It's been a common mantra coming from the Democratic Party, the Obama Administration, large beltway equality groups like the Human Rights Campaign and many others for years: just be patient and wait. We'll get to you and your basic civil rights eventually, but we're a little busy. Stop griping and hop on board or you'll be a wedge distraction that makes us lose elections.
So how has that plan worked out?
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community has been blamed, cajoled, insulted, courted, and ignored depending on whether our votes and dollars are needed, yet when it comes time for real leadership on issues that matter to basic, day-to-day rights, we are told to wait. Now, after the disastrous midterm elections, we've lost the chance of a generation to push forward on civil rights and equality for LGBT people.
We waited and once again got burned.
In the majority of states, we can still be fired, kicked out of homes, or denied services just for being gay. Want to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs? Make it so I don't lose mine for mentioning I went to the grocery store with my husband over the weekend. Want to talk wars, terrorism, and national defense? Stop kicking out qualified LGBT service members to coddle bigots in the military. Want to talk taxes and "small government"? Stop overtaxing my family because the federal government refuses to recognize my marriage and wants to tell me who I can love.
These are real issues that LGBT people face every day. These are things that impact the lives of those that can't afford to buy their way around discrimination with privilege and cold-hard cash that allows them to "vote with their wallet" over basic human rights. To tell us to wait is to tell us to not live our lives fully and with the confidence in basic things needed to survive.
We've seen the devastating effect that societal oppression of LGBT people has on younger generations as bullying and suicide stories hit the news everyday. Yet have we moved beyond simply lamenting these loses and worked to force change that would make their lives easier? Have we done all we can or are we simply waiting?
We've seen the popping up of groups that go around the "conventional wisdom" of the larger equality organizations, like the Prop 8, DOMA, and DADT court challenges that look to topple bigoted laws that congress, political leaders, and pet lobbyists refuse to tackle or show real leadership on. These very court cases have been mocked and looked at with disdain by politicos, even as they force the progress we need.
We're at a crossroads. We can continue to watch our rights traded away in the name of political "compromise" or we can refuse to wait. We can say that delay is simply being complicit to bigotry. We can demand action and leadership even as we take the fight to the courts and the American public ourselves.
If we don't learn the lessons of the past, history is doomed to repeat itself. We can no longer be patient. We can no longer wait. Equality can happen, but we have to carry the load- each and every one of us. Patience in politics is a fallacy and the death of progress. We have to be agitated and engaged. We have to apply pressure. Waiting is never an option and we must never accept it.
We have to make our issues a priority, because no one else will. Lesson learned.