Those participating in the ‘It Gets Better’ series are right – it DOES get better. Sadly, many of us in the LGBT community can tell our stories of growing up in families or with schoolmates who didn’t see us for who we were. With little education on the topic, and few role models in our circle, we led secret, psychologically, and sometimes physically destructive lives.
Sharing this past, I’m then amazed whenever someone can question the need for organizations like NLGJA. Surely, they tell me, in this day and age, there’s no longer a need for nonprofits that work for equality in the workplace or in the news. They often use students as an example, describing how comfortable the next generation can feel being out at their schools or in their new jobs. I don’t know whether I’m thrilled that this person doesn’t face discrimination, a definite sign of progress; or whether I’m saddened by how out of touch one can become in some of our safer communities. For example, I live in Washington, DC, a relatively welcome home for the LGBT community. I don’t have to travel far, however, to see that’s not true in every area, neighborhood, or even a few houses down the street.
Today, the Chicago Tribune produced interviews with local students in Illinois who have experienced bias in college, a place where many of us believe would be the safe haven from the torment we received as adolescents. Although we’ve come a long way in many communities across the country towards treating LGBT individuals with respect and equality, we don’t have to dig far to see discrimination still exists. A recent study showed that more than 90% of this country is NOT in the LGBT community. We will forever be a minority. As such, we have to champion each other in our universities, our families, and our workplaces. We have to join with allies to keep our schools and offices safe. For those of us who are members of NLGJA, the recent news reminds us we’re still not finished. We’re not finished being part of a network that can create a supportive professional life, and one where we can return the favor.