I was a little tense before the election. OK, maybe "a little tense" aren't the right words. Maybe "really could have used an IV of Xanax" is more accurate. As the mother of a young gay son (and as a human being in general), I have loudly applauded the progress our country has made toward LGBT equality in the last four years. I wanted -- no, needed -- to see that progress continue. On Nov. 6, as the evening went on and results started flooding in, I was stunned and happy. President Obama was elected to his second term in office. Marriage equality won, discrimination lost and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) became the first out LGBT person ever elected to the U.S. Senate.
Weeks afterwards, the joy and shock have not worn off completely. That's probably why, when I looked down at the calendar in my office, I was alarmed to see just how soon Thanksgiving would be upon us. Now, I am generally not a holiday person. I am very open and clear about this to anyone who asks (and to many who don't). But I am complete sucker for Thanksgiving, and this year I am feeling especially thankful, not just for the progress shown in this last election, and the progress I can see coming just over the horizon, but for the many people all over this country who have fought or are fighting to make it possible.
I am thankful for the patrons of the Stonewall Inn in New York City, who, on Saturday, June 28, 1969, decided they would no longer tolerate police harassment and fought back. They stood up, got loud and clearly showed everyone that they were not going to take it anymore. In doing so, they launched the modern LGBT rights movement.
I am thankful for Harvey Milk, our country's first openly gay elected official. Milk was elected in 1977 to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, where he not only represented the concerns of the city's LGBT citizens but took up issues like affordable housing and child care. He was tragically shot and killed the year after he took office, but his message of hope and openness lives on to this day.
I am thankful to the courageous moms who marched in New York City's 1974 Pride Day Parade. These mothers put conventional wisdom to the side and put their children's needs above their concerns about what the neighbors would think or do. When I look at their picture, I can't help but be in awe of the sheer gall it must have taken for them to do what they needed to do for their children, their families and themselves.
What started with these people, now important figures in our history, has continued with the work of so many others today. There's Dan Savage and Terry Miller, who started the It Gets Better Project to tell gay kids across the world that life can change after high school. There's Zach Wahls, a straight young man who stood up in front of the Iowa Supreme Court and so eloquently spoke for the equal rights of his family led by two mothers. There's Captain M. Matthew Phelps, a gay U.S. Marine who, after "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, proudly took a male date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
And those are really only the tip of the iceberg. In the last 50 years hundreds and thousands of people have fought for equal rights, and I am thankful to them all. I know that all their hard work, sacrifice and struggle brought us here, to a place where my little boy can know who he is and tell me without shame -- and be unaware that shame could even be a factor.
But they deserve more than my thanks. They deserve to honored. That's a task that I take seriously and to heart. I will honor them by teaching my son his history, a history he probably (and unfortunately) won't learn in school. From me he will learn of people who came before him. He will learn of the triumphs and defeats along the way. I will impress upon him the importance of appreciating and remembering that the path to equality is and was never easy but is always worthy and important. Without all those people, we wouldn't be standing where we are today. And I like today.