THE BLOG
01/21/2015 05:38 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

While Waiting for a Leader Like Dr. King, I'm Learning to Use My Own Voice

It's no mere coincidence that the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear endgame freedom-to-marry cases on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I take the synchronicity as a sign that hope for equality is alive and well in America. It bolsters my confidence that all people will soon have the freedom to marry whom they love. And secretly, it helps me believe we're still getting help from the spirit of Dr. King to move us forward.

That may sound a little supernatural, but the truth is that I need Dr. King's leadership in 2015. I long for his strength, his resolve, his command, and the safe harbor of his dream. Most of all, I long for his magnificent voice -- a voice that people trusted when they were scared and a voice that transformed fear to inspire millions of people into civic action.

With a turn of phrase, elongation of a syllable, or elevation of tone that could scale mountains, King moved audiences to vote, protest in the streets, serve the poor, and love one another. His voice oriented a generation moving through a dark night of America's soul. It's not just his message that resonates more than 50 years later, it's the southern preacher's God-filled voice that echoes through time.

On Friday, after the Supreme Court announcement was made, I had an opportunity to offer my reaction to the local Nashville news. Rushing to the interview, my mind raced with all the things I wished to say. Even though I've been somewhat embarrassed that Tennessee is a domino yet to fall toward social justice, I wanted to express pride that my home state is now helping to accelerate marriage equality across the land. I wanted to discuss the many protections that legal marriage will offer lgbt families, especially those with children.

And I wanted to share my excitement that I, too, will finally have the option to marry. That's a big deal considering that I had long written off the prospect of finding someone with whom to share my life. Recently, I've been dating a man who's causing me to re-evaluate plans. Marriage equality's not just theoretical for me anymore; it's suddenly very personal.

Once the camera started rolling, though, my chest was jumbled full of words and emotion, and I couldn't squeeze anything meaningful from my mouth. When the reporter asked a question, I stammered and lost my verve. After four takes, I was able to string along a few sentences, letting viewers know they were were witnessing "the beginning of the end of inequality in America." That's the sound byte that made it on air. Good enough.

I spent part of MLK Day reflecting on the experience and once again listened to Dr. King's voice as a guide. I was reminded of these words he offered in a 1957 speech: "If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward."

A leader of King's caliber has yet to emerge and inspire lgbt people in this new era of civil rights battles. On Friday, in want of such a leader, I was asked to use my own voice. While it was as shaky as the leg of a newborn calf, I did it.

On behalf of lgbt youth and adults who feel they have no voice at all, I'm willing to keep stammering and crawling... until I fully find my own voice and learn how to fly.

Maybe I can learn to be the leader I'm longing for.