Proud to Be an American Where At Least I Know I Am Free
By Jolene Pohl
Our country has finally come out of the closet to declare its gay pride! That is why our President felt compelled not only to show his respect for a community of dedicated activists but also to establish a marker for a historic shift in a national perspective on gay marriage. The sacrifices and terrible heartache that the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, and Ally community have endured in the decades leading up to this moment are the essence of being American: never giving up hope in times of despair. The fight is ongoing but this boost of confidence, a burst of fresh air from the White House, will fuel even the darkest circumstances with hope. This is the hope that President Barack H. Obama has provided with his simple statement.
The stakes for Obama’s campaign regarding gay marriage do not seem to matter much to the public which is an indicator about the success of the LGBT movement. As more families in our country have realized they love someone who is part of the LGBT community, the opposition to equal rights has become more difficult to defend. According to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53 percent of Americans support marriage rights for same-sex couples. As much as I would love to credit this change of heart to the President’s statement, I must acknowledge that the work was done each day by activists and brave citizens who refused to hide who they love. The campaign for Obama’s re-election will succeed regardless of the feedback from his statement but the movement for equality will forever be enhanced. Because of the President, a date for public acceptance has been forever recorded for families of those killed in anger, beaten or humiliated, who are tired and so frustrated, to be able to take pause and realize their struggle is not in vain. These families are truly part of the strength of our country despite who is running for political office.
Yesterday, I read about an unapologetic bully who was given a month’s sentence for spying on his gay roommate which ended in his roommate’s suicide. Ironically, this story was front page the same day that Californians honored Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to office, who was assassinated in the prime of his life. The story of discrimination is far from over. The LGBT community didn’t even exist as an organized unit when I was a child. The words “Queer” and “Gay” were forbidden from language as slurs. The progress made has not been won easily and it will be a continual struggle that will break my heart as I read more stories about bullies who ruin the lives of others just because they are insecure. As an ally to the movement, I will continue to cry alongside my fellow Americans who bravely walk down the aisles of marriage ceremonies that are yet to be deemed legal. I will hope that everyone in attendance will someday be able to fully embrace their happiness. Then I will think of how incredible it is that a group of people can join together in pride and motivate even the highest ranking political figures to proclaim their unabashed respect.
How many movements have been able to persuade politicians to act outside of their political realm just for the sake of decency? The Obama administration already had the backing of the LGBT community prior to the President’s support for gay marriage. The recent gains of support are minimal since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” already envelops the President’s philosophy on equality. The conservative party supporters have tried to apply their political cynicism to the President’s statement but their argument is weak and irrelevant. The conservatives succeed in making themselves once again seem out of touch with reality and old-fashioned in their dogma. To quote Vice-President Joe Biden, “They don’t get it.” The Obama administration is a political machine with a human heart. The honest approach to understanding their constituency is what made the campaign in 2008 one to be envied. It is why Obama supporters displayed posters about Hope and Change. Our voices have been more than just token political slogans to this president. The conservatives will probably never be able to figure out this method, which is apparent in their selection of primary candidates and policy proposals.
Less than two-decades have passed since the public discussions about homosexuality have shifted from topics of difference to topics of equal rights. In my lifetime I hope to see discrimination end forever. Hopefully the nightmares of gay bashing and the denial of rights will be distant memories that my children won’t be able to comprehend. With the help of leaders who are brave enough to believe in such hope I envision a reality where we can all be proud of one another without fear. I will take this sentiment with me to the ballot when I vote this November but I won’t stop there. This is where the equality movement revamps and where history is made. To quote my own poster at a recent gay marriage rally “If One Is Oppressed, No One is Free.” Everyone has the right to marry. Even the president agrees.
Jolene Pohl is a dedicated Dayton democrat volunteer/activist and a WSU grad student. Her favorite past-times include banter, debate and laughing out loud. She can be reached at JolenePohl@DaytonCityPaper.com.