Thanksgiving for a Turning Point

November 21, 2012

November used to be the cruelest month for LGBT people. 32 times a majority of voters legalized discrimination, denying the rights of gay men and lesbians to marry. Every time, it was a tough blow. And then, a couple of weeks later, we would have a national day of Thanksgiving. For gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people, it was difficult to be thankful. How can you be thankful in a nation that denies your citizenship?

But this year, LGBT people have a great deal to be thankful for. We can be thankful that the majority in three states voted to guarantee our right to marry. In a fourth state, a majority voted against enshrining discrimination in the state constitution. In a fifth state, a judge who upheld our right to marry kept his seat.

We can be thankful that for the first time in history our President declared his support for marriage equality — and got reelected. We can be grateful for a Vice President who recognizes transgender discrimination as the civil rights issue of our time. Their support helped in all five of those initiative battles. We can be thankful that for the first time in history a major political party put a marriage equality plank into its platform.

We can be thankful that the polls continue to show that a majority of Americans support marriage equality and the trendline is rising.

We have passed the tipping point and we can be thankful for that.

We can be thankful for the cultural shift in our nation — a cultural shift that has happened because a handful of drag queens and homeless teens fought back at Stonewall. We can be thankful that it sparked a revolution. We can be grateful that brave men and women organized gay liberation groups in New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles and Chicago — and that the movement spread from there to other cities and college campuses and across the oceans to other countries. We can be thankful that we invented ourselves as a community, learned how to define our own identities, created our own institutions, and finally established ourselves as a powerful voting bloc.

We can be grateful that we have had so many courageous lesbians and gay men stepping up to confront all the different issues we have faced. Win or lose, we have heroes as diverse as Harvey Milk and Tammy Baldwin and Leonard Matlovich and Margarethe Cammermeyer and Barney Frank and Roberta Achtenberg and Morris Kight and all the others who stepped up.

We can be grateful to our families: our parents and siblings who have loved us and supported us. And for some of us—those whose families were not supportive—we can be grateful that we have a community that understands.

We can be grateful for our straight friends and allies who have stood up for us, not because we asked, but because it was the right thing to do.

We can be grateful that the horrendous suicide rate of gay teenagers has finally been recognized as a national epidemic. We can be grateful that bullying in our schools is finally being challenged.

We can be grateful for the breakthroughs in the fight against HIV, that it is no longer a death sentence. We can be grateful for all those who have worked so hard to reach this point; while there is still so much work yet to do, we can be grateful that so much work has already been done.

Those of us who have life-partners, we can be grateful that the law is changing to recognize our relationships. Those of us who have adopted children into our families, we can be grateful that we have been able to build families. We can be grateful to the hard working women who fought to change the child custody laws in many states. Those of us who are finally able to marry in our home states, we can be grateful for the tireless efforts of all those who made it possible.

For LGBT people, this is a year when we have much to be grateful for. Thanksgiving has always been a joyous celebration of the harvest, and this year, we are harvesting four decades of plowing, seeding, fertilizing, and nurturing the crop of compassion, understanding, and recognition.

No, we have not completed our journey, there is still a long way to go, there are still many challenges and many obstacles, not just here at home, but all over the world. But we can be grateful this year that we have established a beachhead, that we have reached a place to stand. This year we can be grateful for the knowledge that our time has come and that we are not going to be rolled back.

We can be grateful for our strength, for our vision, for our commitment, for the victories we have won, and even for the challenges that still lie ahead, because as they test us, they will also strengthen us.

We can be grateful for our lives. We did not get here by accident. We got here because we worked hard for it. And we can be thankful that we are here to enjoy the benefits of our labors. (by David Gerrold)

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