We Will Overcome

Women’s suffrage activists paved the way for us to be whatever kind of lady we’d like to be.

People say our generation has nothing defining. Our legacy thus far is our dependence on technology and our self-absorbance. We’re called the YouTube generation.  Each generation in America’s history had a right to fight for, a legacy to pass on.  They fought to end out-dated thinking and expand rights not just for themselves, but for millions of others to come.  We’ve reaped the benefits of women’s suffrage, women’s rights, and civil rights movements, and we’ve gone far with them.  Now’s our time to give back. Our opportunity to fight for something enormously important has clearly arrived. Yesterday, President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, and we’re off to the races.

Eleanor Roosevelt speaks to a war-time audience while Rose Pesotta and others listen.

Get on that soapbox, sister!

We see and hear prejudice and injustice all the time toward gay and lesbian couples.  Its coming to light now, but it’s always been there. I currently live in LA, but this issue touched my life years before when I lived in much smaller and more conservative places.  Growing up, I’ve had many friends who were confused or in denial about who they were because same-sex relationships weren’t acceptable.  In the Bible belt, being openly gay is something to be ashamed of or something for others to ridicule.  Our world- the church, the law, the culture- rejects a defining part of them.

As we’ve gotten older, more people are learning to accept themselves as they are, though there are still so many fighting on a daily basis to be accepted by the world, whether that be by denying their identity or by succumbing to a multitude of disapproval.  Why do we stand for it?

These are our friends, our family, our mentors, our coworkers, our soldiers.  We let them fend for themselves. From the seemingly small infractions of ignoring derogatory slang or tolerating someone’s intolerant views, to the much larger picture of not voting for gay rights or not demanding political equality, we stand by and watch.  We accept and love our friends, but we don’t fight for them.  We passively let the policy that governs their lives take its course and hope for the best.

Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, 1960

Sit-ins changed the civil rights movement at a local level.

This week I went to a church service with a friend and heard that just days before, at its denomination’s general conference, a petition for equal rights and acceptance of gay people in the church was rejected despite a heartening movement.  Though the vote was close, a seemingly cold conference room didn’t respond to the petition’s underlying theme that, “though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?  May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?  Without all doubt, we may.” Why do we let our churches, our pastors stand for a belief that we can not stand for?  It is just as much about us a society as it is about the gay community.  Though the movement hits us all differently, it hits us all.

This week North Carolina voted to restrict not just gay marriage rights, but also civil union and common law rights.  Last night, the House of Representatives voted to reinforce a decade old act that prevents gay marriages from being recognized at the federal level.  Four days ago, a man who is very dear to my friend group spoke out for gay marriage rights by sharing his story of loss and injustice via YouTube, and it already has well over a million views.   Everything about this topic is coming to a boil.

Don’t ask don’t tell is repealed, its an election year, and the White House just spoke out. We have a chance to make a difference.  This issue is here, and it’s not going away.  We can either fight to end injustice, and end suffering, or we can live up to the apathetic stereotypes of our generation. I do not like talking about politics or trampling on personal beliefs, but I do not mind one bit sticking my neck out for justice and equality.

Who will be the heroes of our time, who will we build our statues of, and what do we want to tell our children about how we fought for their rights?  This issue is about us all and everyone who is to come because it speaks to our humanity.  We can prevent unhappy marriages between people who are trying to fit into a mold that they don’t fit. We can promote self worth in future generations by giving them the perogative to be secure in their identity.  We can help those who are brave enough to be true to themselves despite financial and cultural backlashes. And in doing so, we can stand for something.