THE BLOG
06/23/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Love, Authenticity and the Joy of Service

In the frenzy -- what we call "organized chaos" -- leading up to Primary Election Day, which is tomorrow here in Maryland, I'd like to take a step back and speak once more, not only to the voters but to all my readers. The other day Stephanie Schriock, President of Emily's List (which has endorsed me for Maryland State Senate), said running for office is the bravest thing anyone can do, especially when you don't meet the stereotype of a political candidate (in general, white man, or, in my case, gay white man). Her words got me thinking about my life and how bravery has manifested for me and for those I love. It made me think about how everyday acts of valor and fearlessness can change the world.

As I've mentioned during my campaign, I'm indebted to my opponent's courage to run as the first openly gay person in Maryland. He has made my campaign conceivable, and for that I am grateful. While I believe it's my turn, as I bring different, needed life experiences, skills and wisdom to the challenges that lie ahead of us, I can't help but feel that I'm another link in a chain of uniquely American progress.

So what is bravery? I know men who landed on the beaches of Normandy, fought their way across France and Germany and liberated extermination camps. I also know women who struggle every day to feed their families and work multiple jobs to create a better future for themselves. They are all courageous. The bravest thing I have ever done is simply be myself, though it was no simple task. My parents, family and friends all showed fortitude and grace in the face of my transition, and my children rose with resilience to the challenge. In the face of all those childhood stories of my family acting with dignity in the face of Nazi terror or risking their lives for democracy, I never thought my time for courageousness would come. But it did, and I have been privileged to make my contributions to the greater good.

I often tell fragments of my story, but I have yet to put it all together for publication. I have said little about my upbringing in the Orthodox Jewish community -- an upbringing that powerfully informed my ethical code when it comes to social and economic justice and provided me with the tools to reach across the aisle and treat everyone with respect. I don't generally talk about the consequences of the physical and emotional trauma that led to kidney failure, cardiac arrest and PTSD. Those aspects of my early history had a profound impact on my struggles to be an engaged member of society. I didn't realize it at the time, but fighting through everyday struggles and overcoming mountains of adversity was my greatest challenge. It was far from easy, but these struggles have made me the woman I am today.

There have been years when I was shut down emotionally and struggled to provide for my family. At times my shyness was crippling, but with the love of my spouse and children, I was able to forge ahead. I tapped into the work ethic and habits of self-discipline and responsibility inculcated into me as a child by my parents and lived my life to the best of my ability. It's difficult to revisit those years and the powerful feelings they evoke, but while my story may be somewhat unique, my time on the campaign trail has shown me that I am not alone. Many of my friends and neighbors have moved through their own lives overcoming adversities just as challenging. Getting to know them has been a humbling experience and has reinforced the joy of public service.

Looking back, what stays with me, often evoked by a song or a smell, is the love I've been fortunate enough to give and receive. My parents and grandparents grew up and worked in an America either at war or mired in serious economic times. In spite of that, or maybe because of it, they loved me with a fierceness I don't often see today. My children have dealt with great difficulties growing up on two continents with multiple parents, but they have shown remarkable hardiness. Receiving their gratitude for being a good parent, and being able to reciprocate that love as they've entered adulthood, is one of my greatest achievements.

I've been blessed by being married to two wonderful women whose friendships over 45 years have been the anchor of my life. Having good friends whose presence is as real when we're apart as it is when we come together to celebrate our joys and mourn our losses, as happened just last week in New York, is a remarkable gift. Having developed new friendships through my transition to my authentic self was an achievement I never imagined possible, but one for which I am immensely grateful. It was the love of a woman that helped me find my voice and mission and allowed me to accept that not everyone will be happy with my advocacy and political engagement. There's a quotation often attributed to Churchill: "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."

This is more of my story, and while I don't feel very courageous for having gotten to this point, recognizing the actions of others that qualify as brave allows me to appreciate what I've accomplished, and, more importantly, to understand how to nurture courage and fearlessness in others. We owe it to ourselves, as well as to our children, to act with wisdom, maturity and dignity, and I will continue to do my best to repair my little portion of the world.

If I win tomorrow, I will be privileged to continue my public service as a Maryland state senator. If not, I wish my opponent the best, and I will continue to work for all in the most productive manner I am able.