In addition to being National Coming Out Day, today is the one-year anniversary of the death of one of the LGBT movement's founding members, Dr. Franklin Kameny. In 1968 Dr. Kameny coined the phrase "gay is good." Since then the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has become visible, active, and dynamic. Public acceptance of the LGBT community is at its highest level ever, and there have been critical historical advancements for LGBT equality at the federal, state, and local levels. Despite these victories LGBT residents still face significant social, spiritual, and legal discrimination. Additionally, LGBT residents have significant health disparities, including higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse, depression, cancer, and obesity or body-image issues. LGBT youth face significant hurdles in coming out, and to an extent, the community still bears the wounds of this process well into adulthood. Gay is indeed good, but it is no longer acceptable to be merely good; we need to be great. To achieve this, we need to increase support of groups that work for our equality, increase our participation in improving our communities' health, and encourage our allies to increase their levels of visible support for LGBT persons.
One of the ways to make this happen is to increase the financial support of organizations that work to achieve equality, strengthen our community, improve health, and affirm the lives of LGBT people. According to the Movement Advancement Project's (MAP) 2011 National LGBT Movement Report, only 3 percent of all LGBT adults have made contributions to a national LBGT organization. This number has to increase. LGBT donors have many options in terms of which organizations to support. If, for some reason, individual donors chose to support non-LGBT nonprofits, it is incumbent on donors to ensure that the organizations they support offer LGBT-supportive and affirming programming, policies, and procedures for their staff. There is an old adage that "more money equals more mission," and if we can increase our support of LGBT-affirming organizations, that will go a long way toward making things great.
Another way to make things great is to increase our personal participation in building healthier and more supportive communities. Getting a regular HIV test and having knowledge of one's status is crucial in preventing the spread of HIV. We should encourage our friends and loved ones to get tested and have frank and open conversations about whether or not we practice safe sex. We need to feel comfortable intervening when our friends drink and drug too much. These conversations aren't easy, but they are effective. It is also important to encourage our friends to get regular cancer screenings and create spaces for positive discussions around obesity and body-image issues. Additionally, we should try and be nicer to one another, both online and in places where we socialize. Don't we get enough negative messages from outside sources?
Finally, we should expect and ask more of our allies. It is great that some of our openly gay heroes have been acknowledged with honors like the President's Medal of Freedom for their contributions in all walks of life, but shouldn't we acknowledge some of the great LGBT civil-rights leaders for their work on equality? It is also fantastic that nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have fully inclusive workplace nondiscrimination policies for their workers, and that numerous companies have fought with us for marriage equality, but it would be equally nice to see positive LGBT images that are mixed into advertising campaigns that reach all audiences, not just niche marketing campaigns. It would also be great if our allies in state and local governments would support campaigns that promote positive awareness of the transgender community, like the recent campaign in Washington, D.C. An increase in more integrated, positive LGBT messages can go a long way toward breaking down the barriers between our communities and making it great for everyone.
Today, on National Coming Out Day and the first anniversary of Dr. Kameny's death, his assertion that "gay is good" is very true and remains an invaluable affirmation of the dignity and courage of our community. It would be a fitting tribute to Frank if we increased support of our institutions, made a new commitment to civic engagement to improve the health of our community, and continued to inspire our allies to do more. Thanks again, Frank. Let's make LGBT great.
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