Over the last week and a half, I have found myself wearing through tires, burning gas, speaking to legislators and representatives and doing whatever I could short of throwing bricks to bring attention to the legislation on hand in Kansas.
In the last two days, I've had lots of friendly PMs here, some twitter notes, and a few people who have been very kind. Thank you.
An hour ago, I took a phone call from someone that just, well, killed me. I have not hid my views - they are out in the open on most issues. It was only a matter of time before someone who knew me in real life would read something I had written and contact me.
Today, someone I have known for more then a decade called me, and after talking for thirty minutes, I quickly got over all my feelings of 'this is working', and I realized: My real regret is that I knew this was going on, and I didn't do more sooner
I've told her I won't reveal her name but I asked her if I could write about it here, because outside of the fact people might read it, I hoped some people would think about it.
I have known this person decades. I will leave it at that so there can be some question. What I didn't know, until today, was that she was gay. I had thought it might be true, but she had been married once - although a short marriage a few years ago - and so I dismissed my thoughts. After all, I don't really care what makes you happy, as long as you are happy.
But for this person, her life growing up was miserable. She knew, in her heart of hearts, she told me that she was gay. The first time she really 'knew', she was fourteen years old, living in a Kansas Community in the far west reaches of our state. She felt awkward because everything she had been told about being gay meant that she should 'hate' boys, but she didn't 'hate' boys. She just.. preferred girls. It felt right to her.
Living in her family and her community, she heard every anti-gay rant there was, and she knew - or at least she believed - that if she ever came out as gay, she might not have her family. To this day, in her late thirties, she has not told her family, afraid of the response.
During her college years, she met a young man who she admired, respected. She respected him enough, they were close enough friends that she thought: My family will accept this. I can make this work. But years of struggle in her marriage, anti-depressants and a lot of hardships led to them breaking up a few years later.
"It wasn't his fault" but she knew, she knew in every bone in her body that no matter how hard she tried to 'be straight', she couldn't be straight, and she live(s) in fear of ever letting her family, her co-workers and others know she is gay.
Paraphrasing her "I grew up afraid if people knew they'd hate me. But it was always just fear. I saw this happen and it stopped being fear. It proved every dark thought in my head: that a lot of people I knew would hate me".
We spoke a bit more and I let her go, I promised her I would never 'out' her but invited her to come to the event in Topeka. She asked me a question, though, that I have been asked in other forums, mostly by bigots: Since I'm not gay, why do I care about this issue?
Over the last few days, I've had a lot of people ask me that, almost as a way to say they secretly think I am gay (I am not). They use it as a slur, as a way to degrade the argument. But I don't have to be gay to recognize something is wrong.
In order to change civil rights for a group, it is rarely the group impacted that has to change. African Americans didn't have to say: "Well, maybe if a few of us STOP being African Americans they will give some ground here." The change agent, the moment of change has to come from Heterosexual Men & Women accepting those who are gay and lesbian. It has to be that Heterosexual Men & Women get up and say: THIS IS WRONG.
Too many straight men & women think: This doesn't impact me, I have other things that matter. Or, as I see in facebook feeds 'WHO CARES'. When we stop caring about our fellow man we all lose. Every last one of us.
I see far too often, even when stories about this are shared on Facebook and Twitter "JUST LEAVE KANSAS" and I get the feeling. But where does that leave those, born gay in the wrong state. Stuck struggling, contorting their lives to feel accepted because everything around them works to make them feel 'less'.
In Kansas, we've worked the last two weeks as hard as I know how. Phone call trees, letters, ad campaigns, diaries, tweets, whatever we could do to gain any attention. To force pressure on people.
I've argued with News Directors, with Radio call in hosts, with Newspaper Columnists: Give us a few inches. Make this a story.
Whatever it took, if I had someone who would drive there to make the case, we tried our damnedest to get someone to say something, on the record. To talk to ministers, to talk to elected officials, to sit at home and make phone calls.
Today, Kansas Clergy came out and released their statement:
Church leaders in Kansas stepped forward to express dismay Friday, contending the political agenda of a majority in the House encroached upon fundamental Christian principles of compassion, equality and safety for all people.
Colonial Church minister Aaron Roberts, of Prairie Village, was part of a trio who drove to the Capitol to personally register discontent with a bill supporters presented as a shield of religious freedom for those who object to same-sex marriage. Critics claimed the bill would grant legal standing to repress the rights of gay and lesbian couples.
"Ostensibly, this bill is being presented as a bill about religious freedom," Roberts said. "It's actually a license for bigotry."
Kate McGee, who pastors at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Topeka, said the bill was offensive to her as a Christian and American.
"It's not the Christ I follow," she said. "A bill like this, it discriminates against the very people that Christ would be sitting with and eating with today."
