Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Jersey Takes the Torch

Let's give New Jersey a huge standing ovation for leading the nation by passing the first-ever suicide prevention law!!  As an added bonus, three Rupublicans led the way with this bill.  Fantastic!

Essentially, what the bill will do is consolidate and co-ordinate state resources and raise awareness to the issue.  Small step, maybe, but certainly a step in the right direction.  It's believed that Tyler Clementi's suicide in September of 2010 pushed them to action.  Whatever it takes.

What is needed, now, is for the other 49 states to follow New Jersey's lead.  It's time.  We're living in a time where suicide is the third leading cause of death of those between the ages of 15-24.  That's ridiculous. 

The danger here, of course, is that people will become complacent once again, with the thinking that "everything is going to be fine..." now that a law is in place.  Not the case!  The law will help.  However, we all need to continue what has become a very strong, dedicated effort to reverse this alarming trend.  As a person who's been trying to bring attention to this situation for well over a decade, I can tell you that what's going on right now is genuinely heartwarming.  Around the globe, ordinary people are making extraordinary efforts to make a difference.  Slowly, but surely, it's paying off.  Now, we all just have to keep doing what we're doing.  Relentlessly.  Until there are no more families force to bear the burden of wondering what they could've done differently to save their loved one.

Thank you, New Jersey, for your leadership.

Gay Rights = Civil Rights: Remembering Bayard Rustin

I heard this story on "In the Life" maybe 10 years ago.  Then, it was placed right back on a hanger and put back in the closet.  It couldn't have resurfaced at a more significant time.  For as far as we've come, we do still have work to do.  More importantly, it's crucial, in this day of rampant LGBT teen suicides, for the young people to understand that they truly ARE part of the fabric of this world, that their contributions have the potential of being significant.

Bayard Rustin is a name to remember. (even though I'd forgotten the name for the past 10 years, I always remembered the story)  For as much as Dr. Martin Luther King was the face of the 60s civil rights movement, Bayard Rustin was the architect who made it all come together...and, work.  It was Dr. King's vehicle, but it was Bayard Rustin's well-designed road it traveled on its way to prominence.

Stories of Rustin's homosexuality began to surface in 1960 forcing King and the Civil Rights movement to part ways with him.  To their thinking, exposure would certainly derail their uber-important efforts.  Unfortunately, they were probably right.  But, by 1963, Rustin had resurfaced with the Civil Rights movement, albeit more behind the scene, and went on to architect what we now know as the 1963 Freedom March on Washington which gave birth to the timeless "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. King.

Why is this important?  Well, for one, I believe that it is crucial for young LGBT teens to understand that we DO have a voice, that we ARE important, and that their own lives ARE definitely worth living.  Seeing the accomplishments of Bayard Rustin, and the universal importance of his efforts should inspire anyone, especially a confused and questioning LGBT teen.  Without Bayard Rustin, Dr. King's rise to legendary leader of peace may have never happened.

Of equal importance to me at least, as an older black and gay man, is the realization that the Civil Rights movement of yesterday and the Gay Rights movement of today are one and the same.  Intertwined.  I recently read a comment saying, basically, that the black community had taken issue with people linking the two together.  Quickly, I responded.  Paraphrased, I told them that they are absolutely the same fight.  More to the point, it's the same fight against the same establishment.  What this means is that, for all of our gains we've experienced over the past decade (and, certainly, over the past 18-24 months), we still have a ton of work to do.  The battle is not won.  Not yet.  Then again, neither is the one for racial equality, proving that we must continue to press forward and fight those who would delight in seeing us all locked back in the closet.  That way, they can go back to pretending that we don't exist.

I guess the message here is that we all, whether we're straight, LGBT, black, white, green, or Venusian, have a voice and a contribution to make to the well-being of our society.  Bayard Rustin's contributions will resonate forever.