Friday, October 5, 2012

A Very Queer Story: Reflections on LGBT History Month

This post was penned by Tabias, one of our fabulous interns

When thinking about the meaning of “LGBTHistory Month,” as with other designated months (Black History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, etc), I almost always have the same gut reaction. This has less to do with the successes of these individual groups, many of which I proudly belong to, than it does with the idea that our histories and triumphs exist in a vacuum, independent of each other. Our siloed months of celebrations leave unsuspecting celebrants to believe that there are quite distinct communities in this nation when, in fact, our triumphs and our identities have always intersected. Deep within our souls we all know that LGBT History Month has always been Black History Month, just as it has and will always be Native American Heritage Month, Women’s History Month and so forth. My point here is that in our zeal to identify primarily, or at least visibly, with particular portions of our identity we must always remember that our identities form and reform each other in particular, known and unknown ways. We must remember that our greatest call in life is not simply to love each other, but to recognize the complexities of living, being human, and loving through the (mis)understandings. Our greatest, most confounding strengths lay in our diversity of experiences, traditions and ways of knowing.

Now that I’ve said all this, let us celebrate how far we’ve come.

By now we can agree that American History has always been a Queer History, but until recently, it was uncouth to state such a thing publicly. It was just a few years ago that (some of) America began to contemplate the possibility of a same-gender loving President Lincoln. Today, we have out and proud office holders across the country like Annise Parker, the first openly Lesbian mayor of a major city (Houston), Massachusetts’ newly married Congressman Barney Frank, and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who could be the first out lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate this fall.

We’ve also made a great deal of progress across professions and mediums regardless of race or gender. Perhaps most exciting and unexpected this year, at least to my peers, was the coming out of Hip Hop/R&B star Frank Ocean as bisexual and his decision to sing about his same-gender first love with the full support of the Hip Hop and R&B industry.

Here at GLAD, we have our own contributions to celebrate. Chief among them are many victories won by Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto, who is being honored this month by the Equality Forum as an LGBT Icon of 2012. Mary’s photo is gracing the Equality Forum’s home page today, in keeping with the organization’s tradition of dedicating a day of this month to each of the 31 LGBT people it is honoring as an Icon of History.

Mary was a pivotal player in GLAD’s marriage victories in Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut, in addition to winning groundbreaking legal victories in family courts across New England to secure the rights of LGBT parents. She is currently the lead counsel in our two successful lawsuits against Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), either (or both) of which could be heading to the U.S. Supreme Court early next year. We’re all proud to celebrate, and join the Equality Forum in recognizing Mary as an LGBT Icon of 2012.

While there is undoubtedly a great deal of work to be done on many fronts, especially in regard to HIV treatment, prevention and criminalization; the realization of full marriage equality for everyone; and complete protections against discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation, we have a great deal to celebrate. I can only imagine what those who came before us, such as Bayard Rustin and Gloria Anzaldúa would think if they could see the heights we’ve reached from their shoulders. I can most certainly see Gloria imploring us to push further, to be bolder and to work harder.

“Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”
-Gloria Anzaldua

“When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity upon him”
-Bayard Rustin

No comments: