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Scout, Ph.D.

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It's Time to Ask Our Friends and Family for LGBT Equality

Posted: 10/04/2012 3:01 pm

Republicans should fear LGBT people. Why? Because for us the election isn't just about "the economy, stupid!" It's about our whole lives. If we activate our passion for equality, LGBT people can carry this election.

I envy the Americans who "aren't very political." Maybe all their friends can legally marry. Or they haven't had any friends whose kids are bullied at school. Or they don't know anyone who tried to commit suicide as a teenager. Maybe their formative years weren't littered with friends being beaten up, then afraid to go to the police because that could bring more hostility. I presume they can even talk about their personal lives at work without fearing repercussions or even firing. Wow.

I wish that were my life, but it's so clearly not. Who knows what I would be doing with my life if I hadn't been put in a mental hospital and diagnosed as "homosexual" at the age of 17. If I hadn't been part of a mass LGBT firing at one job, then endured my bosses' jokes about exterminating me and all other LGBT people at the next.

Decades later, I still feel the twist in my gut at how we are treated. This week I read the story of a lesbian cancer survivor whose family told her when she was diagnosed, "We hope you die." Weeks ago a friend of mine called to tell me that a transgender woman of color she knew had just been beaten and killed. Yes, it's sometimes even about marriage, like months ago, when my own proposal to my girlfriend attracted a stream of hate speech on Internet forums. It was horrible to wake up and read that a stranger wanted to douse my new fiancée in gas and set her alight.

I dream of a world where the economy is the only problem for LGBT people.

Professionally, I do not and will not lobby. But this situation ethically compels me to take that professional hat far off my head and use my own time now to testify as a private citizen. The truth that needs to be told is this: In my whole adult life, one single event has created more advancements for LGBT equality at more levels in the United States than anything else: electing Obama as president. But so much more needs to be done, and in a month we choose whether or not to keep Obama in the White House.

So it's time, everyone. Think of every one of your LGBT friends whose partner has no health insurance, who is afraid to come out at work, who isn't invited home for Thanksgiving. Let's get in touch with our outrage and use our passion for equality to carry this election. Let's show elected officials that LGBT discrimination may be part of our country's past, but it's not part of our future.

If you're like me, you don't live in a swing state or near a heated Congressional race; our votes aren't as decisive. So let's not stop at just our own voting; let's activate our social networks. Long ago I heard a group of national pollsters give their verdict on the most effective strategy to turn out LGBT-supportive voters: People came out to vote for our rights when an LGBT friend or family member personally asked them. So let's ask. Let's reach out to all of our friends and family in battleground states now, before voter registration starts closing this week.

Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Colorado are the biggest swing states in terms of electoral votes. We all know people there, right? I bet you do. Let's all tell our truth now, speaking up on Facebook and with direct calls and emails to people in these states. Let's call our friends in Broomfield, Colo., Largo, Fla., and every swing state in between. Tell them that now is the time; if they care about us, they need to register and vote for people who support our equality. (You can register people to vote here. You can also verify whether you have an important congressional race here.)

Don't let any of us be lulled by optimistic polls. I, for one, have spent too much of my life with a government that treats me as a second-class citizen to be complacent. Let's not let up until the election itself.

If each of us uses our social networks to reach into those swing states and bring new voters to the polls, it will be the most powerful step toward equality we can take this year. If you are LGBT, if anyone in your family is LGBT, if you have an LGBT friend, then let each one bring one now.

 

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