Editor's Note: Jacqueline Wing is the communications manager at The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.
On Wednesday morning, I realized that the diverse, accepting and all-encompassing world I live and work in victimized me to what I believe must be "reverse sheltering." My apartment in West Los Angeles is less than two miles from my office, which is nestled on Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of West Hollywood. I work for a non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Needless to say, I spend my workdays surrounded by compassionate people who believe in human rights and equality. Likewise, I spend many lunch hours walking past rainbow flags proudly waving in the wind as cars zoom by plastered with Human Rights Campaign bumper stickers. Most recently, the streets of West Hollywood and the lawns of my neighbors displayed dark blue election signs reading: "VOTE NO ON PROP 8: UNFAIR AND WRONG."
This realm of my existence, paired with the fact that I was raised by a family who taught me that all people are equal and deserve the same rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, led me to believe that Proposition 8 never stood the slightest chance of passing.
When I walked into my office on Wednesday morning and saw my co-workers' smiles replaced with somber glances, I realized I should have checked CNN before I left for work. Proposition 8 had passed, and with it, so had the dreams of some of my best friends and closest family members who thought they would finally have the same rights I do to someday marry the person they love. In that moment, I felt humbled and heartbroken.
Many of my friends compare me to Charlotte from Sex and the City. Idealistic, optimistic and a believer in true love, I cannot fight them on that one. Right now, working hard and climbing the ladder in a career I love and feel passionately about is one of my highest priorities. But I also dream about one day meeting my future husband, marrying him and someday starting a family. What will it feel like to stand in front of my family and friends and vow to love and cherish another person forever? What will it feel like to hold my child for the first time and share that moment with my husband? I can dream all I want, but I'll never know the answers to these questions until I experience them.
Still, one thing remains certain, even before they happen. If a law passed that said I would never be able to legally marry a man, or that if my future husband and I wanted to adopt a baby, we would be denied the right to do so simply because we were heterosexual, my dreams would be crushed. I would feel like a second-class citizen betrayed by my own neighbors and government.
I was baptized into the Presbyterian Church as an infant. I attended Sunday school throughout my entire childhood, and was confirmed in the church during middle school. I went on to graduate from a Catholic high school, and attended a Christian university for my first two years of college. Christianity is a fundamental part of my identity, and without my faith, I know I'd be lost. I've regularly attended church since I was a baby - at times with my family, at times with my classmates, at times alone. Having lived as a Christian for my entire life, I can honestly say I was always taught that God loves all of His children, and does not discriminate against any one of us. I learned that although all humans sin and make mistakes, God's love remains unconditional and overwhelmingly present. Through the years, my faith has guided me and steadied me. It has taught me the difference between right and wrong. It is wrong to intentionally hurt people; to point out the flaws of another person without realizing your own; to discriminate against any one person or group of people simply because they are different from you. It is right to help those less fortunate than you; to try to see the best in anyone you meet; to treat all people equally and celebrate diversity and love.
That is precisely why I cannot even begin to understand the argument in favor of Proposition 8, and even more so, the enormous rallying of support for this discriminatory measure from churches and Christian groups across the country. The Bible may refer to homosexuality as an "abomination," but that is the same word it uses to describe menstruating women. Read in a literal sense, The Bible also accepts slavery and condemns eating shellfish and pork. When did so many Christians forget about their obligation to understand the historical and cultural context of the scriptures they read? When did it become acceptable to God to selectively pull words from The Bible and use them as a basis for discrimination and bigotry?
In the days since Proposition 8 passed, I realized that my Charlotte-like nature and comfortable life on the West side of Los Angeles caused me to forget that the struggle for equality and the progression of the lesbian and gay civil rights movement are not close to being completed, even in a state so seemingly progressive as California. A few days ago, as our staff presented our newlywed executive director with a card congratulating him and his husband on their recent marriage, I couldn't help but think of the injustice of the situation. Not long before, I perused one of my girlfriend's gift registries for her upcoming wedding. When she gets married, the wedding cards and gifts from friends, family and co-workers will make her and her husband smile as they think about their new life together. I wonder if the estimated 16,000 now-married gay couples in California will open their wedding cards and gifts, and feel hurt or betrayed. Because Proposition 8's message couldn't be louder or clearer - it's screaming at these newlyweds: Your love is not worthy; YOU are not worthy!
I for one refuse to believe that, much less accept it as part of my state's Constitution. We may have a long journey ahead of us, but if we all work together, whether we're straight or gay, Christian or agnostic, Charlotte-minded or Samantha-esque, then I know that equality and social justice will prevail and all people will attain the civil rights they deserve. In the spirit of our President-elect: Yes we can!