I grew up believing that being gay was an abomination. When I was pulled out of the closet at sixteen and bullied at school, I searched desperately for some sort of support. After the administrators refused to talk to me, not only did I drop out of high school, I considered taking my own life.
That was decades ago now. With the passage of marriage equality in the United States and all the other progress we have made, I had hoped that by the time I became a parent it would be different. I hoped that when I enrolled my children in the Texas school system they would have a fundamentally different experience than me—that they would be affirmed and celebrated for who they are and share what their family looks like without fear.
But we know that despite the progress we have made, we have a long way to go. Too many young people are experiencing exactly what I did. Too many are targeted and bullied. Too many are rejected by their families of origin. Too many choose to take their lives because their lived experience is too painful, frightening, and traumatic.
Between last week’s draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson and bills like Florida’s “don’t say gay or trans” becoming enshrined into law, that hope is being stripped away. The leaked opinion was concerning in innumerable ways, but many have reached out to me, specifically as the leader of the national organization for LGBTQ+ families, to express concerns about how this potential moment could lead to the Court and our states dismantling other rights related to our families, including marriage equality.
To them, I say: We’re not “up next.” We are in the crosshairs now. Threats to our youth and families are happening across the country. It’s not just Dobbs v. Jackson, and it’s not just Florida or Texas. These seemingly piecemeal attacks on our rights are part of a larger, coordinated effort to promote rampant discrimination against LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities—erasing our histories, our experiences, our very existence. So far this year, more than 300 bills have been introduced in states throughout the nation that target and attack LGBTQ+ people, our children, and our families. Many of them, like that of Florida, would bar inclusive and diverse books or classroom discussions, while others target transgender students, criminalize access to healthcare, and more.
Growing up Black and LGBTQ+ in Texas, I have spent my life watching elected officials debate my right to survive and thrive. I’ve borne the brunt of these debates for decades, and now that my sons are watching alongside me, I have to say: This is where we draw the line, redouble our efforts, and fight.
Now is the time to make ourselves heard, to rally, to vote, and to send a clear message to our legislators to end the filibuster, codify Roe into law, and pass the Equality Act to protect our freedoms. It’s also time to support organizations like Family Equality, which are working to preserve and protect the rights we all fought so hard to win.
Because while Family Equality has been responding to attack after attack on our families, my team is also preparing for its first in-person gala since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our Night at the Pier gala in New York City on May 16 is about more than Broadway performances and a nice dinner. It’s about sharing our vision for the work ahead and garnering support for a mission that is more critical than ever. It’s about finding the resources to fight the well-funded anti-LGBTQ machine that is on a roll unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes.
Because the escalating assault on our freedoms and our families is not slowing down. We are up against a Supreme Court willing to take away our rights and autonomy. We are up against state legislators willing to spew misinformation and harmful rhetoric about me, my children, and the LGBTQ+ community so many of us fight for every day.
To all the families who, like mine, are concerned about the ongoing impact of these headlines, know this: In solidarity, strength, and spirit, we will fight back. But we need you to fight along with us.
There is simply too much at stake to sit this one out.
Stacey Stevenson is the CEO of Family Equality, a national organization dedicated to advancing lived and legal equality for current and future LGBTQ+ families. She lives in Dallas with her wife and two sons.