By Kaylia Metcalfe
By the time this issue comes out, I will have become a mother. (I am due any second now, typing between contractions, so I feel pretty confident that the world will have a new LGBT-er or straight ally by then.)
Of course, impending motherhood has been on my mind for months now, but one thing that I keep thinking about is the world that my little Fishy will grow up in—and how that world is both vastly different and in some ways shockingly similar to the world that faced my mother as she typed through her own contractions.
I was born in 1980, the year that Mel Boozer made history at the Democratic National Convention as he, an openly gay candidate for vice president, gave a speech. At that same convention, the Democratic Party, for the first time, added a plank in its national platform that dealt with the LGBT community: “All groups must be protected from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, language, age, sex or sexual orientation.”
In 1980, the Democrats were battling Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party, which was in the process of becoming increasingly cozy with the Religious Right. That election was all about morality and sex—specifically abortion, homosexuality, birth control and pornography.
It is interesting to note that these issues still play a large role* in the Republican Party’s platform. Interesting and sad. Have we really progressed so little in the last 32 years?
Well, yes, we have progressed, but with each step forward we take, the walls of hate and bigotry that face us attempt to rise up even taller and thwart our journey to equality.
There was GRIDS, which became AIDS, and that still haunts us today. There was the pulling of funding, violence and the Supreme Court ruling against sodomy. There was Matthew Sheppard and hate crimes and school shootings fueled by homophobia. There were and still are hundreds of examples of inequality, discrimination and struggles.
But let’s not forget that in the last 32 years, huge strides have been taken for the LGBT community: marriage equality is slowly making its presence known, the military allows gay and lesbian service members, domestic partnerships have been awarded, civil unions have been allowed, family medical leave acts have been instituted, sodomy laws have been overturned, gay adoption practices have been upheld, anti-bullying laws have taken effect, DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) is under attack, equal protection under the law ordinances and anti-discrimination laws have been passed to protect employment, housing, medical rights, etc.
And, despite the fear mongering and hand wringing, we have every reason to think that things really will continue to get better.
Of course, we can’t sit idly by and wait. Equality doesn’t come via a surprise gift under the holiday tree. It is bought and paid for by our sacrifices and our activism.
By our votes.
Next month, we will have the opportunity to communicate with our elected officials, to, with a click of a chad or a push of a button, declare ourselves part of the process.
The deadline to register to vote in November’s election is Oct. 22. But why wait? You can download the form online, fill it out and mail it in. Forms are available at any Post Office, DMV office and most libraries. You can drop off completed forms at the Fresno Registrar of Voters office to make doubly sure that you will have your chance to express your opinions.
If you aren’t sure if you are registered, think back to June. Did you vote? Did you get invited to vote? Have you moved since the last time you voted?
Voting: It matters. “Not voting is surrendering to those that do.”
I like to think that someday my little Fishy will be all grown up and expecting her first child. As she waits out her own contractions (or those of her partner or surrogate), I wonder what sort of world she will be facing.
It is our responsibility to make sure that the generation that follows us has it better than we did, to continue the work that started at Stonewall and to vote.
- Register online at http://registertovote.org/index.html.
- Obtain an actual voter registration form at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/register-to-vote/app-pdf/english-blank.pdf. Print, fill out and mail or drop off the form at the Fresno Registrar of Voters (2221 Kern St., Fresno, CA 93721; 559-600-8683).
*Of course, there are always discussions of foreign policy, jobs, the economy and special social issues such as immigration or healthcare, but if you were to narrow down the wedge issues, the things that get an extra large portion of national attention, and the topics that people decide going solely on their gut or their religion it would be these sexual topics. These things are controversial and they make for good press and even better sound bites. Nothing seems to bring people out to vote like the chance to regulate someone else’s sex life.
Kaylia Metcalfe is a writer, blogger and activist in Fresno. She is a cofounder of Skeptics Without a Cause and serves on the Gay Central Valley Board of Directors. Her short story collection “Links” is available at www.amazon.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.