On May 4, 2015, a grassroots coalition representing 100 groups launched an initiative called "Our Tomorrow" designed to hear from the LGBTQ community how they see their lives today and their concerns for the future. You can still add your voice to those LGBTQ people across the country who have joined the conversation about our future at www.shareourtomorrow.org.
Just looking at the comments and words used to describe the feelings of those who responded to the initiative thus far it could be easy to conclude we didn't need this initiative. Anyone who has worked in the fight for civil and human rights for the LGBTQ community could have told you what people would say.
Responses were divided into three categories; Hopes, Fears and Ideas. The answers weren't surprising. Hopes included that LGBTQ people aren't finished pushing for full "equality" and "acceptance." They hope for an "inclusive" future that values "diversity" and where LGBTQ people have more legal "rights," where they receive "respect" and "support" from their family, and where they can feel "safe."
Fears included worry that "society" won't change overnight, and we could even experience a "backlash." Participants fear "discrimination" will persist, and that LGBTQ people across the country will still be subject to "violence" and "hate," particularly from "religious" communities. They worry the movement will forget its "history" and fail to learn from the "past."
And the ideas focused on "educating" people about our community and making the movement more "inclusive." Some examples of individual responses from the website are; "Begin modeling another way of relating to those who think differently than we do. The hatefulness has got to be replaced with modeling a way of understanding and compassion- Geoff, Tulsa. One thing our community can do to make our tomorrow brighter is to do more to reach out to diverse sectors and include them. Also, listen to their stories and educate ourselves on different cultures- Darren, Denver, CO. One thing our movement can do to make tomorrow brighter is to get more people involved. We need to show people that we are not backing down from them and that we are a FORCE to be Reckoned With!- Monique, Evansville, IN. As a movement we need to increase legislation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. But individually we need to be open, honest and educated. The more people see us as people the less we can be dehumanized by the masses. It is not us versus them; it is all of us trying desperately to find our way in life- Kristin, Abingdon, VA. Don't assume that successes (ballot initiatives, marriage bans being declared unconstitutional, etc.) are instantly going to change someone's mind. There is still work to be done to win people over who may oppose marriage equality or whatever the issue is. Consider what we can do to bring others to our side -- Ryan, Silver Spring, MD"
As a long-time, older, white LGBT activist (one still not comfortable adding the Q or additional letters to the acronym) I could have written this without asking for anyone else's opinion. But that is part of the problem existing today within the leadership of the LGBTQ community. We can enunciate the problems and intellectually share the fears and hopes of the broader community; but most of us don't really feel them in our daily lives.
We have yet to invite and include a younger and more diverse group of LGBTQ activists to help lead us into the future. We have moved the LGBTQ community forward in legal terms with lightning speed. We have succeeded in ridding ourselves of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; passed hate crimes legislation; and are on the precipice of winning a guarantee of marriage-equality from the Supreme Court.
Yet members of the LGBTQ community are still beaten up for being who they are. Can marry one day and be fired and turned away from accommodations the next. Young LGBTQ people are bullied in school and thrown out of their families because they tell them they are gay and told they can't worship in many churches because of who god made them.
We need only look to the African American community to understand even with full equality under the law, changing a culture, people's hearts and minds, doesn't come easily. The massacre based on hate and fear in the church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a stark reminder of that. Women are not included in the Constitution and we can't pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
So to make the "Our Tomorrow" initiative valuable it must have a lasting impact. That will only happen if it is followed up with action. The current leadership in the LGBTQ community must take to heart and act on the fact there is a lack of diversity in our leadership, including racial diversity, gender diversity and age diversity. If the "Our Tomorrow" initiative promotes real change it will have accomplished something. This will not be easy and first must come recognition and acceptance that leadership cannot be based on wealth or white male privilege alone.
One way to move forward may be to have a "Summit for Our Tomorrow" sponsored by the LGBTQ's major civil rights organizations. They must ensure every group within the LGBTQ community is equally represented at such a meeting. The outcome must be a blueprint for equality in our own community leading to making the future leadership of all our organizations representative of the community as a whole. Outcomes must include development of new initiatives planned with the input of those who are impacted by them, and ensuring they have a leadership role in moving them forward.
It is only together we can respond to the hopes and fears of members of the LGBTQ community as enunciated in "Our Tomorrow" and ensure this and future generations can live safe, secure and happy lives with full civil and human rights and acceptance within the greater community.