Five Things I Never Thought I’d See

A confession: I never thought I would see this day

Though I’ve worked hard for the acceptance of same-sex couples, I never really believed I would see the day when I could marry the person I loved.

I never thought I would see the day that my transgender friends would be granted their rightful place in society.

I never thought I would see the day churches would embrace marriage between two persons who want to love and cherish each other forever, regardless of gender.

I never thought I would see the day when Seattle would have an out and proud mayor who is gay.

The fight to prove all lives matter

Through the years, different groups of people have taken a pounding and a beating – Blacks, Jews, Italians, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Women, Muslims, Gays, the list seems endless – while they fought for freedom and equality. They all deserve both. Period.

During the festivities of PRIDE week, I was reminded that despite all our accomplishments, the struggle for freedom and equality continues. Valuable lives – gay, straight, black, Muslim – are still lost unnecessarily because of prejudice, hatred, ignorance, religiosity, fear and despair. Our LGBT youth, a subset of all other groups, face the worst of it. These beautiful young people commit suicide far too often, unable to live after friends, family and church find them unworthy and throw them away.

Teen suicide rates are high – especially among LGBT youth, who are four times more likely to end their lives than straight youth. Teens who aren’t sure of their sexuality are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

According to SPEAK (Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids) suicide is the leading cause of death among gay teens nationally, with 30% of gay youth attempting suicide near the age of fifteen.

Some of those who survive end up out on the streets. The street is no place for any kid. It is often on the streets that physical, mental and emotional problems begin. There are a host of predators – even some that appear quite benign – waiting for vulnerable youth on the streets. The more fortunate find resources such as the Seattle Human Services Department, YouthCare, Lambert House, the Orion Center and Catholic Community Services to turn to and come back into society.

I believe without a doubt that when one group of persons is raised up, we all are

When our schools are safer and bullying is not tolerated for gay students, all students are safer. When gay parents are granted the right to marry, all families and children are validated. As churches welcome LGBT families and individuals, the community is enriched and when work places are gay friendly they attract the brightest and the best and everyone profits. And when gay teens are safe and cared for, all teen lives become more valuable.

During PRIDE week I was reminded that I am a part of a city that cares. Seattle cares. Seattle wants to make things better. As I see it, PRIDE week is not only about LGBT pride, but pride in all of humanity. The march along Broadway was accompanied by a chant of “NOT ONE MORE.” We cannot afford to lose one more life to hate, homophobia or racism.

Wearing a shirt with the words, “PRETTY QUEER, HUH,” across the front, I cheered and shouted for joy along with thousands of my LGBT peers. We cheered our officials, the fire and police departments, men and women in uniform who help members of the LGBT community every day. We shouted for joy that brave out and proud men, women and families can live openly here. We marched to celebrate that we live in a city that knows there’s a place for everyone.

mary dispenza surrounded by young LGBT activists at Seattle Pride

At the parade, my friend Al Garman snapped a photo of me surrounded by enthusiastic LGBT kids and their supporters. I like this picture because it shows the generations – the up and coming young surrounding an elder representative of those who have fought the good fight in the struggle for equality through the years.

There’s still much to fight for

Despite the fact that I’ve seen many amazing things come to pass, the struggle isn’t over. There are still many ways to enhance and ensure freedom and equality for all. I’ll continue to work on these issues. Now though, I see a new generation taking the lead. And I look forward to passing the torch to them.

Though I never thought I’d see the day when the U.S. Supreme Court would give same-sex couples the right to wed in all 50 states, I’m overjoyed that I did!

I can’t even imagine yet the great things the next generation will bring us.

PS – A version of this article appeared previously in the Seattle Gay News.

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