the pride flag so prominently in our store window here in Tracy. The answer is and will always be “no”. Our flag has flown proudly for LGBT events like last nights and every June from the 1st-30th.
Our flag flew during the overturning of Prop 8 and DOMA. It flew when marriage equality finally became the law of the land. For us, the Pride flag is more than a symbol, it's a statement.
Mark and I firmly believe that Harvey was right. Until those of us who are LGBT come out and share our truth without fear or reservation, then nothing will change. We must not be invisible.
Mark and I are old veterans of the AIDS fight in the 90’s. We had our moments with Act Up, the Quilt, handing out condoms in public sex environments and clean needles to addicts. We did the work when we were called on.
But the work never ends. It takes a new generation to lead the fight for the future. That’s why it was heartening to see so many young people last night. It’s great to see the mantle and legacy have been passed on to capable hands.