It's June 30th and Pride Month 2016 is at its end. The last several months have been a roller coaster of emotions for the LGBT community. From the legalization of same sex marriage to the political tug of war over bathrooms for transgender people and most recently the tragedy that happened in Orlando at Pulse, I'm reminded that it was not that long ago that African Americans had similar struggles fighting discrimination, and in pursuit of fair and equal rights.
I was born after the civil rights movement in America had crossed the chasm and made SIGNIFICANT progress towards equal rights for people of color. I was spared the pain of living in a world that was so openly hateful and I was also spared from having to choose whether or not I was willing to take the personal, physical and emotional risks that so many brave people took during that time as they paved a wide open road of opportunity for me and my family. Many white people sacrificed and died in the fight for equality for me and my fellow African Americans. They didn't have to. Juliette Hampton Morgan & Rev. James Reeb come to mind immediately for me, to name just two. They were safe in their skin BUT they took a stand for what was right. I respect them for that.
Fast forward to 2016. Today we STILL have the LGBT community facing similar types of discrimination and that’s just shocking and frankly, very disappointing to me. As a black man that is happily enjoying a life that just a few short years ago would have been unimaginable to so many people (including my grandparents) I feel the need and obligation to stand with the LGBT community as they fight for their civil rights as American citizens and human beings.
Last week I was visiting a customer and I asked where the restroom was located. He replied " There's a restroom for "them" right around the corner but the Men's room is down the hall to the left." When he said "them" he was referring to a gender neutral restroom. The undertone of disgust was palpable. It made me wonder, was this what it was like in the Jim Crow era when white's referred to black people? I was put off by his comment and told him that "Them" are people too, no different than him or I and proceeded to use the gender neutral restroom.
So, to start my journey in support of equality, I've begun volunteering with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). It's a small step but it's something. More to come on this front...