I was standing at a bus stop in one of the safest, pro-LGBT communities in the state of Michigan. Even there, I still could hear the word: faggot.
I checked my surroundings. My entire body tensed up. I looked to see if any police or campus security were around. Two frat boys to my side hugged each other. The one in pink said, "Yeah, whatever." This is not uncommon, not even in Ann Arbor.
Even though my situation was a false alarm, we need to quit dancing on the end zone and wake up: The LGBT rights movement hasn't won anything here. We are still separate and unequal. Too many people don't understand that just because Republicans aren't talking about oppressing us doesn't mean we aren't still at risk under their leadership.
We can get fired for being honest. We can be discriminated against for being adopted. We can't get married. Many of the benefits from our legal marriages from other states are invalid. All state and local institutions are barred from offering health insurance to our partners. Out of those five forms of discrimination against our community, every single one was either written into law under governor Rick Snyder (R-MI), who avoided talking about gay rights to seem moderate, or defended by his Republican attorney general, Bill Schuette.
Now another Republican is entering into the race without much talk about the gay community, just like Gov. Snyder. Her name is Terri Lynn Land. The GOP strategy is to hope voters don't show up like in 2010, where more than a million Michiganders failed to vote when they had voted in 2008.
Are we so easily fooled? Terri Lynn Land was a Republican national committeewoman and voted for their agenda which included a ban on gay marriage. During her first interview after announcing her candidacy she said she believes in "traditional marriage between a man and a woman." And yet plenty of heterosexual allies think that she's neutral because, well, she isn't talking about it all the time. We have a duty to speak up and let our friends and family know her record.
It's also important to stand for something, not just against someone. As someone who served in the U.S. Navy under the overt government discrimination program known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I can tell you that there is someone in this Michigan Senate race who is a champion for our community, who actually does care about us.
Gary Peters didn't just vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the house of representatives, he championed the vote alongside other progressive veterans like Patrick Murphy. He's proud of that vote and even puts it on his campaign page. His positions on LGBT rights are just as enlightened when it comes to our workplaces, our schools and in our courts.
The fact is, we haven't won in Michigan. We aren't even close. This election may come down to who shows up to vote. The simple question is: Have you talked to your family and friends? Have you done your part to register people to vote, knocked on doors, or talked to your coworkers about what marriage equality means to you?
Because if there's one thing I don't want, if there's one thing none of us should want, it's to be sitting after election day feeling guilty, wondering if there was more we could have done. Here in Michigan, we need to elect a champion for LGBT rights in the United States Senate. We need to get to start spreading the word about Gary Peters.