Yesterday was the real start of something for me. I never saw myself as an advocate or a spokesperson for something other than myself. I tried my hand at it back at university which amounted to me realizing I cared more about myself than starting anything important to inspire the world. For the last few months, I’ve seared myself next to two advocates for queer rights. Both have been on the ground running for years because of past negative experiences and their person want and need for change in the community. They both experienced the bad and now need to make the world better. That wasn’t me. I saw the bad happen, but stupidly sat on the sidelines.
Growing up, the very idea of gay was met with negativity. New York City and San Francisco were as fantastical as the Shire or Narnia. The idea of drag queens and trans people were almost unknown. The toxic masculinity blanketed everything without knowing what that meant or entailed. I remembered many times my classmates called me one derivative or another of sissy. Hell, I said on multiple occasions I would never use the word ‘fabulous’ in part because it’s associations with the gay community. The only time I even spoke of my sexuality before college was in the arms of the boy next door in whispered voices or on the internet with the girl I thought I liked.
College brought acceptance and that sudden change meant I could somehow care less about the tertiary things. It was a complete mental jump from negativity perceptions to acceptance, but even as my group accepted me, I never really faced the reality of my situation. My life was good, so I guess i thought that i could ignore everything else.
I got involved years after I moved here. I wanted my job at LITM to throw some sort of queer event, and after talking with my friend, I figured a women’s event would be amazing. I connected with Hudson Pride Center, and they created the first of many Lez-Fest events began. But, that just started my connections and my path towards being another leader in the community.
My closest friends are both advocates for the community. I grew to know both of them outside of their advocacy, but we grew close due to events surrounding Hudson Pride Center and the community. I tagged along for many most of them and event threw events of my own, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I actually got what they do and why they do it. And that leaves me feeling guilty for not doing more.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple. The ruling was quick to note that it only affected this particular instance. I saw posts about the irritation and sadness at the ruling and looked into it myself. My friends had already begun to do their own research into it and talk to whoever they could or needed to do they could make sense of it. It was then I realize how little I had done before. I used to just get angry and move about my day. It was misplaced and without real knowledge of the situation.
Now, I get it. Things like this aren’t about cake. Sure, the baker made it about art and free speech, but it created something much worse. It created a gray area of discrimination that other people couple exploit and use it to demoralize or negatively impact those they treat as ‘other’. It’s a trying time for a community that made so many strides forward in the last decade. And it continues to be trying.
I have to say I’ve changed a lot within the last few years, and continue to grow and change. The man I’ve become would be almost unnoticeable from the kid I used to be. And that’s a good thing. The man is kind and works towards change while the kid is self centered and naive. They’re both optimistic and hopeful, but the man is willing to work for that better future.