iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Seth Santoro

GET UPDATES FROM Seth Santoro
 

9-Million Strong and Counting

Posted: 03/20/2013 7:57 pm

The Vision

To inspire the world, one by one, to shift the paradigm on marriage equality. Oh, it's coming, all right.

The Latest

In a dramatic, influential and poignant video for the Human Rights Campaign, our next president (fingers crossed!), Hillary Rodham Clinton, voiced some powerful words of wisdom, encouragement and support for marriage equality and reiterated her belief that gay rights are human rights. Amen! I've been saying that all along.

Not only does their daughter have gay friends, but the Clintons have traveled extensively and have borne witness to extraordinary cultures and experiences. At the end of the day, though, they are real people with real problems, just like the rest of us, and through their wealth of exposure, they have learned to be open, accepting and nonjudgmental.

Over the next few months nine imperfect Supreme Court justices, each one shaded by their own religious and moral beliefs, will either put a temporary kibosh on the human rights issue known as "marriage equality" or have the unparalleled opportunity to lay the groundwork and set a new standard for marriage equality issues around the globe. Thank you, AFER, for all your hard work!

For those of us who are not politicians or attorneys, what can we do to help right now?

The Facts

If 58 percent of Americans currently support "same-sex marriage" (not my words; I prefer "marriage equality") and 64 percent think it's inevitable, what's taking so long?

In April 2011 the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law found that roughly 3.5 percent of Americans, or approximately 9 million people, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Moreover, the study found that 8.2 percent of Americans (19 million) have engaged in sexual behavior with someone of the same sex, and 11 percent (25.6 million) admit to having experienced same-sex attractions.

Similarly, in a Gallup poll published in October 2012, 3.4 percent of those questioned identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, while 92.2 percent said they were not and 4.4 percent said they didn't know or refused to answer (ah, those contrarian, non-affirmative individuals, gay and straight alike!).

The LGBTQ family is large. How many LGBTQ people do you think there are in the United States? According to the above figures, there are approximately 9 million of us, roughly the population of Los Angeles County. Am I the only person who feels that that estimate is low? True, I have chosen to live in more LGBTQ-friendly metropolises, and the majority of my friends live in the gayborhood. I understand that that is not the norm. In fact, I grew up mostly in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where the state motto is "Live Free or Die," and based upon my experience, I still contest that the 3.4-percent figure is low.

There have been attempts to gather data on the global LGBTQ population, and it tends to fall between 3 and 5 percent of the world's population. That's anywhere between 210 and 350 million people, which is roughly equivalent to the population of the United States!

There is always strength in numbers. OK, now what?

The Solution

Travel the world. Experience new cultures. Learn new languages. Talk to people. Share your experiences. Set an example. Listen. Live. Be authentic. Be yourself. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Homophobia is merely a result of a lack of LGBTQ influence in someone's life. It's the perpetuation of the misinterpretation of previously accepted religious doctrines over thousands of years. Simply put, those "misguided" individuals need an LGBTQ friend or relative, or they need to listen.

There's a reason that in ancient times, we LGBTQ people were the mystics, the healers and the seers. Now we must rise above those who trespass against us; we must be the bigger person in any and all situations; and we must forgive those who persecute others, because they just do not know better. Remember Maya Angelou's adage: When you know better, you do better.

Let's say that there are 9 million LGBTQ Americans. If each one of us embodied openness, acceptance and authenticity each and every day and worked to shift the mindsets of 34 non-affirming individuals, all 314 million Americans could stand to be an incredible and unstoppable beacon of hope for the world. Only we can inspire this paradigm shift.

In order to win this equality battle, we LGBTQ individuals must be examples of acceptance. We must be pillars of authenticity, respect and love when all lights go out and all hope is lost. It is in those darkest moments that we and our allies must carry the light of openness, universality and equality with passion and fervor, with liberty and justice for all.

The time is here. The time is now. The quicker we all engage, the quicker we all succeed.

So let's start today. Know who you are! Embrace who you are! Be who you are! You never know when you might just shift the mindset of someone else.

 
 
 

Follow Seth Santoro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sethesantoro

FOLLOW GAY VOICES