No matter what… celebrate!

2013PrideFlagMy first San Francisco Pride took place 21 years ago. I’d become involved in planning the 1993 March on Washington, and someone had obtained the giant rainbow flag, the one that stretches for something like half a city block. Dozens of volunteers carried it. My job was to walk alongside and exhort spectators to toss money into the flag.

By the end, I’d shouted myself hoarse but had lived a magical hour. I’ll never forget turning onto Market Street down near the Embarcadero, looking up through that canyon of buildings, the street lined with thousands of excited people, and that vast flag in front, its colors fluttering in the morning breeze.

We all have our “first Pride” stories, chapters in our own tales of awareness, acceptance, and embrace. This time of year, especially if you’re a victim of “Pride Day fatigue” – that “been there, done that” feeling – take a moment to remember your first Pride. I’ll bet you can remember the thrill, the sense of discovery, celebration, and simple power, too.

Holding Our Breath
This year’s Pride feels a little different. Right now, it’s as though we’re holding our collective breath. We’re keeping an eye on Supreme Court blogs and legal listservs waiting for The Decisions to come down. It might be tomorrow – or not until June 27, the very eve of Pride weekend –and the last day of the court’s term.

For us, of course, these decisions will be more than headlining news items; they’ll be more than historic events. They’ll be markers – important markers – along our road to equality, justice, and freedom.

No Matter What. . .
The Decisions, though, don’t tell the whole story. Not by any means. For irrespective of what nine justices have to say, I know three things to be true this Pride.

First, we have an enormous amount to be proud of. Just look at where our community stands today – now 12 states plus D.C. with marriage equality. More openly LGBT people in public office than ever before. Soldiers getting married. Nearly 60% of Californians voicing support for same-sex marriage, and even higher percentages favoring nondiscrimination protections.

We – all of us, together, no matter what the Supreme Court rules – are moving a mountain. Rock by rock, and after we’ve chipped away, decade after decade, that mountain has started to crumble under the weight of its own falsehoods.  And that’s something to be deeply proud of, in this Pride season and for many to come.

Second: we’ll still have a lot of mountain to move however wonderful – or disappointing – the rulings turn out to be. Except in the most optimistic scenarios, same-sex couples will continue to be excluded from marriage equality in more than 70% of the United States. Public opinion trends notwithstanding, in more than half of the states, it will still be legal to fire someone for being LGBT. Life hasn’t gotten better yet for tens of thousands of LGBT youth who are surrounded by hostility and ignorance. In Russia, “gay propaganda” has just been outlawed, with severe penalties promised those brave enough to defy the ban.

Third, it’s our individual and collective pride that will propel us to keep at that mountain. We know that we demand, as we always have, no more than equality. No more than simple justice. No more than freedom. Nor do we – nor will we – accept less than full equality, justice, and freedom. No proud people would. 

. . . Celebrate!
The freedom we’ve always sought includes the freedom to celebrate – to celebrate ourselves, to mark each of our journeys from shame to pride, from isolation to community, from powerlessness to power. Freedom to celebrate what we’ve accomplished – together.

That immense rainbow flag that rippled down Market Street was held up by many, many hands. The flurries of coins tossed into it came from many pockets. The shouts arose from many voices. And whatever the Supreme Court says, it’s just that – all of us, acting and giving together – that will win us what we all have dreamed of for so long.

As every year, with gratitude and pride,

Roger Doughty, Executive Director of Horizons Foundation

RD sig 09_2007 first thinRoger Doughty
Executive Director

“…Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall…”

There it was. Right there in the President’s inaugural address, about three quarters through. “The most evident of truths,” he stated, is “that all of us are created equal,” and that this truth “is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall….”U.S. President Barack Obama gives his first speech during his inauguration ceremony as the 44th President of the United States in Washington

Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall. Sites of events that proclaimed, each so bravely in its day, that women, that African Americans, that LGBT people, stood in the embrace of equality – and moved America closer to its most vaunted and most precious ideals.

Seneca Falls. Selma. Stonewall. Continue reading

Helping Ourselves: A BAR Op-Ed

header2A few days after Thanksgiving, I stepped out of a modernist East Side building into a cold New York evening – elated. The building houses the rather grand offices of the Ford Foundation, generally regarded as the world’s most influential private foundation. And Ford had good news for the LGBT community.

A foundation steps up
That day, Ford had gathered people from the foundation and LGBT advocacy worlds to launch a major new initiative called “Out for Change.” It came with a commitment to grant $50 million over the next five years to LGBT causes.

Advocates like Horizons Foundation and the national Funders for LGBTQ Issues have long called for more private foundations to fund LGBT causes. While that advocacy has helped bring millions of dollars to our community over the years, total LGBT funding remains but a small fraction of one percent of all foundation grants. So the dollars alone promised by Ford will help. Equally important, Ford pledged to put its considerable institutional weight to work as well and encourage other wealthy private foundations to fund more LGBT work. Continue reading

A family funeral

Not long ago, I attended a memorial for an aunt, my mother’s last remaining sibling. It took place where she’d lived for nearly 60 years, in Williamstown, a village up in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, nestled up against the New York and Vermont state lines.

An undaunted and undauntable woman, my aunt had been widowed at a young age and raised four children – my cousins – on her own. She’d championed women’s rights for decades, and was nearly elected to the state legislature, which I guarantee you would never have been the same had she made it.

What struck me during the service in the picture-postcard 18th century, colonial-style church, was this: of her four children, two are straight, one gay, and the other lesbian. All four and their respective spouses, of course, had come. Continue reading