I stood at the frontlines of democracy this week, filled with hope in the political process and that the momentum we've seen across the nation this year would sweep the halls of the New York State Legislature as well. I watched our lawmakers vote on bill after bill in the final days of the 2014 legislative session and prayed that two live-saving measures for the LGBT community would come to the floor for votes.
Like the school bully popping balloons at the annual picnic, I was deflated by how LGBT issues were rendered invisible and did not come to pass.
In the walls of New York State government though this week, I witnessed failure that punctured our collective ego. I felt the kind of disappointment we continue to feel each time one of our community members falls victim to hate, or some generally respectable media outlet publishes something terribly ignorant, homophobic or transphobic. It's enough to make one's blood boil and turn passive observers into impassioned activists. It's enough for those on the frontlines, like the organization I am a part of, the Empire State Pride Agenda, to feel defeated after endless hours of lobbying, rallying, strategizing, organizing, and generally pounding the pavement to create social change.
GENDA, of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, and a bill that would end the dangerous practice of conversion therapy on LGBT minors, both failed to become law. They were not defeated; rather, they were simply not prioritized on the agenda and never came to a vote, rendering our community invisible. While we're no stranger to invisibility, it's easy to lose the pride that we carried into the Senate chamber following the strong passage of both bills in the Assembly the week prior. Meanwhile, each day that these laws are not in place, LGBT youth and transgender New Yorkers of all ages remain unprotected and vulnerable to harm.
Our Senators this session debated about whether yogurt should be the official snack of New York. I watched as they passed legislation that banned people from taking selfies with big, jungle cats. I'm every bit as much a cat lover as the next lesbian, but certainly there are laws more critical to our lives and are well-being than some of what sucked up the air in the Senate chamber in the final days of session.
The progress we've made this year is almost too numerous to count. It's hard to keep up with cascade of states that now recognize our marriages, the federal policy changes that equalize our rights, and the increasing number of LGBT people -- and transgender people in particular -- who have graced the pages of major magazines, earned headlines in newspapers, and represented our lives and experiences on network television and award-winning moves and shows. I mean, who hasn't thought, if I were still 14, I'd want a poster of Laverne Cox on my bedroom wall? She is EPIC!
We are making huge strides at rapid pace towards full equality under the law and in representation in media, and for that we should be incredibly proud.
Paralleling all the progress, though, is our continued marginalization. When bills that have bipartisan support in the legislature and the general population fail to come to a vote, a strong message is sent LGBT issues continue to take the backseat to other, more important issues. Like selfies. And yogurt.
It's easy to want to throw in the towel in those moments of defeat. That's where our pride comes in. It is precisely because of our perseverance in the face of hate and ignorance, and because we continue to stand together, proud in the face of loss and discrimination, that this year's defeat will turn into next year's success.
As we pull ourselves back up and wipe off the loss, we are held up by those before us who took to the streets that fateful night at Stonewall and refused to remain victims. We are leap years closer to equal rights because of their brave sweat and tears and we carry on the fight in their honor.
On this 2014 Pride, we proudly stand taller than ever and commit to carrying on the fight until we've reached the finish line and no one is left behind.
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