It's a great time to be lesbian and gay in America. The New Age movement has pushed the issue of diversity to the forefront of public opinion. No longer can individuals oppress or victimize a person for being different without fearing some type of legal consequence. Of course, there are still some problem locations around the country where people insist on living in the dark ages. But, thanks to Hollywood, being lesbian is now chic, Queer as Folk is hot, and gay is exciting.
Additionally, I'm excited to see the phrase, 'sexual orientation,' included on more lists of non-discriminates in many places of business and education. My soul rejoices whenever I see this phrase listed with the others. The impact of knowing that I can be open about being 'me' and still compete for jobs, housing and admission to various institutions is quite liberating. Its emotional impact is similar to those that I experienced back in the 1960s when my family happened upon a sign that read, 'Coloreds are Welcome,' as we traveled through the south. This inclusiveness is an affirmation of our human value, and a promise of equal security.
Recently, I was deeply moved after reading a newspaper story about a young lesbian couple's achievement. According to the report, a Crete-Monee High School senior class in Illinois voted this couple as the 'cutest couple,' for their yearbook. Awesome! The greater student body supported their relationship and embraced their open displays of affection.
The adults, of course, had a fit. After reading the article, I was taken back to my own high school experiences in the early 1970s. To my knowledge, groups like the Gay/Straight Alliance did not exist. Instead, secret lesbian and gay clubs or groups were the norm. Many lesbian and gay friends have shared their experiences of how they discovered these secret high school and college groups. Apparently, it was a 'word of mouth' situation where the fortunate would be directed to like-minded individuals. I wasn't one of the fortunate because I was quite shy; which meant that I had to struggle alone to define my sexual-self. People learn who they are through interaction with others, especially with people who support their emotions and ideas. Needless to say, I was quite confused about 'me' throughout my high school years. Special interest groups like the Gay/Straight Alliance are very important because they provide individuals with a secure and comfortable place to investigate personal issues of self, future challenge, and empowerment. Without this support during high school, I eventually separated myself from my straight friends and became a loner. After high school, I was amazed to discover that many gurls that I'd gone to school with were and had been regulars at the local lesbian bars. As it turns out, they'd discovered that 'secret society' at our high school. Of course, I was jealous as hell because I'd missed out on that special opportunity to define myself at a younger age.
Nevertheless, I did catch up to them some years later when I finally 'came out' to myself and to my family.
The progression of the freedom evolution means that Dr. King's dream could possibly become a reality, the future looks a bit brighter. We've come a long way in America since the freeing of the slaves: there's wimin's advances towards equality, laws protecting and supporting the physically disabled, and currently, we see discrimination towards lesbians and gays being challenged daily. Hurray for the advances of the New Age movement.
Once upon a time, I was made to feel inferior because my skin was black, because I was born female, and later, because I loved women. Currently, I celebrate my bronze hue, the mischief of my tomboyish essence, and the gender privilege of being a lesbian. I'm no longer oppressed by the views and opinions of others because I've simply hit the 'mute' button.
Thanks again Dr. King for standing up for me; thanks Angela Davis and bell hooks for being my aggressive female voice; and thanks Me'shell Ndege'Ocello for electrifying music with your dike essence. Damn it feels good!
And to that 'cutest couple' at Crete-Monee High School, 'keep on loving without shame—LOVE IS A GOOD THANG!'