News of President Obama's historic support for marriage equality -- his early Pride gift -- reached me nearly a week late. Within Internet range for the first time in days, I was sitting in a cramped cyber café in the village of Namche Bazar, near Mount Everest in Nepal, when I saw an e-mail headlined "Please thank President Obama!"
Although I was steering clear of work-related matters, that message just had to mean good news. And sure enough, even half the planet away, it was thrilling. I admit that, being deeply and happily in traveler mode at the time, I didn't read all the instant analyses rocketing around the Internet. But then not much thought was needed to grasp what a giant step forward this was.
Pride 2012 comes at a time of breathtaking change, when each morning's newspaper seems to reveal a new entry for the history books. For what we're seeing is far more than the happy resolution of one president's evolution.
Just two weeks ago, the Ninth Circuit denied further appeal by the backers of Prop 8. The First Circuit ruled part of the odious Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Polls tell us that most Americans favor marriage equality -- not just domestic partnership, but marriage -- while overwhelming majorities endorse non-discrimination in housing and employment. Schools across the country have grown a bit safer for our youth. Transgender people just won a landmark employment protection decision at the EEOC.
Even the Pentagon -- the Pentagon! -- is celebrating gay pride.
Beyond our own shores, LGBT rights are -- at long last -- beginning to be acknowledged as human rights. Countries from Latin America to Europe to Africa to, yes, Nepal now have protections for LGBT rights stronger than we do in America. Pride parades pour through Sao Paulo and Bogotá as well as New York; through Tokyo, Taipei, and Johannesburg as well as San Francisco.
History and heroes
A long, long gap yawns, of course, between the state of LGBT rights today and the full promise of equality, freedom, and justice. Things are far from perfect in the U.S., much less around a world in which millions of LGBT people suffer and fear.
Yet there is so very much is happening that it could be tempting to start thinking of such lightning progress -- perhaps unconsciously -- as inevitable. That, I believe, would be a mistake. History doesn't move inexorably toward freedom and justice. It moves because of the work and generosity and sacrifices of millions of individuals. Determined, smart, courageous, proud people, from city to city, ocean to ocean, nation to nation.
At the annual Pride-week LGBT film festival here in San Francisco, I've just seen powerful documentaries about both Audre Lorde and Vito Russo, two genuine heroes of our movement. Two who dared not only to dream, but to demand, freedom and justice. Leaders who, undaunted by overwhelming odds and epic hostility, inspired thousands more to dream and demand.
But heroes like Vito Russo and Audre Lorde -- and a pantheon of others -- don't move us forward alone. It takes millions. We -- LGBT people and our allies -- make that happen. Every time we support an LGBT organization; every time we march in a parade or demonstration; every time we volunteer; every we take care of our LGBT friends. Every time we dance with someone we love.
Indeed, every day that any LGBT person is proud, that we defy the waves of messages that have labeled us sick or damned or criminal, we help push the world toward a day when freedom and justice are real for all of us, all the time, all over the world.
So celebrate this Pride season -- and keep pushing.