This might be my favorite issue of each year. It’s a bit like sending out presents by email when I notify people that they have been chosen by readers to receive awards. There are stages to it: disbelief, happiness, pride, tears…someone even tried to talk me out of one. The nominations don’t lie. They come from you and you write them with both heart and logic. I learn so much from the nominations–there are so many people out there that need some spotlight. And, there are so many causes out there that require attention. This community is diverse and active and we need to keep showing as much of it to you as we can.
In a conversation with one of the recipients, I read the nomination over the phone and found myself with tears in my eyes and goosebumps on my arms. What people do in this community matters. What people do for each other–with no expectation of recognition or recompense–matters. This community matters.
When I read the stories of these people and their organizations, it became more clear why there is such a thing as Lavender. There are reasons for this community to have its space, its conversations, its spotlight and attention, just as there are reasons for corporations to have GLBT employee groups, for organizations to have missions that benefit this community, and for people to volunteer and give and grow. The reasons are many, but my own experience boils the reasons down to learning and teaching.
How do we learn and teach? By telling. By writing. By being out there. By being seen. By having conversations. We know this. But, we need to have conversations with ourselves. Learning how we are similar and how we are different is part of how this community can become less splintered and more empathetic from within. Much of our efforts were focused outward these past few years with having conversations with the straight community about why the gays and lesbians of the whole rainbow community should be allowed equal marriage rights. We took the time to show and tell people who aren’t familiar with the community about why love matters, how rights affect everyone, and that this community always has been–and always will be–a real group of people that fits into the larger society.
Have you noticed how we can benefit from talking to each other about ourselves, too? Having a greater understanding means having a greater ability to help more people and to advance more of this community together.
Many of the award recipients participated in the past year’s fight against the marriage amendment as well as the campaign for marriage equality. But that’s not all. These people are involved in numerous issues all at once. Some have been working for years and years to help those with HIV and AIDS. People work toward inclusion and against inequality. Youth homelessness and strengthening families matter. The environment and working between different cultures are key to our collective survival. Being family for each other and being around to socialize or “just talk” is crucial to the well-being of many. Figuring out how to not make our aging community members go back into the closet as they get older is important for all of us. Shattering stereotypes and opening doors. Being trailblazers and using power for good and not evil. Fighting for our country, fighting for our rights. Creating space for ambiguity while also defining space for each other. Being ambassadors and bridging gaps between this community and the cities, the state, the nation, the world.
Look to these people and see what I see: role models.
Similarities. Differences. Progress.