We Thrived In The Bush Years. We'll Get Through This, Too.

Rear view of two men walking with their arms around each other
Rear view of two men walking with their arms around each other

Over the last 36 hours, I have seen incredible desperation and pain on social media from so many in my community, much of it coming from young people. As I read a great post from my friend Olympian Robert Dover, it hit me that so many of these young people didn't live as out LGBT people through the Bush years like we did. They haven't been through this before.

I came of age while President George W. Bush was in office. He became president specifically targeting gay marriage and LGBT rights. Our community was his campaign's punching back in 2000 and 2004. It wasn't pretty.

During his eight years in office, religious conservatives controlled part of the White House and, for a time, Congress, too. The promise of "compassionate Conservatism" became outright hostility to our community. A constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage was on the table.

I survived those years. We survived.

What's more, our movement thrived. Marriage equality took hold while Bush was in office. Some of us were even hired by the Bush administration. LGBT athletes started a steady stream of public coming outs. We finally added the "T" to our community. Non-discrimination acts began popping up. The Human Rights Campaign expanded. Brokeback Mountain hit the movie screens.

On a personal level, I met my husband. We dated. We committed to each other. We danced on Fire Island and celebrated in Provincetown. We got a cat.

This isn't to say everything was perfect. With Bush in office, rabidly homophobic men like Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins had more power and influence. They had a more prominent seat on the table. Their rhetoric made its way to the airwaves more and became whispers within the walls of the White House. We had setbacks.

Yet we came out of it OK. We came out of it stronger. And when the time came, we moved forward together.

I realize so many of the young people whose stories I've been blessed to share in recent years didn't live openly through that time. They haven't been out and proud during a Republican administration. Their fear is, in part, the fear of the unknown.

While progress may be harder, I can tell you that life goes on. Our movement does move forward.

Your happiness can grow. Your equality can expand. You can come out. You can fall in love.

If we stick together, we will be together. And with some fighting, we'll be fine.