(c) by Mary Griggs
What was the biggest lesson that the Prop 8 loss in California taught us? That the process of coming out is not complete because it was our friends and families, our coworkers and neighbors who were the ones who voted to deny us civil rights.
The unfortunate fact is that they did so because they did not know the truth of our lives.
In focus groups, panels of straight people who knew LGBT people said they did not believe discrimination was real or nearly bad as was described in the media because their friends or family would have told them if they had experienced these things.
Then, in the lesbian and gay focus groups, participants were asked: Do you share your fears and experiences of discrimination with your straight friends and family? They replied, “No, if they cared they would ask.”
They don’t ask, we don’t tell and rarely do we require them to see with their own eyes the deep harm and real pain inflicted by laws that tell us we are less than our brothers and sisters.
In June of 1978, Harvey Milk said, “Gay people, we will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets… We are coming out! We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions! We are coming out to tell the truth!”
We’ve had thirty-one years since he threw down the gauntlet. In that time many things have changed for the better. But also in that time, thirty states have voted to deny the benefits of marriage to our community. In every parish in Louisiana but Orleans, LGBT people can be fired from their jobs just for being who they are. Military personnel still risk losing their pensions for the unlikely dishonor of loving another. Kids get beat up in school for seeming queer and killed for acting against stereotypical gender roles. All over the nation, same-sex couples are restricted from fostering or adopting while there are children in need going without homes.
In response to those focus groups, there is a project that has been started called Tell 3e. The premise is very simple. Just talk to at least three people about what it means to be or love someone who is LGBT. The more personal and specific you can be the better.
Avoid getting into a political debate. By all means, talk about LGBT politics if it is a part of your personal story. However, conversations about rights and equality are abstract concepts that don’t change people’s hearts and minds the way personal stories do. A story about not being allowed to pick up a prescription for your sick partner or how your boss stopped inviting you to his LSU Bowl game party since you came out are much more powerful than talking in general terms about marriage rights and workplace discrimination.
Once you’ve done so, share your story at their website. Don’t stop there, though. Keep sharing your stories with others. Tell each of those to whom you’ve told your story to tell it to three more people.
These are our lives that are being affected and those who know us should never again be allowed to plead ignorance of how hurtful discrimination is.
It is time to come out.
It is time to tell the truth.
It is time to get equal