When you make your signs at home (out of poster board and that paint you've had in your closet for years), and you take to the streets to stand up for what you believe in, that takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of strength to continue to explain who and what you are to people who don't understand. It's hard to know that gay people are still one of the only demographics against whom it's both legal and socially acceptable to discriminate in some parts of this country. It's hard when you feel, on a daily basis, that weight of your family, your church, your country, and you know, deep in your heart, that you're different from them. It's discouraging that these people, this community, this world may never understand you, never accept you. What do you do? How do you go on? Well, do you really want to turn around now and walk back through all that shit you just walked through? I wouldn't. No, the only way out of this mess it to keep walking forward. But how?
"All men are created equal" is a true statement, but the second after we are created, we are divided. The rich over here and the poor over there. The jews here and the Catholics there. The Americans can stay where they are, and the foreigners can go stand in the back over there. We may be created equal, but we don't end up that way.
I once had a conversation with a black man who was saying that I don't know what it's like to be discriminated against because I'm not black. I could feel the steam coming out of my ears. I told him that they have names for people like me, just as they have names for people like him. Suddenly we were playing the racial/social equivalent of "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." He raised the issue of Southern lynchings. I raised the issue of Matthew Shepard. He hit me with slavery. I hit him back with the Holocaust. We sparred back and forth like this for a few minutes, until I realized for the first time that we really are equal. While our experiences are different, he and I have both been fighting for the same thing.
One thing I didn't say to my black friend was that he could at least claim sanctuary within his own home. When he would come home from a day of bullying in the schoolyard, teased and taunted for the color of his skin, he would come home to a family that understood him because their skin was the same color as his. How many gay individuals do you know who grew up in homes with gay parents? One? Maybe two? There are very few gay people were actually raised by gay people. Most of us come from heterosexual parents who tried desperately to figure out where they went wrong and tried with all their might to understand us. What my black friend didn't say to me was that he had hundreds and hundreds of years of struggle on me. His fight has been going on much longer than mine. Yes, he could claim sanctuary in his home, but every home his family had known had also known this struggle. The country was built on the backs of his ancestors, and the roots of discrimination run deep in his circles.
Yes, gays, blacks, Hispanics -- we all have things that set us apart and allow us to one-up our neighbor, but that doesn't mean we don't (or can't) understand each other's fight. All men are created equal, and no matter how we are divided and how different we become, we are still equal in our fight for equality.
But again, what do you do when fatigue sets in? How many times are you knocked down before you stay down?
Here is the part where I could put a cliché little phrase and convince you to never give up. I could read you a Hallmark card of inspiration about how it's always darkest before the dawn -- but I won't. Yes, it gets better, but I won't bullshit you and tell you that it's going to get better for you right now, because I don't know you and don't know your situation. In all honesty, it's probably going to get harder. If you live in a state where you know you're outnumbered and overpowered by those who oppose you, I can tell you that you have a long road of struggle ahead of you.
Sure, you can lose your strength, and your voice can go weak and quiet. But the one thing you can't ever lose is your hope. Many of us will fall and never know how it feels to be seen as an equal in the eyes of those around us, but you should never lose hope that one day, one of us is going to. All it takes is one. One person breaks through the walls of the closed-minded, and you know what happens? That person, or those people, are now infected with the love and the knowledge that you have. It's only a matter of time before it spreads.
Come out. Tell the world who you are. Show the world that you're a human being who is worthy of every good thing life has to offer. Your most powerful weapon in this fight is pride in yourself and the knowledge you possess. Knowledge is your power, and I encourage all of you to swing that sword as hard as you can. And when you get tired and you feel like failure is your only option, turn around and look back on those who have come before you. Remember that the ground you fight on was built higher by those who have fought and fallen. When you get tired, look around you and see the other minorities by your side, fighting their fight as well, and know that you're not alone in this. When you get tired, think of the ones who will come after you and how much taller they will walk because of the work being done now -- by you.
No matter who you are or how insignificant you may feel, your existence has already done more for this cause than you think. When fatigue sets in, remember that.
Then get your ass back out there.