Why has this story mattered in Kansas? It mattered because a bunch of progressives would not let this go. It mattered because like bulldogs student groups, letter writers, phone callers and sites like Kos wouldn't let the story go away. It stayed a story because people who were gay and straight, men and women, got together and demanded better. We demanded better not just for us, but for future children born in our state.
The problem is, Kansas isn't alone. In Idaho at this moment, similar legislation is making headway.
The measure was backed by conservatives and Christian allies, who support such a measure as they said it would protect religious people from losing their professional licences for refusing service or employment to those deemed in violation of their religious beliefs.In Tennessee. Senate Bill 2566 reads like a twin to the legislation in Kansas.
The state of Idaho currently requires professional licences for anyone working as a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, attorney, social worker, fire fighter, police officer, estate agent or insurance provider.
On outlining the measure, Luker noted cases in Oregon and New Mexico, where discrimination cases have been brought against services which refused to cater for gay couples.
Idaho currently has no protections for LGBT people in its Human Rights Act.
Luker’s measure, if passed into law would mean the state could not revoke the licence of any professional refusing “to provide or participate in providing any service that violates the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Deny service. Declare once and for all that Gays & Lesbians are lesser, should be segregated and that's OK.
This week I've went back and forth, I've met with candidates who were afraid to say 'boo' on this issue for fear that it would 'guarantee a loss in the fall'. I've spoken to representatives afraid of facing a primary opponent on the right. I've heard a lot of promises.
I've listened to people here and elsewhere say 'Time to Leave Kansas'. And at times, I nod my head; if there isn't change in 2014, for financial reasons, I may be forced to hop the state line to get help for our son (Kansas is now up to a 10 year waiting list for residential mental health services).
The moment someone I've known for almost half of my adult life tells me that she was scared to come out to me, scared to come out to anyone, and that she has lived single and afraid for years crushed me.
I'm glad she felt she could tell me today. I know it was hard and scary for her, no matter what I have ever written, no matter how sure she was of how I would probably react, she spent her entire life feeling as though the world hates some part of her, and that's a hard fear to shake in just a day or two.
Even the most religious, hardened conservative can have children who are gay. (See: Dick Cheney). Even the most rural populations can have gay citizens. Children are born every day who will be LGBT who have no control over where in this country they are born.
It's easy to say "Move out of Idaho" "Move out of Kansas". But listening to my friend talk today I am hardened in my belief: that is the answer of cowardice. It is sacrificing an unknown number of people to live in a situation that defies their civil rights because it's easier. It's a platitude we throw around. It's a statement that hurts those who are suffering in those states who already feel as though they have no allies to add to their suffering by saying that their civil rights aren't worth a fight because it's not likely to win.
A political party is not built on the idea that it only fights when it can win. You also have to have core beliefs, beliefs that are intransigent. Beliefs that you cannot change, that you cannot compromise.
I may not be gay. But I can't be part of the system that hides because it's easy and lets people suffer silently, in fear of how others will react.
In Kansas, we made waves and we have at least forced the issue. Win or lose in the end, we will have made it an open fight in some of the reddest soil in the country because a lot of people refused to back down out of fear.
If you are a Kossack in Idaho or Tennessee, I'm telling you: do not let this moment slip away from you. You may regret many things. You might not win. But you will never, not one minute, regret fighting for the rights of another human being. Not one minute in your life will you say "I wish I hadn't made that phone call, written that email, said X". It won't happen.
You don't have to run for office to make a change. But if you don't try to make some change - no matter how red of a state you are, you are sending the message to all of those who suffer in your state that there aren't enough people willing to fight for them.
Every square inch in this country is worth fighting for when it comes to civil rights. Every square inch. If we refuse to fight against tyranny in even the most red county, city or state in this country will we be sending the clear message that fighting for humanity isn't what we do.
That's not what I believe in. It's not, I think what most of the people on this site believe in.
So, I'm going to add this and get some mod feedback: from today on, if I see comments in any diary on this subject I write that say 'They should just move', I will HR you. Because this site is about promoting the message of the party. And if you are willing to give up on the human rights of any group of people, you are not helping this party. You are part of the problem. Even tongue in cheek. We must be unified in the idea that every person in this country has free rights, and we must be willing to fight anywhere to get them.
If you're not on board with that, don't post to my diaries, don't comment in my feeds, don't email. But ask yourself: If you were born in a red state, and you were Gay or Lesbian, Hispanic or Black, would you be OK with that attitude. I think you'll reconsider.
It took my friend decades to come out of the closet to me, because she was afraid. Despite knowing my views, despite reading my thoughts, it took her a very long time and a lot of courage because all of her life she's been around people who told her 'those people' were less. And now, she lives and works in a state that tries to make it the law to prove that point.
She's not alone. Tennessee, Idaho.. the ball is in your court. Fight damn it. Fight the good fight.
February 25, in Topeka Kansas we will be having a Kossack get together. If you can come, please do.