(Originally Published in Just Out Magazine, January 2013 Issue)
I’m overcome with a newfound hope from the monumental strides we experienced as a people during 2012. With marriage equality passing in four states by popular vote, our sitting President and First Lady offering public support for our community during a critical election cycle (and then winning the election), and the surge of positive gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender main characters in movies and on TV, it seems to me that we have, in fact, arrived. The past year has left me with a bright, shiny feeling about the future of this community that I care so deeply about, and I’m guessing since the world didn’t end in December as predicted, we might actually get there.
In addition to the national and international strides made in our favor, there have been countless local and regional pieces to the ongoing equality puzzle, which were filled in during 2012. I believe activism comes in many forms, and that to truly be effective in our efforts, we must come at these issues from a variety of angles. There is still much work to be done before freedom is ours, and the more people we have involved in making change, the faster change will come. I hope you will all throw yourselves into some brand of community work this coming year, and that you might use some of the highlights below as your inspiration. There is a queer activist living inside each and every one of you, just waiting to be released into the world!
Local LGBTQ Nonprofit Fundraisers
Between Q Center’s Winter Gala, Basic Rights Oregon’s Dinner, Cascade AIDS Project’s AIDS Walk, Our House’s Auction, Quest Center for Integrative Health’s WonderQuest, Portland’s Red Dress Party, TransActive’s Superheroes for Superkids, Equity Foundation’s Bent and a handful of other major fundraising events which support LGBTQ programs and services in the area, we had plenty of chances over the course of the year to bust out our fancy gowns and tuxedos and raise money for a good cause. These big events help make the work of the organizations you support possible, so buy your tickets and tables and write a check while you’re there! There is no such thing as money better spent. Additionally, if fancy parties aren’t your thing but you are still able to give financially, please do. In these difficult economic times, nonprofits of all sizes are struggling, and every little bit counts.
Not everyone can afford to attend an expensive party or write a check, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to make just as much of a difference in the community as those who can. For folks interested in changing the lives of LGBTQ youth and young adults, programs like Q Center’s Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC), PFLAG Black Chapter, Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition, and TransActive are always looking for help in their quest to make the world a safer, better place for the youngest members of our acronym. If you are drawn to working with the other end of the age spectrum, Friendly House’s Gay and Grey, Q Center’s *eRa*: encouraging Respect for aging, and the Elders in Action programs are great outlets to serve the people who paved the way for our movement today. If you’re interested in community health and wellness, Cascade AIDS Project, Bradley Angle House, Outside In, and Quest Center for Integrative Health are always looking for dedicated volunteers to further their missions. As the old saying goes, many hands make for light work!
Adventures in Advocacy
The art of influencing the political, economic, and social landscape for our cause is ever evolving and 2012 was no exception. Q Patrol’s community-driven safety efforts, Basic Rights Oregon’s Trans Justice work, Q Center’s Inter-Community Dialogues, HRC Oregon & Southwest Washington’s election efforts, the Community of Welcoming Congregations working to create allies in faith communities, and PFLAG changing hearts and minds of families and friends all kept the queer fires burning all year long. Large-scale celebrations like Pride NW, Portland Latino Gay Pride, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus Gay Fair On The Square event, and GLAPN’s Measure 9 Victory Anniversary Celebration helped to keep our local visibility front and center in the media as well as over dinner tables and by water coolers across the region.
Just Do You
While supporting and getting involved in organized activism efforts is key to the process of our becoming truly equal citizens, some of the most important work we can do as LGBTQ people is just to be ourselves wherever we go. Being out about who we are and our experience in the world as regular people is an essential piece of the freedom pie, and just being open with everyone you know about what it really means to be queer can create a wave of awareness no financial gift could ever purchase. Ultimately, you are the most powerful vessel of change. There is strength in numbers, so: come out, come out, wherever you are.