After three years at Out Front this is my last issue as editor, and I’m ending my tenure with a moment to reflect on the struggle that has mattered to me most over these years, which we’re all in as a community — the struggle for inclusion and acceptance.
You see, everybody celebrates the ideals of justice and inclusion; it takes a very bold (and unpopular) person to trash them openly. Yet when we look at the world — our LGBT community knows this deeply — we know it often isn’t just or inclusive.
Why? I think it’s because we too often fail to recognize that justice and inclusion are not passive; they’re not just shaking your head at the atrocities of the past or congratulating yourself that those times are over. It’s not washing your hands of current realities or leaving the future to chance. Floating with the current will not take you to enlightenment. There are still so many places where we, and many others, feel explicitly or implicitly rejected for who we are, where expectations seem to be set higher or the scrutiny set harsher, where we are made invisible, or, worst of all, where we feel intimidated from sticking up for ourselves or someone else in hope of setting things right. All of this reminds us that despite the fact that most people have a common sense of decency, there’s still a lot of work to do.
I believe the case for inclusion is so compelling that it eventually wins any argument — nothing can compete with its simple integrity. Ultimately, time steals the wind from the lips of its detractors; now we’ve had marriage equality for some 10 years in Massachusetts and it turns out not a single straight marriage has been harmed. (We are not surprised about that!) Meanwhile, Fred Phelps’s Wesboro Baptist church is falling apart; its leader and founder was excommunicated on his deathbed, accused of being too “soft” on the church’s enemies.
What a horrible way to die — being rejected by the only part of the world that you yourself did not reject. Years ago I might have been shocked to read that Fred Phelps’s life ended like that — unlikely poetic justice for a man who never shied from using death to his own advantage. But at this point in my own journey, I can only imagine what life was like in the world that he created around himself, and think of course that’s what happened. I think we can all agree that the outcome of that world serves no one.
Those are extremes, while most of us exist in a mushy middle between stubborn hate and pure acceptance — we’re only human, and I think my most important message for everyone there is that it’s that mushy middle that has all the power. It’s you who decide what the world will be.
The good news for inclusion is that it’s won mostly through education, something that can’t be undone; once a person gains the ability to recognize her or his own bias or double standards (and we all have them), she or he can never become blind again. That gives inclusion an incredible upper hand.
The downside is that the fight is never over. After each hard-earned victory of exposing injustice — after each ally is won or each hateful argument collapses in hypocrisy and bad press — there’s someone to say “that last round didn’t count; start over!” and make us fight the same fights again, with names and faces changed. After lesbians and gays have acceptance, we’ll still have to fight for trans acceptance, even within the LGBT community. After marriage equality, there will still be disparities faced by LGBT people of color.
So we arm ourselves with love, humility, and faith that the seeds we are planting now will grow, even if many of them seem for now to have been buried, never to fruit until they’re long out of our sight. That belief that they still will, perhaps in unexpected ways and places, is the purest definition of faith.
On the cover of this issue is a gay Latino state legislator who embodies that effort to plant seeds of justice. At the time we took the photo, Colorado State Sen. Jessie Ulibarri was in the midst of a week-long challenge to live on only the dollars that someone making minimum wage would earn. (It’s not just a coincidence that this gesture of solidarity was going on at the same time as our photo shoot — Sen. Ulibarri is always doing stuff like that.) That went for all his purchases, including food, he explained between bites of his lunch — an apple. He, and many others who appear in this issue, know that all these things — LGBT equality, gender equality, racial justice, economic justice — are connected by common principles and inseparable from each other. To fight homophobia means to also fight sexism and racism and classism; to embrace LGBT equality is to embrace all equality, because LGBT people are every gender and race and class. People like Sen. Ulibarri, who know this and work for this, are the people whose values and work I look up to more than anyone else.
I can only hope that I managed to plant a couple seeds for justice of my own in the three years since I began at Out Front as a staff writer in 2011. In three years I’ve had my successes and made my mistakes, but it’s always been an honor to work and learn from so many amazing people, who in turn left their own seeds and imprints on the organization and reminded me, once again, how much stronger we are for our differences. From the warmth and charm of Holly Hatch, who brought a magical ability to boost anyone’s confidence and help us make all kinds of people feel welcome; to the hard news savvy of Nic Garcia, who brought ambitious and cutting-edge journalism to take the publication to a new level; to the perseverance and grit of Sara Decker, whose unselfish leadership and whose library of institutional knowledge saved us all from disaster more than a few times — their contributions must always be part of who Out Front is.
And to those who remain — Publisher Jerry Cunningham, who brings charm and sky-high ambition, Associate Publisher Ryan King, who brings business-savvy and enthusiasm, and the whole team in whose hands the future of Out Front rests — thank you!
It’s our differences that give me hope and perseverance, knowing the world is a better place because of every individual here, and that we have a truly amazing community with a place for everyone. When I look back at the last three years and how much more deeply I’ve grown in appreciation and affiliation for the LGBT community — its people, its volunteers, its advocates, its leaders — I’m just overwhelmed with PRIDE.