Hope Realized

     In honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, NBC news has been soliciting input from their viewers.  Their idea?  To have people create a brief videotaped message completing the following statement:

“I have a dream that__________________________”

     It struck my interest as I heard it in passing and it has stayed with me the last few days, so I thought I might take a stab at it on the ‘ol blog but before I do, one bit of context.

     A few weeks ago my little brother who is an elementary school vice-principal, sent me a document via email.  It was a copy of a district/state policy advising faculty and staff how to deal with transgendered students.  This policy was pretty direct and to the point.  My simple summary of it would be: transgendered students have a right to attend school without being harassed or made to feel excluded and faculty and staff have an obligation to eliminate or minimize any harmful effects of being a sexual minority on campus.  As I read it, I became emotional and wrote him back thanking him for passing it along…(I just went back and read the email and here’s a portion of what I said): “…the thought that little ones are being raised in an environment where policies like this are in place gives me hope.  Of course we can’t legislate tolerance and understanding anymore than the Right can legislate their notions of morality, but the enforced progressive policies of today, lay the groundwork for the ‘norm’ of tomorrow.”

Okay, so, back to my “dream:”

…I have a dream that before I die, our country will have progressed to the point where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals will live in freedom, possessing the same, exact rights as all other citizens and existing absent of any externally imposed discrimination or fear.

…I have a dream that in my lifetime, LGBT individuals:

  • will be able to legally marry in all 50 states if they so choose
  • who are in loving, committed legal relationships will never be denied partner rights that heterosexual couples take for granted
  • will be able to attend proms and school functions with the people they choose
  • will appear more often in popular media, in local and national leadership positions and will be seen, if deserving based on their merits, as role models for our young people
  • will be able to attend school where painful and degrading words, slurs and jokes will not be tolerated, rather they will be viewed as an unwelcome rarity
  • will be increasingly welcomed back to churches that once condemned them
  • will openly play professional sports alongside their “straight” teammates and will be cheered with equal vigor
  • will be taught at home and at school that they are not an abnormality but rather, a beautiful statistical minority, who add to the complex tapestry of humanity
  • will never, never , never again live in fear simply because of who they are and who they love.

While I am hopeful, I am far from certain that these things will occur in my lifetime.  But the times…they are a changin’.

     I grow weary and a bit perturbed with all the “talking heads” on television who presume to speak for Dr. King…who presume to know what he would say currently or how he would have continued to conduct his affairs.  So in a conscious attempt to NOT do that, let me simply say that while I have no idea what ground he would be staking or what issues he would be willing to be beaten and jailed for today, I hope that LGBT civil rights would be one of them.

But here’s what others ARE saying:

     Representative John Lewis, the last surviving podium speaker from the original March on Washington and long-time civil rights activist has said: “I fought too long and too hard to end discrimination based on race and color, to not stand up against discrimination against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’…Human rights, civil rights, these are issues of dignity.  Every human being walking this Earth, whether gay, lesbian, straight, or transgendered, is entitled to the same rights.  It is in keeping with America’s promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

     Julian Bond, the first president of the Southern Poverty Law Center and former president of the NAACP stated: “LGBT rights are civil rights.  No parallel between movements is exact. But like race, our sexuality and gender identity aren’t preferences. They are immutable, unchangeable – and the constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.”

     And Archbishop Desmond Tutu, an icon of our own time who is no stranger to oppression, suffering and the fight for justice, declared: “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this…I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

So world, I guess that’s “my dream”…my hope for the future.  But meanwhile here in the present, right now, I am alive to witness amazing changes: old voices and new, black and white, straight and gay, all speaking up for equal rights and respect for all people.

Hope realized…

I’ll close with the words of Bayard Rustin, a black, gay man who was one of the primary organizers of Dr. King’s March on Washington, 50 years ago this Wednesday:

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

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