"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." -- Aeschylus
The year comes to an end with a pall over America after the shootings in Newtown. Gay or straight, rich or poor, black or white, Republican or Democrat, what happened there shook the world here. Still we move on, tempered by shock, struck by pain, knowing in our hearts this is not the world we want to be.
The reality is that our universe is riddled with senseless tragedies, and each one takes a toll on our soul. Whether it is a sudden tsunami on a coastal village, or terrorist plots like those we endured on 9-11; we learn that life is precious but precarious. The future may be ten years or ten minutes, so we do what we can when we can while we are here. We make life matter in the moments that we have.
For LGBT communities in America, these have been good moments, and this has been a good year. Once again, we have grown in stature and status from Maine to Mississippi. Our rights are being respected, our love is being acknowledged, and the legitimacy of our bonds is being legally protected. As a nation, we are condemning those who bully us, silencing those who hate us, and defeating those who oppose us.
The march to equality has a benefits beyond changing tax codes for same-sex couples.
It is not just that we have elected a lesbian United States Senator, won the right to marry in many states, or get to serve in the military equally with peers; America is beginning to realize that is normal to be gay.
We are not queer anymore. We are not outcasts; we are not second-class fairies to be humiliated as perverts or to be avoided as poison.
To paraphrase La Cage Aux Folles - "We are who we are, and who we are needs no excuses."
The words of a twenty year old musical have become the chorus of our community today. We may have endured pain, but in front of us there is nothing but promise.
This past month, the South Florida Gay News advertised a December 13 holiday party for the gay and lesbian lawyer's association. Do you realize that only 35 years ago being gay could deny you the right to be a lawyer in Florida? Today, courts are debating whether gays can legally marry. Not that many years ago, they were debating whether homosexuality was a mental illness.
When it comes to fighting for equality, you cannot be complacent.
Even today, there are those who still want to 'cure' us with their 'reparative therapies.' The difference today is we can tell those people where to go; that we don't need their cures and don't want their therapies.
There are always remnants of the past dragged into the future, always those speaking on the wrong side of history. Today though, there is no excuse to hide amongst the bigots. We can tear them down, and so we must, openly, loudly, and proudly.
The challenge before us is to live up to the positions we hold. Let America see you can become a gay quarterback in the NFL, or a lesbian astronaut in outer space. Don't hide who you are, or deny who you can become. Live your life honestly and openly, because in the end, it was your life to live. Don't die wondering 'what if,' live being what you can be.
We create our own destinies tomorrow by each and every choice we make today. You can still chart the future; you can only map the past. Whatever was, you can't undo. But whatever is to be is up to you.
Last year, the South Florida Gay News did a joking piece about how many gay and lesbians were emerging from the closet. "Get in line and take a number," the columnist wrote, "there are more people coming out then we have pages to print." 'Coming out' is no longer newsworthy. 'Staying in' is.
You may be the pollster that predicted the election, the news anchor that hosted the results, or the CEO of Apple who tweeted them on your iPhone. That does not matter. Who you do is not nearly as important as who you are. What you do with your clothes off in bed at nighttime is not nearly as important as what you do in the daytime with your clothes on.
As you celebrate the holidays and welcome the New Year, whether you are on South Beach or in San Francisco, may you be grateful for who you are and what our LGBT community is becoming. May you celebrate each day, and value every night. Our rainbow is part of the fabric and rubric of today's America. May you embrace it enthusiastically, recalling with special fondness the friends and families we have loved and lost. May you make the world a better place tomorrow by your work here today.