I have to admit, I went in completely biased.
Like many of you, I watched the Academy Award acceptance speech with tears in my eyes.
“…if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.”
Like I said, completely
But when he began talking about not settling for “close, but not there”, and not giving up on the vision of panoramic human rights, and overcoming the paralysis of fear- “put your pencil on the paper and start moving it- something has to happen”, I knew my predisposition toward this gentle, fiery soul was completely justified. He talked not so much about activism as the promotion of reality- the reality that LGBT people are everywhere, they just want to love and be loved, and they’re not going away. And he’s right. We aren’t.
Unless we give up.
I sat in a full Ballroom at Montana State university with students, teachers, parents, cowboys and a few kids. This was a crowd that could have been distributed down Main Street, Bozeman, and it wouldn’t have seemed different from the normal pedestrian traffic. People listened to this young man- whose story of a rural Mormon upbringing probably hit close to home to many in the audience, with rapt attention punctuated by laughter and enthusiastic applause. Here was a non-apologetic gay man standing in front of a group in a (generally) conservative state whose constitution explicitly prohibits him from full equality, and his story was received respectfully, even enthusiastically. His story and vision no different from my own.
I then had a realization.
It wasn’t new, it had been knocking on the back door of my brain for a while, but I was now able to hear it. It was this:
I had turned all these people into the bullies from my childhood and young adulthood. I had created an enemy/threat out of people who were probably neither. I was projecting. (The irony of my professional blind spot is not lost on me here) I had imposed my childhood fears on (almost) every Montanan- and I’m not a child. I had allowed this weird, unarticulated fear to hold me back.
I don’t want to do that anymore. So I’m going to pay attention to the injustice sensor whenever it goes off- not just when it’s safe. That was my gift from Dustin Lance Black.
Well, one of them.
He answered my question about religion’s scarring of some LGBT’s with “every religion has something important to say. Mine taught me love and respect of family. …but religion is not its leaders. I wouldn’t listen to the leaders all the time. And anger and hurt about religion didn’t keep me from being spiritual.” He talked with people afterward, meeting every one who waited to see him. Of course, I stood in line.
I got a hug, a brief chat about my crazy life story and was able to thank him for his availability and candor. He thanked me right back. Gracious. From the word grace, meaning “elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action”.
Elegant activism. I think I can do that.