The LGBTQ+ community and its allies have clearly become the adults in the room
I took a sip from my blonde cappuccino, and allowed myself a brief moment of reflection. I had just interviewed the mayor of Nashville. A mainstream, run-of-the-mill political interview… As an open transgender woman, writing for an openly LGBTQ+ magazine, with a local politician who values our community, who openly rubs elbows with people like us in openly queer spaces.
Twenty years ago, an openly transgender woman in that same upscale coffee shop stood a more than reasonable chance of being escorted by police officers to the local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
The week before, I had shared the restroom with female delegates to a Southern Baptist Convention conference without anyone batting an eyelash. A little more than five years ago, a transgender woman using a women's restroom would likely have been placed under arrest.
Times have changed, and rather quickly too. Much of this change has come from attitudes instead of laws. For all the knuckleheads who want to lock us back into the closet, a far larger majority have learned that we're just us and that that's okay.
Are more people openly identifying as queer today? Yes, but why? Because we can...and because we have to be. The minority who hate us are far more active today than in recent; they are coming out of their closets too. More than a few of our queer cousins finally stepped into daylight as a result, and suddenly we are far bigger than we ever dared to imagine.
For all the crap that has happened since the 2016 presidential election, the elevation of an unfit person to high office and the release of pent-up hate by many of those who support him have forced others to make a choice.
Many of those “not like us” are aligning with people and causes that they never would have associated with if that political catastrophe had not happened. Open hatred has opened eyes, and given voice to many who formerly chose to stay silent.
Suddenly, we are considered among the actual adults in the room. Just as suddenly our opinions are being sought, our votes are being courted, and our needs are beginning to be considered and addressed. Pride has become more powerful, and that’s a good thing.
“I think the LGBTQ+ community is focused on the same things that most Nashvillians are focused upon…generally, I do not look at the LGBTQ+ community any differently as...other Nashville communities.”
That's our mayor about us, a little more than a month ago. The shocking thing about that statement was not so much what he said, but the matter-of-fact tone, devoid of pandering, in which he made it. The mayor was addressing us as people like any other, worthy of respect.
Let that sink in: Respect. How many of us have been shamed by those who think our mutual blessing is something to be feared? How many of us had miserable childhoods because we could not adapt to the majority culture? How many of us were destroyed in one way or another because of this bigotry?
But love is winning, and it is changing the debate. Suddenly, the formerly crazy people are now thought of as responsible adults. Meanwhile, the people who actively hate us are proving themselves to be the bigots we’ve always known them to be in open daylight now, but this time are getting called out by our allies too.
The ones who fear us? They're still scared, but we can work with that lot. Over time, the majority of them will learn. Then we will be required to pay the hard price that comes to those entrusted with respect. We will need to forgive for the next generation’s sake. And we can do it, because we really are the adults in the room, and we know that love wins.
Today we possess the honor of being one of organized hate’s main and foremost enemies. When the bigots try to discourage us or make attempts to take away our civil rights, just go back to what our mayor said and remember how he said it as we fight back.
We still have a battle ahead, but on the thirtieth anniversary of Nashville Pride, take the time to look around at your sisters, brothers, and allies, and reflect upon how far we have come since the first one. The future generations of Southern LGBTQ+ people may look back upon this period and say that this was when our community came of age … and truly moved forward.
The times are changing and we are winning. Just look around you during Pride. We are everywhere.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local trans woman.