I was truly lulled into complacency. In a good way. Thinking about the strides yet, not about the struggles.
I was married five years ago. Perhaps the most monumental and special day of my life. Being able to walk down an aisle, hand in hand, in front of friends and family and commit to each other for life. It was the moment I could repeat over and over again. A year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that everyone who loved had the right to do what Joey and I did. Marriage equality was just that. A collective and personal euphoria filled our hearts, minds and cities. Campaigns like “Love has no Labels” flooded our consciousness and screens. It was a new day. A bright day.
So I thought.
During this interminable U.S election season, most candidates from a major party came out against the right for all of us to say “I do.” A well-publicized county clerk ignored the ruling of the SCOTUS in open defiance, with major so-called “leaders” standing by her side. And then an unimaginable event seared through us when 49 of our fellow citizens were gunned down as they were celebrating life.
Pride took on a new meaning this year. A meaning which had people reminding each other about love and chastising others for hate. It was a collective moment of unity. Yet one tinged with deep sadness.
As the calendar ticks to July, it doesn’t mean we pause and wait till next June to both celebrate and protest. If anything, we need to love and fight and protect and promote outside those calendar moments, and we can only be buttressed with the support of brands and companies who make no judgment and refuse to tolerate hate and discrimination.
I have four wishes for these wonderful companies and brands:
Celebrate the successes and recognize the struggles
Yes, we too have come a long way. Marriage equality is the rule of the land, still. Marketers have broadened their definition of “family.” We seem to be dropping gay as a descriptor when talking about beloved actors and authors.
But, we also have a long way to go. Even in the most liberal of U.S. cities, we see violence against us because of our love. We have leading elected officials who refuse to accept our marriages as natural. Bullying against our next generation seems to continue. And it’s even worse in some countries outside the U.S.
It’s wonderful that companies support the successes and are proud to march along members of the community, but we also need their continued support against discrimination, outdated stereotypes and arguments made using a religious book as proof. And many of them, from PayPal to Starbucks have done just that.
Help reduce the fear and hiding
It took me a long time to publicly say those three beautiful words: I. Am. Gay. Perhaps the hardest thing I ever did. I knew it. I hid it from many, not all. And, it was a living hell on the inside. Would my colleagues still like me? Would I disappoint my family? Could I freely be me? Yet, next to marrying Joey, the ability to finally come out was the best decision I ever made.
For some, my past struggle is their present reality. And here is where more help is needed. How do we help make it easier for men and women, young and old alike, to publicly acknowledge who they are at their core? How do we provide more support to those who haven’t yet and applause for those who have? How can more leaders in the business community acknowledge who they are and show the world that this is indeed normal?
Appreciate our fullness
Yes, I am gay. But I am also a husband. A dog parent. A creative director. Jewish. A lover of movies and books. Gay is part of my identity. But it is not my only identity. Hopefully I am living a full life. I think I am. And I want to be seen as a full human being. And we need more brands and companies to showcase our full selves. I love how many gay marriages are part of brand advertising these days — but that’s just part of us. And please recognize that we come in all colors, shapes and sizes. And you know, we’re all beautiful.
Remember, this is not a lifestyle
I didn’t choose this. I didn’t aspire to a gay lifestyle. It chose me. This is not a lifestyle. This is my life.
Words truly matter. In our attempt to show support, we sometimes use words that, while well-intended, hurt and set us back. We want support, but we want the same support as everyone else. There isn’t a “straight” lifestyle; why is there a gay one?
There has been so much progress and so much joy. But a great struggle continues across our land and across our world. Together, with the support of friends, family and many in the corporate community, we can look forward to more successes and fewer struggles.
Living fully, loving honestly, and appreciating differences. That’s the world I want for all of us. Complacency alone won’t get us there. Understanding, empathy, respect and open-mindedness will help. Let’s start there.