President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address this past Monday, January 21, 2013, the second time in history that Martin Luther King Jr. day coincided with a president’s inauguration. It was a day where the past efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and the “forward” message of President Obama seemed timeless, both of these great men’s efforts fused by common goals of equality, civil rights, and justice for all.
All. The word “all” means each and every one. Yet, we know that many groups have been excluded from all, standing on the outside looking in as the real all reap the benefits granted to them, “benefits” that some us have never considered benefits. They include the right to marry; adopt and raise children; live free of harassment, discrimination, and slurs; and the right to vote. Have you ever been asked to eat your meal on the porch while others, including the family dog, eat inside? Whatever your answer, know that some people took their plate to the porch based on one reason: the color of their skin.
There is another group that encompasses every skin color, social class, and gender. Yet, for a minority that is part of every race, religious denomination, and country, we have suffered from the oppressive hands of brutality, discrimination, and condemnation.
As President Obama discussed the economy, supporting democracy internationally, and women’s rights, I wondered if we would make the cut. Hope ignited as President Obama mentioned Selma, Seneca Falls, and Stonewall. Yet, the word gay was absent.
President Obama’s worries about getting re-elected are over. Yet, we are accustomed to seeing the rights I fought for overturned by the pressure of anti-gay groups. Was Obama’s first public declaration that supported gay marriage in May 2012 just a political move? Then, my fears subsided.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” said President Obama.
When President Barack Obama included gay rights in his speech, it set a precedent: the first time a president has mentioned the LGBT community in an inauguration. I heard the cheers of many, LGBT individuals who knew what we had experienced: persecution, beatings, and unfair treatment. For some, being gay has resulted in the loss of life. Can you imagine how Judy Shepard must have felt? Her gay son Matthew Shepard was left to die against a fence, President Obama now speaking about him as a human being, worthy of rights and protection. How did Tim and Tracy Rodemeyer feel? Their 14-year old son Jamey Rodemeyer committed suicide in September 2011 after months of bullying about his sexual orientation.
I would imagine that LGBT parents, whether it is two men or two wives raising children, felt a sense of pride and gratitude, now formally included in a presidential address. We are finally part of the real all. We are closer to eradicating the hate that has plagued LGBT individuals and haunted family and friends that have lost LGBT loved ones.
I live under a leader who elevates gay rights and considers it an injustice to perpetuate homophobia. I am grateful that President Obama is brave enough to say the word Stonewall, an incident I never learned about in my history classes. My teachers never told me that the LGBT community was persecuted by Nazis during World War II and thrown into concentration camps or that gay men were tied together and used as kindling for burning witches during the Middle Ages.
Were LGBT people so insignificant that we deserved to be excluded from the history books? We have been denied the knowledge of our collective history. Yet, the winds of change have finally come, the acknowledgement of the LGBT community’s history now part of the light.
Yesterday, I was mentioned in the president’s inaugural address, and I didn’t even have to wear a pink triangle or sit on the porch.