It’s a dose of adrenalin and an infusion of love. Walking in the parade that culminates the Circle City IN Pride Festival (June 4-11 this year) is an annual highlight for my wife, Beth, and me. We don PFLAG shirts, toss trinkets and blow kisses to those lining the parade route, but we get much more in return. The eager waves and shouts of “Thank you!” from those we greet lift our hearts and hint at past struggles for support from what should be its most reliable source—family.
Too many people battle through adolescence in families who reject their emerging gender identity or sexual orientation. Aren’t the teen years excruciating enough, even with the unquestioned support of our loved ones? No wonder rates of depression, homelessness and suicide are through the roof for LGBTQ youth, who too often are shut out just when they are most vulnerable. This is why we must support organizations such as PRIDE, PFLAG and Indiana Youth Group (IYG).
Signs of hope
From the viewpoint of this straight ally, at least, things are looking up. While I don’t pretend to have the insights or cred of one who has fought these battles at the deepest personal level, I’m encouraged that:
Acceptance is growing as more people realize they have friends and family members who are LGBTQ and who are worthy, contributing members of the community;
Civil rights and legal protections are advancing, even in laggardly Indiana. A growing patchwork of community ordinances gives hope, and advocates continue to force a robust dialogue on the issue;
Marriage equality now allows all loving couples to tie the knot openly, with full legal recognition. As a wedding officiant, it’s my privilege to help people with this most joyous of life’s transitions. I especially enjoy co-officiating with my wife, and conducting the wedding of our daughter and her wife was the thrill of a lifetime.
Generational differences make it clear that much of the lingering animus against LGBTQ people will disappear along with those who hold less enlightened attitudes. Younger Americans tend to value diversity more than their elders have, and they expect to see it where they live, work, shop and play. Millennials who came of age seeing women and minorities in positions of achievement and authority want to see those posts reflect the gamut of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Much to be done
The picture isn’t universally rosy, of course. Where are the state laws affirming the worth and dignity of all citizens, and welcoming a diverse community of workers and families? When will our roster of elected leaders more nearly reflect the population they serve? How can we ensure proper medical and mental health care, housing and employment opportunities for those who are disproportionately denied them? What will it take to eradicate festering hatred and discrimination that alienate some of our most vulnerable and creative citizens?
The struggle continues, but the wind is at our backs and the momentum of history is on our side.