Was I on the side of right when I participated in my first AIDS Walk Boston in 1987? The federal government wasn’t doing anything, so local activists, some sick, some dying, took to the streets to raise awareness and much-needed funds.
Was I on the side of right when I walked alongside my friend and mentor Bob Berkeley in 1991’s AIDS Walk? Bob only made it the first two miles, but he was determined to participate. Bob only lived a few more months, because of our government’s failure to acknowledge and help.
Was I on the side of right when I participated in ACT UP demonstrations in the mid-1990s, as our government and health care providers denied services and support, and while religious institutions demonized those affected?
Was I on the side of right when I volunteered with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network (now Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) in the mid-1990s, working with LGBT students and educators on ways to protect themselves from bullying, harassment, and the threat of being fired by unsupportive and unsafe schools and school districts?
Was I on the side of right when, while at the GLSEN National Conference in 1998, we learned that Matthew Shepard had died after being severely beaten and left to die, just for being gay? There and around the country, we took to the streets for candlelight vigils. Enough was enough.
Was I on the side of right in the late 1990s when my mother, my sister, and I participated in the inaugural Jane Doe Society Walk for Women’s Safety? There was domestic abuse in my home, and while many were “embarrassed” that my mom and I were both quoted in The Boston Globe, I couldn’t have been prouder of them for taking such an important step in such a public way.
Was I on the side of right in 2002 when Trev Broudy was beaten right here in West Hollywood just for embracing his friend to say good night? After the district attorney refused to add hate-crimes charges, we took to the streets and worked toward getting that DA removed from office. Years later we worked hard against him and helped now-Sen. Kamala Harris become the California attorney general.
Was I on the side of right in 2003 when I joined the board of the Trevor Project and spent the next six years diligently working to support LGBT and questioning youth? Suicide is still the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24, and the rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for LGBT youth and two times greater for those questioning their identity. If their homes and schools aren’t safe and supportive, where else can they turn?
Was I on the side of right in 2005 when I participated in a breast cancer walk because our government still shows inequality between women and men when it comes to health care and insurance coverage?
Was I was on the side of right in 2006 when I became the West Hollywood Public Safety Commission’s liaison to the then WeHo Transgender Task Force (now Advisory Board)? At the time, very few G’s and L’s and B’s were there to support, while trans folks were (and still are) being murdered on the streets, right here in our country and around the world. Each year at the Transgender Day of Remembrance we still read too many names of those murdered at the hands of bigotry and intolerance.
Was I on the side of right when we fought against Proposition 8 for many, many nights in 2008? Others’ religious beliefs do not determine our rights as American citizens. Eventually, due process and equal protection won, although there are still too many who wish to take those rights away.
Was I on the side of right in 2010 when I joined trans Latina activist Bamby Salcedo to help empower and give visibility to trans* youth through the annual Angels of Change Calendar launch event? Empowering young people, many whose families have discarded them, can keep them from survival sex work, sexually transmitted disease, addiction, rape, homelessness, violence, suicide, and so on.
Was I on the side of right last year in support of ending the statute of limitations on rape and child molestation in California? Brave and bold women from our own community came together to make this happen and their efforts lead to success.
Was I was on the side of right when I advocated strongly against an unbalanced, temperamentally unfit, thin-skinned, accused rapist, accused marital rapist, admitted sexual predator, tax cheat, business fraud, education fraud, online bully, mocker of the disabled, liar, racist, misogynist, homophobe, puppet of the leader of the alt-right, and puppet of a communist Second World country, who rode the wave of racism, much overblown fear of one faith, and 30 years of Republican gerrymandering and propaganda against the media and anyone who does not fit into their white, faux Christian, elitist sense of entitlement in this country? Yes.
I am still on the side of right when I am labeled an “intolerant liberal” and other things when the right wing makes its faux victimization claims. I am proudly not tolerant of the intolerance shown toward every American who does not join this cult-like, dangerous following.
And I am on the side of right now as I resist the treachery that is happening at the highest level of our government. I will continue to make calls to our elected representatives (yes, call volume matters). I will continue to speak out, use my voice, my resources, my network, and my experience to stop this unacceptable sham. This is not normal. This is not right. This is not America. This is a time for those on the side of right to stand strong together or be left behind to deal with the fallout that will come when they — and those already guilty — participate in acting against freedom, liberty, justice, and the side of right.
SAM BORELLI is a professional consultant and educator. He also serves on the city of West Hollywood’s Human Services Commission. For the past 25 years, Sam has volunteered for numerous LGBTQ youth-serving organizations including GLSEN, LifeWorks Mentoring, Angels of Change, and the Trevor Project, where he served on the board of directors from 2002 to 2008.