Dear DKos Community:
In the time I've been a member of this site, I've been married and divorced. I've seen history happen in good ways and bad - often simultaneously, like the election of Barack Obama the same night Prop 8 passed. I've moved states multiple times. My life has changed a lot - I once lived in a state known for its redness (Texas), and now I live in one of the most pleasantly blue states in the Union (Washington). I've also watched some major changes occur in this country - and in this online community, too. In considering these things, I must thank you.
When I posted my first diaries about marriage equality, I did so in an attempt at combined expository therapy and turning negative feelings into some kind of positive action. What I got out of posting those varied but was significant. When you get a feeling off your chest, even posting it online to strangers, it often helps process that feeling. There were others who shared my feelings, and so I found commonality, and a feeling of community around those issues. People validated my feelings, too, and helped me to understand that I wasn't wrong to feel the way I did. They also validated my writing, which was a great self-esteem boost. For a person who was very isolated in an abusive relationship, the community and the validation were invaluable. For this, I thank you.
Another aspect of these posts: opposition. When I first joined this site, I did so because my issues were being discussed - and not always in the rosiest light, either. It's always been hard for me to stay quiet, so I didn't. In the comments below my diaries, many members disagreed with me on marriage equality and LGBT rights. Commenters frequently told me how unimportant my civil rights were in the grand scheme of things, and that pursuing them was getting in the way of resolving greater concerns. They told me civil unions or domestic partnerships should be enough, that I didn't need marriage equality to be equal. They told me I was too loud about it, and I was costing Democrats elections (the 2004 presidential election is an example). They told me my relationship was different, and didn't need the same status as others' do.
What an opportunity for learning that has been. Truly.
I've learned an important, and difficult, lesson, one I feel has made me a better person. I learned that good people can disagree. I learned that I can find commonality, even with a person who doesn't think I deserve equality. Even though we disagree on something fundamental in one area, I've learned I can share values with the same person in a different area. I thought I valued diversity before I joined this community, but I learned to value it more and in a different way since I became a member of DKos. Because of that, I've become a better learner and a more willing listener. I don't shut off the moment I hear something I disagree with, and that makes political conversations - and difficult conversations of ALL types - easier and more interesting to have. For this, too, I thank you.
Even more crucially, those comment threads gave me real-world practice in engaging the opposition to win hearts and minds. I also learned by watching others engage in the debate. It was great not to feel alone, and it was even better to see others model different types of reasoning and learn new information that would help me beyond Daily Kos. Before I joined this site, I would never have had the guts to join political conversations - especially about my civil rights - and express my views. I'm not afraid to do that now. I am better able to explain to others why I hold ANY position, and in particular that has helped me show close friends and family what LGBT people experience. In the process, I've won opposers to our side, and helped strengthen support among people who believe I deserve equality. I learned how to be a personal activist here, and that has changed my life for the better. For this, I very much thank you.
Lately, I am struck by the rarity of engaging an opposing viewpoint on my civil rights here. Now, my participation waxes and wanes, and I'm sure I miss a lot, but this is a major change compared to previous experience. It's been gradual, but the change is here. It makes sense, if I look at polling. Thanks to generational shifts, continuing outreach by people like me resulting in growth among people of all kinds, and leadership from many quarters - not the least of them the President of the United States - the level of support for marriage equality in the USA has grown rapidly. When I look at polls of the ballot initiatives currently in play, in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and here in Washington, around 20-25% of Republicans in those states seem to support equality. These are blue-states, of course - I'm sure that proportion would drop like a stone in, say, Alabama. The proportion of Democrats who support equality, however, has shifted tremendously. In times past, when I talked to other LGBT folks about equality, they often expressed frustration that people they considered good Democrats and good liberals somehow didn't support civil equality. I used to remind them, "Just because they're a Democrat doesn't mean they're pro-gay." They would nod with knowing disappointment. Polls would show barely half of self-identified Democrats supporting equality - often less than half. Now, I'm seeing 60-80% support among that same group in polls. It floors me.
To abuse a phrase, it's change I can believe in. And for that, I thank you.
I am grateful to those who have opened their minds and hearts and changed their viewpoint on equality. I am thankful to those who have tirelessly engaged people in this community who don't consider me worthy of equality - many are more dogged than me in that pursuit. Also, I'm very personally grateful to Kos himself - for leading on the issue for this community, not tolerating homophobia here, making our civil rights a front-page issue and NEVER apologizing for it. Kos, you were the first straight man I saw publicly defend my civil rights. In demanding better Democrats, you - and this community - have helped pave the way for me to see events I never thought would come to pass. The shaking and terrified 19-year-old who came out to Mom in the mid-'90s, fearing being thrown out on the street, never imagined that one day equality would become a platform of a major national party. That the President and First Lady and luminaries up and down that convention would stand up and tell the world I deserve to marry the person I love, regardless of gender. My world has been shaken.
I've never felt so supported. I once thought equality would not come in my lifetime. I'm now more optimistic than ever that I was wrong.The fight isn't over - not by a long shot - but I finally think we have a good chance to win.
And for that, from the depths of my heart, I thank you.