This past June 23rd, I spoke at the headquarters of the NYPA in White Plains, NY, for their LGBT awareness month. The event, which was so well attended, was a work in progress for a few years, thanks only for the efforts of Helene Raps-Beckerman. She has been a great ally not only to the LGBT community, but for me as well. For that, I am most grateful and humbled. Little did anyone know that I was celebrating a monumental anniversary at the same time.
That same week marked the 20th anniversary of when I had the opportunity to speak for my first corporate event. DuPont had hired me to speak to their employees, for their first ever LGBT event. How humbled I was to be asked, and how moved I was when I had the chance to speak to some of the employees before I went on stage. One conversation I had has stuck with me to this day AND I have used the context of that conversation in every corporate event I have given over these last twenty years. A female employee back in ‘97 was distraught that she was unable to have a picture of her partner on her desk. She felt that she would be harassed or maligned for throwing her sexual orientation into the faces of her heterosexual counterparts. After our conversation (before I went on stage), I went to DuPont’s gift shop and bought a picture frame. I then used it in my talk to emphasize the magnitude of how someone feels when they are treated as unequal (this event is highlighted in the video on my presentations page). Now, twenty years later, I still am amazed how this little picture frame (yes, it is the original) still has a powerful message. I used it again in White Plains, and it had the same affect (video will be uploaded to my web page soon) on the attendees. Amazement and frustration, that after all these years, we still don’t have the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed, an openly gay athlete (actively playing) in one of the four major sports, and young and old LGBT people still committing suicide, we still have a long way to go. Our fight is not over, but our resolve remains strong.
I have stayed strong over the last twenty-seven years, yet I have remained somewhat dismayed that things aren’t where they should be. Yes, there have been monumental walls knocked down. Marriage equality, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell abolished to name two, but there are still fights to be won. Transgender equality is a must, as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act must be the law of the land. We must continue to fight the good fight, so that the generation that follows us will be in a much better place.
Over the years, I have quoted Robert Kennedy’s “Ripple of Hope’ speech he made in South Africa fifty-one years ago this past June. He said:
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Please know, that WE are those ripples, and together we can build a current that can knock down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.
Thanks for reading, and remember,
Never Strike Out!