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Braver than I am

Braver than I am


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,

"I applaud your bravery. It takes a lot of courage to be who you are." My immediate thought was, "Not really."

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."

Immediately I 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!"

Golly. Maybe things aren't all that different here either.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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