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March 17, 2013

And We Can't Run Out Of Steam

Equality Texas Lobby Day March is a month that is filled with days designated for celebrations and recognition. International Women’s Day, St. Patrick's Day, Passover, Good Friday, Palm Sunday, Easter and the continuation of Lent, which began February 13th, 2013. If you aren’t purchasing lily’s, wearing green, eating corn beef and cabbage, or observing Lent, there is always Spring break. So many days designated to take part in a religious tradition, celebrate your Irish ancestry or just take off for holiday. I, like you, may have decided to be part of one or several of the days if not all all of them.

There is one day that wasn’t on the yearly calendar that should be on the calendar every day. March 11th, 2013 was Equality Texas Lobby Day in Austin Texas. I participated because I know the power is We, The People. I participated because I had observed, in horror and disbelief, the months of January and February, Congress determining if the Violence Against Women legislation would be approved. It was thanks to millions who made their voices heard. The power is We, The People! Money might buy legislation, but people vote. We are the power!

Congress is currently arguing about the The Voting Rights Act, which is also being reviewed by the Supreme Court, and whether it is still relevant or necessary. Never mind that approximately 38 states have legislation that suppress the vote for people of color and women who received the right to vote due to the The Voting Rights Act. The election of 2012 was fraught with nationwide campaigns to suppress the vote by limiting hours to vote, less polling locations and a plethora of dubious laws and overnight shenanigans that tried to stop people from voting their hearts and conscience. We stood up and our voices were heard. We, the people, are the power! Gerrymandering sneakily put into states across the country have already altered the vote. We must be vigilant and relentless in protecting our power to vote. That is why March 11th, 2013 in Austin Texas was so important to me and approximately six hundred other heterosexual, gay and transgender Americans. We stood side by side and walked the halls of the Capitol of Austin to speak to legislators about a bill to be entitled “An Act relating to the prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

To clarify what the bill would mean, check out section 9-s; “Gender identity or expression” means having, or being perceived as having, a gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, expression, or behavior is different from that commonly associated with the person’s actual or perceived sex.” Section 13-a “Sexual orientation” means the actual, or perceived, status of an individual with respect to the individual’s sexuality. Wordy but the gist is ALL people are equal. They might not look like you, speak, worship or think like you, but they, like you, are the people and they, like you, are the power.

I learned a lot about discrimination against gay and transgender citizens, myself, and my country by participating in Equality Texas Lobby Day in Austin, March 11th, 2013. These are some of the things I will remember; Over 33% of LGBT students are harassed because of their sexual orientation, Gay teens are six times more likely to commit suicide as their heterosexual peers, and lesbian teens are twice as likely to kill themselves than their heterosexual peers, and 27% of Texans with a history of gender transition don’t have identification that truthfully reflect their gender. The good news is that we as a state are changing how we view sexual orientation. 48% of Texans polled by Equality Texas support same-sex marriage versus 47% against. Citizens that support gay marriage above the age of 65 rose from 30.5% to 41.6%, and African Americans numbers rose from 39.8% to 55.5%. Big changes from one of the most racist states in America. If Texas can change, anything is possible for America.

Women and men whose sexual orientation is different from many Americans are people with power. It is their power along with all Americans that assured President Obama a second term. We must stop excluding and judging them and embrace and respect them. Remember, it has been only fifty years since African Americans and women could vote. It was the power of all people that changed that, and it will be the power of all people who change the inequality that gay and transgender people fight everyday under the lack of laws that protect them and their families.

We, the people, must not run out of steam. Let me end this blog by giving you an analogy. Steam is power harnessed and it's what powers engines, turbines and much of our technology. In a few words steam is water turned to energy. We are the same - our bodies are symbols of power, but it is our change of hearts, minds and conscience that is the true energy. It is the change within us that pulls that lever or pushes the button at the polling site. That is the real power. So remember March 11, 2013 next year, and don’t run out of steam. Change takes power and we, the people, are the power.

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