I wonder how many young progressives realize that we still haven’t passed ENDA, and that SCOTUS only struck down sodomy laws nine years ago. I also wonder if they realize exactly how much hard work has gone into getting us as far as we are now, and exactly how much is still left to be done–by them, and not just by the politicians they criticize for not doing enough.
I remember marching in my first Pride parade in 1992 in Portland, when we were fighting Measure 9. We didn’t even have state anti-discrimination laws then; we were trying to keep the OCA from forcing schools to teach kids that being gay was unnatural and wrong. A sitting president endorsing equal marriage was in the realm of science fiction. Marriage, in fact, was considered a pie-in-the-sky thing that we only hoped we’d get to “someday” after we’d managed to convice people that we ought not to lose our jobs, homes or children. Needless to say, the reality that marriage is actually happening in some parts of the country now is astonishing for us. I can only imagine how astonishing it must be for older folks who remember Stonewall, and the decades of struggle that followed.
It’s easy for young GLBT folks to take for granted the relative freedom and safety they have, compared to how things were in previous generations, but it wasn’t an accident that I felt able to come out in college 20 years ago, and it’s not an accident that teens now have GLBT counterparts on TV. None of this happened just by wishing things would get better, or by assuming there’s some Magical Unicorn of Progress that politicians can let loose to prevent homophobes from voting their misguided and hateful convictions. None of this happened by waiting for other people to do the work, or by throwing away our votes through apathy or a belief that voting is irrelevant. We have worked to get where we are now, and we must still work if we are to get any farther. Expecting change to happen on its own, as if there isn’t a massive voting bloc out there working against us, can and will stall out our progress. One needs only to look at the rolling back of reproductive rights to see what happens when we get complacent, and believe that no one would dare try to challenge us. You think no-one now would dare try to reenact sodomy laws? Think again. They would, and they will, if we don’t get off our asses and make sure they can’t.
We are making progress. We are slowly chipping away at the entrenched homophobia that has destroyed so many lives. In a perfect world, we’d be there already, but we’re not, and we’ll never get there if we assume we’re closer to it than we actually are, and therefore we don’t need to bother ourselves with the effort of getting involved. We can’t sit back and expect progress to keep on trotting ahead if we’re not there clearing the orcs out of its way.