I am like many parents in that I am biased about my kids. I think my children are cool, interesting people who make the world a better place. To say that I love them would be a preposterous understatement.
I also know that listening to people ramble on about their “youngins” is as interesting as going to a friend’s house for dinner and being subjected to the 500 slides from last summer’s amazing trip to the Grand Canyon. “Oh look, there is my Aunt Bonnie riding a donkey down to the canyon floor. Isn’t that just the greatest thing?” No, it isn’t. Great for you and Aunt Bonnie, maybe, but for the rest of us it is just tedious.
So, I am aware that what I am about to say risks producing a Grand Canyon slide show effect on all of you. I am going to tell you something about my kids, but not because I want to brag on them and have you join me in celebrating their specialness. I have bigger fish to fry here than mere sentimentality.
For the last 12-15 years of my life, civil rights for the LGBT community has been the central social issue for me. It’s not that other issues/causes are not important, but my energy and time has been primarily focused in this direction.
What that means is that many times over the last decade I have been bitterly disappointed. The words and actions of political and religious leaders, as well as family and friends who do not believe in equal protection under the law for the LGBT community, have often angered me and left me despondent. It is easy to give up hope that the world will change when 65% of your neighbors in this state vote to amend the constitution just so the discriminatory law forbidding marriage equality gets doubly re-enforced. We get it already--you don’t want the queer folk getting married. How many pieces of legislation do you need to pass to make your damn point!
This is where my kids come into the mix. My son, Stephen, is a junior at Appalachian State University. When he was in high school he was a terrific baseball player. He gave his heart and soul to the game. For that reason it would have been easy to label him a typical jock, but he wasn’t.
During his senior year Stephen took a Creative Writing class and had to produce a short story. He wrote a poignant tale about a gay high school student living in a conservative world where it was dangerous to come out. For a straight, 17-year-old boy who spent most of his time in the homophobic sports world to write such an insightful piece moved me tears. The compassion and wisdom Stephen demonstrated in creating that story gave me hope.
My daughter, Allie, is a senior in high school now. She is a fierce and proud ally for her LGBT friends. Last year she had to write a paper in school about a civil rights movement in U.S. history and she chose the Stonewall riots as her topic. I will never forget her delight when she learned it was the drag queens who led the way in standing up to the discrimination and abuse foisted on the LGBT community by the New York police. Rain or shine Allie goes to Pride every year and marches. The passion and resolve she demonstrates in her advocacy work gives me hope.
Yes, my kids are cool, interesting people and you would be lucky to know them. But that is not why I risked showing you the family “slide show.” Maintaining hope is the most important of all human achievements. It may also be the most difficult achievement. The forces working against equality for all people are powerful and too often successful. The temptation to give in to despair is a struggle to resist. The example of my kids, and thousands like them across this country, provides me that precious hope, makes me want to fight intolerance and helps me combat the snare of cynicism. I am grateful.