Ever since I
decided to use my powers for good, I've traveled
around the country speaking at fund-raisers for LGBT
causes. In Ohio a local politician told me,
your bravery. It takes a lot of courage to be who you
are." My immediate thought was, "Not
I live in Los
Angeles. It doesn't take courage to be gay in Los
Angeles. It takes a good personal trainer, stylist,
and Zone delivery person, but courage? Hardly. It
takes courage to be gay in Akron, where there is no
legislation to protect you from getting fired if you come
out. It takes courage to be gay in Williamsburg, Ky.,
where you can be expelled from college because of a
gay MySpace profile. At LGBT fund-raisers in L.A.,
some reporter invariably asks, "Aren't we over
this?" I usually reply, "Wouldn't
it be amazing if we were?"
I was seated at a
dinner in the Midwest with a woman who fit the profile
of any groovy lesbian I'd know in San Francisco:
long-term relationship, two cats and a dog, killer
vegetarian lasagna recipe. Only she wasn't out
at work. She said her boss and coworkers were so homophobic
that if she came out, they would make her life a
living hell. She'd probably lose her job and
benefits, and it would permanently prevent further
employment in her field. I felt like I was talking to
Shirley MacLaine in The Children's Hour.
Incredulously, I asked, "Why live here? Why not move
to S.F. or Northampton?" She must have heard this
question countless times, because she responded,
patiently, "I grew up here. My family is here.
I shouldn't have to move just because I'm gay.
This is my home. Things won't get better if all
of us leave."
felt like some patronizing city slicker who's been
patting a yokel on the head. Mortified, I sputtered,
"Of course. Of course you should live
here." There's a huge difference between
convenience and conviction.
All across the
country I speak to different variations of the same
person, individuals who just want the right to live and
breathe freely exactly where they are. People like
Ryan Olson, whose organization, Helping Educate
Regarding Orientation, is working to create a safe
environment for LGBT students at a conservative Catholic
university in Spokane, Wash. Boy-band cute,
optimistic, and sharp, he lives in an area where some
people won't even walk on the same side of the street
as he does. It's people like him who are
effecting great change where it's needed most.
If one of us
isn't safe, none of us is.
Back in the big
city, I count my blessings. I'm grateful for my
queer-friendly workplace that affirms and supports who I am.
I jog through my trendy neighborhood-in-transition and
watch a moving van unload a gay couple and their baby.
I run past the local eatery and count it as one of the
many places where my husband and I are welcomed as a
couple. I'm so cheered by so many emblems of a
liberal life that my step is a little springier. Just
then, a car loaded with teenagers zooms past as one of
them yells out "Faggot!"
things aren't all that different here either.