Associate Director Park Center of Independent Media
Park School of Communications
I was a youngster when I first became aware of the disparity of rights among peoples. Although I grew up in the United States -- the land of plenty -- in a relatively privileged home, with attentive parents, I knew that not everyone shared my good fortune. As a girl, I was struck by the inequity between males and females -- in the workplace, in churches (I had not yet been introduced to synagogues or mosques or other religious institutions), in schools, and in public life in general. I made friends with Black Americans and was horrified to discover up close and personal that more than a century after the U.S. Civil War my friends were still being discriminated against in every aspect of their lives. I could not stand by idly while my friends and compatriots, my brothers and sisters in humanity, were being treated badly; soon I joined the fight for civil rights, for women's rights, for all people's rights.
I cannot be a silent bystander when any member of any "minority" is mistreated or denied the same rights that the privileged majority enjoys. I believe in that key phrase from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, with the gender anomaly rectified for the late 19th century: "All [people] are created equal." I'd add to this, "and it is a duty, a privilege, an honor, and a deeply felt joy to stand up and defend this foundational tenet of the United States."
Because mine was a sheltered life heavily influenced by Christian religiosity, it would be a few more years before I became aware of the struggles of lesbian and gay people. It would be even more years before I began to contemplate how soul-searing it would be to be born into the wrong body -- and to comprehend the pain and difficulty of being transgender. When I did, again I could not stand by idly while my LGBT siblings were being denied the rights that they deserve simply by being born -- let alone being born in the United States of America, which prides itself on being the democratic, inclusive land of the free.
Today I am pleased to number many LGBT people among my family and close friends; I am "aunt" to beloved children of lesbian couples and gay couples. I am thankful to have grown past the ignorance of my childhood and the close-mindedness with which I was first mistaught about homosexuality and transgenderdom. It is time for all LGBT people to be protected by law until this slow-to-change society grows to accept them. Eventually it will be a matter of course that our LGBT sisters and brothers are treated equally in every aspect of the cultural, legal, economic, professional, educational, and institutional arenas of life in the United States. For now, there must be legal protection and guarantee of equal rights.
Social injustice of any kind is intolerable. I hope that LGBT people who are struggling for equal rights remember that they are part of a larger struggle of the oppressed against those who would oppress them. I hope to see LGBT supporters out marching for African Americans' rights; for women's rights; for the rights of the elderly, the young, and the poor; for media reform; to help and support Hurricane Katrina victims; for legislation to help victims of genocide in Burma and Sudan; for an end to harassment of Arabs and Muslims just because of their "ethnicity"; for an end to unwarranted search and seizure of those who are caught "driving while Black." And at the same time I urge my friends whose primary interest is another of these causes to remember to also support LGBT issues.
We must act together, because there is strength in numbers, and the strongest number is one.