Last week, Jerame and I traveled to NYC where I was honored to receive the NYC Anti-Violence Project's Courage Award alongside fellow LGBT bloggers, Joe Jervis (Joe.My.God.), Pam Spaulding (Pam's House Blend), and Andy Towle (Towleroad). The honor is two-fold: the AVP is a very esteemed part of the foundation of our community and the group of blogging peers is impressive. (As an extra bonus, it was also the first award I've won that had my name spelled correctly on it!)
If you'd asked me in late 2004 what I saw in my future, I would never have guessed all the opportunities the new Bilerico blog would afford me. I'm constantly amazed that I've been able to shape my notorious e-mails to a local list-serve about politics and LGBT issues into a career in blogging, activism and writing.
The AVP Courage Award though, means something special. Being honored fresh off the passage of the federal hate crimes law, it really resonated in this Hoosier. Until the law went into effect, I had none of the protections a hate crimes statute can offer. Blogging about "anti-violence" hasn't just been altruistic, that hate crimes law added some security to my family's life. It was also one of the reasons why I picked up the keyboard to begin pounding out political opinion op-eds.
Starting a Wildfire
I didn't start blogging to travel or win awards; the priority wasn't the mentions in the mainstream media or the fans who want pictures. VIP access to events wasn't even a consideration. Insider sources on Capital Hill and in LGBT orgs wasn't even a possibility.
Instead, Jerame pushed me to start the blog because there wasn't anything like it in Indiana. Our community's concerns and political priorities have always been given short shrift in the Hoosier state while our local needs were often overlooked by the larger national movement. As the guy who was always kvetching about local and national politics and gay right in general, Jerame saw a spark that could create a blaze.
After we re-launched as Bilerico Project, the flames spread to have national impact. We've been blessed to have presidential candidates, Congress members, best selling authors, movement leaders and established activists post on Bilerico. Our regular stable of dynamic contributors includes one of the best mixes of our diverse community. There is no guarantee that you'll find a safe space on Bilerico Project or that you'll agree with every post. We intend to make things a little heated as we work through our community's issues bit by bit and piece by piece.
We've spread from my constant carping about the state of Indiana's LGBT leadership and priorities into a nationally known multi-contributor site with a reputation for smart, insightful commentary while still including a lot of personality and pop culture.
I'm really lucky that Bilerico has grown into such a large platform. I use it's bully pulpit quite often and I help others use it too. The site wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for all the other contributors and editors - and Jerame for pushing me to get off my ash.
Sometimes, like a pyromaniac, I sit back and laugh as I watch the fire grow. As dysfunctional as our community can be sometimes, I truly believe that out of the ashes will rise a phoenix.
The Phoenix Rises
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is coming up for a vote soon, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell is scheduled for next year and a federal hate crimes law is now reality. As we burn through these benchmarks of our community's standards, our future will start to shine through all the smoke.
I want to be a part of that future. I want to help shape our priorities once we've achieved the basics. I want to help us stay on track, move our message, and rally the troops when we need them. I want to be a responsible citizen in our community.
What will we set our eyes on once we've achieved three out of four big objectives? Our movement will be reborn as we tick off these boxes on the LGBT scorecard. We will have been given the opportunity to shape our own futures and start anew.
Bloggers like Pam, Joe and Andy are the first feathers of that new and brilliant bird while organizations like the Anti-Violence Project are the flesh we cling to.
Let's fly together.