Equality; being involved in LGBT politics means that I probably utter or hear this word a hundred or more times every day but, do I truly understand what it means? What are the implications it carries for my private as well as my public life?
I work for One Kalamazoo, a ballot question committee campaigning to affirm a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinance in Kalamazoo, MI. The ordinance was passed unanimously ...twice by the city commission and derailed...twice by a small group of opposition. It will go to a city-wide vote on November 3. I've been working for this ordinance for quite sometime now and I've observed closely as new faces joined in support.
Equality can mean many things to different people. In fact, it means many things to me, for instance; it means I should have the same civil rights as you. It means I don't get to judge you and you don't get to judge me. It means that how much money somebody makes doesn't give them the right to treat me as their lesser. Often, our opponents accuse us of demanding "special rights." Not true. "Gay agenda"? Maybe; if you consider fair and equal opportunity for everyone an agenda. Within the context of my politics, it means that others shouldn't be allowed to deprive me of the same rights and considerations under our common laws that are widely taken for granted. It's not right that my viability as a person can be called into question because I may not conform in some way to mainstream standards which are unthinkingly and unquestioningly agreed upon by a fictional majority. That is my understanding of the public position of the LGBT equality movement as well.
Personally though, if I dig, even just a little, I begin to understand there is much more to the concept of equality than any political context alone might suggest. Understanding of equality for me has its roots deep within, far below the pragmatic concerns of everyday life. Equality is there, deep inside us just as assuredly as are our drives for security, society and survival itself. That I often mistakenly or, perhaps--conveniently confuse life's daily concerns with reality isn't so surprising when you have your deepest instincts, if not your intrinsic sense of self questioned continuously by others whose lives aren't impacted by yours in any way. Have you ever really thought about what it means--Equality? While this question certainly isn't meant to be insulting, it isn't strictly rhetorical either. So, please share your understanding; what does equality mean to you?
Why all this intellectual self examination? It's important that's why. How can I authentically advocate for something if I don't have a deep grasp of my motives? And to be completely honest, it seems oxymoronic that we should be having a debate--at any level about equality. So, sometimes, I find it necessary to make absolutely certain that my side of the street is clean and take a moment of pause.
This past week One Kalamazoo hosted an "Office Warming" at our new campaign headquarters. The ground floor of a strikingly restored late-1800's building was crowded with excited, smiling and best of all--diverse people. This crowd - supporters came from all walks of life. In attendance were students, doctors, musicians, lawyers, city commission members - the mayor, unemployed executives and construction workers. Black, White, Hispanic, Catholic, Unitarian, Protestant, Lesbian, Straight, Gay, not sure, Transgender, Bisexual, young and old--you name it they were there. There, in that packed office were many people who wouldn't ordinarily mix. But there they all were; a room full of people, united as fellow human beings that possessed no differences that mattered.
As I stood off to the side for a moment, my spouse, Cindy came and stood silently with me. I think she knew what I was thinking: That this is what it means--equality. This packed room of labels that didn't matter. I gave her a quiet smile and kiss on the cheek, and then I plunged back into the crowd and began a spirited conversation with the President of The League of Women Voters.
From "Your Gal in Kalamazoo"--Amy Hunter