"I used to think that it was anger that motivated me...Then at some point I realized it wasn't really anger that was keeping me going..it was doing the work...Now...I don't think it's either the anger or the labor that keeps us going year after year. It is the love!" My heart was warmed upon hearing these profound words of truth spoken by John J. Duran when he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award from Equality California on Saturday, August 1, 2009 at the Equality Awards held at the Century Plaza Hotel. Equality California was founded in 1998 and ever since has been at the forefront of the struggle for LGBT Equality in the state of California and in the country. In the past decade, EQCA has successfully passed more than 45 pieces of civil rights legislation for the LGBT community - more than any other statewide LGBT organization in the nation, and is working tirelessly for equal marriage rights for LGBT people.
In November, on the day that chickens were given rights, marriage rights were taken away from LGBT people in the state of California. It stung! And well, it stunk! Emotions were mixed on Saturday evening. Even in the elegant ballroom of the Century Plaza Hotel amidst fine wine, food, friends, and loved ones, the pain that we as LGBT people felt on that day was easily accessible. So, when John Duran, (who has been a fierce acitivist in the LGBT community for decades, a multiple term member of West Hollywood's City Council, and a pioneering attorney having won landmark civil rights cases here in Los Angeles) reminded us that it was the love that keeps us going, it was a salve upon my heart. In that moment, I shared with my gay, lesbian, and straight brothers and sisters the experience of knowing that the essence of the love we are made of is what keeps us steadfast on our journey to full equality. It is the love that holds our cells together that compels our full self-expression. It is the love that binds humanity that gives us the courage to keep loving our partners and keep moving forward in the face of ego-based identifications with hatred, anger, and violence.
Judy Chu, who has been one of our staunchest political allies here in California and now at the Federal level, accepted EQCA's Advocate Award that evening. Chu was just sworn into her seat in the House of Representatives as the first Chinese American woman in the U.S. Congress. Upon accepting her award she told her story from early in the decade when she was working diligently towards passing AB 2561, a bill that now protects LGBT youth in the foster system. She shared that when her fundamentalist Chinese critics asked how she could work for LGBT rights, she responded by saying that she had heard heinous stories of hate crimes in both the Asian American communities and LGBT community. She could not possibly work for the rights of one group and not the other. She left us on a triumphant note saying that 127 years ago Californians voted in a law prohibiting whites from marrying Chinese people that was eventually reversed, and that, "Marriage laws are not made in some divine untouchable place beyond the reach of morals, marriage laws are made by humans, Just as humans in the state of California have passed unjust marriage laws, humans can undo them."
Humans can undo them, which Abbe Lande (Mayor of West Hollywood), and I both agreed upon. Lande shared with me that in California the question is not "if" or "how" we will have LGBT rights. The question is only when.
The answer to that question is contingent upon each of us. Whether you are gay or straight, when you stand in the essence of your love and fully express your truth you shine a light upon humanity that cannot be denied. It is in this light that we recognize one another as divine beings. In this place the motivation to stifle another's expression does not exist.
In more mundane terms, research has actually shown that when people know others who are LGB or T (especially friends and family members) and have a better understanding of our true stories, they are more apt to support equality. Therefore, I encourage all of us, whether LGBT or straight allies to talk about the truth of who we are. Share your stories with your families and friends. Let them know that we are still human. We are still brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, cousins, friends, loved ones. We are all loving beings having unique human experiences that deserve to be freely and fully expressed. As we do this I envision a time when we no longer have to hold awards dinners to honor people who stand up for each other regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. In the meantime, I acknowledge all of those who have been honored in this vein along with John Duran and Judy Chu. And, I hereby put out a call to act in love, full self expression, and dialogue to eradicate the hatred and fear that still resides in the hearts of so many who would choose to extinguish the light of another, simply because it shines at a different angle.
You can learn more about Equality California at www.eqca.org
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