As a gray-haired, 56-year-old lesbian, I don’t have time to wait another generation for equality — it’s been almost 40 years since similar legislation to ENDA was first introduced in Congress. And being polite hasn’t gotten us any closer to it becoming a reality.
When I attended a Democratic National Committee (DNC) fundraiser a few days ago, I brought this sense of urgency. When I blurted out my comments during the first lady’s speech, it was a spontaneous reaction to her saying, “Right now, today, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids.” I needed to speak up for LGBT youth, who make up 40 percent of homeless youth — kicked out onto the street because parents and workplaces won’t accept them for who they are — and for LGBT parents, whose lack of workplace protections imperils their children’s futures.
Some have said that the first lady wasn’t a proper target because she is not an elected official. However, time and again, the first lady has come to our community and asked us to “max out” on our contributions to the DNC. In fact, she had just made the same request of several hundred LGBT attendees, days after Senate Democrats had refused to include same-sex binational couples in their immigration reform bill. Despite the Democratic Party happily cashing LGBT checks, I have not seen the Obama administration “max out” on the myriad ways that the government could protect the LGBT community.
For most of my life, I have been in one closet or another, as my “coming out” process took decades. I remained in the work closet the longest, as a public servant doing environmental and consumer protection work. In the mid-90s, in the final round of interviews for a position I was offered and accepted, I was asked why I was moving to the area. I lied and responded that I was moving to help take care of a “family member.” The interviewer seemed satisfied with the response, not wanting to pry further and assuming it was an elderly parent. In truth, it was my partner of seven years — who I felt I had to hide and whose humanity I felt ashamed to acknowledge.
After years of these lonely, isolating and dehumanizing experiences, I’ve only recently been able to find the strength to advocate for myself and millions of others.