[Editor's Note: I am pleased to welcome Denzell to our blog! Please give him a warm welcome in the comments section!]
Well first I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving for many reasons, not least of which is because it signals the date I can start decorating for Christmas. In my family we have this tradition of all holding hands and each saying what we are thankful for. Now you see how cool and innovative my family is. But this got me thinking, as a gay man what do I have to be thankful for, and in the larger sense what can our community as a whole be thankful for? Over the last year our community has faced certain setbacks (the proposed North Carolina Marriage amendment), but as a whole this has been a great year.
I personally have so much to be thankful for, because over the past year I came to terms with my sexuality, came out, and found a community that accepts me. I am thankful that at Duke I have a place to live freely and openly. I crack a smile every time I see a rainbow flag outside a window, and I feel at home whenever I see one of the many LOVE=LOVE shirts on campus. I am thankful for the LGBT center and every thing it provides. And even more than the physical center, I am thankful for Janie and Jess because their love and dedication fill the Center with a comfort that is hard to find any place else. I am thankful that after having to leave my church (and denomination) I have found a religious community where I not only feel accepted, but loved for who I am. This Thanksgiving I will give thanks because in the past year I have been saved from shame and self-torment. Last Thanksgiving I was plagued by the demons of my own inner homophobia, but now I am at peace. This is not to say that personally I have no problems. I still must come out to a homophobic extended family, and intolerant “friends” from back home, but in less than one years time I have made strides I once thought impossible. I am the happiest I have ever been, and I have excised inner demons that once gripped my life. For these things I am truly thankful.
Now enough about me…what about us!
This has undoubtedly been a monumental year for Gay rights, and the progress of our community. As a community we can be thankful that now all Americans can serve their country regardless of their sexual orientation. One victory you may not be aware of: we can be thankful that in August the Native American tribe of Suquamish extended full marriage rights to gay tribe members. While on the subject of marriage equality we should all be very thankful that in July marriage equality was extended to 19 million citizens through New York’s gay marriage law. That brings the total to 7 states where LGBT individuals have marriage rights. On the west coast while they are fighting Prop 8 in the courts (they are making progress) California legislators took another progressive step. California will now become the first state to require LGBT history be taught in public schools. We can rejoice in the fact that finally one state will teach about the importance of LGBT Americans in our history.
Pop culture- Yes we can always be thankful for Celebrities.
In February we had Justin Bieber give his support of gay individuals, for which I am sure we are all thankful. Justin was quoted as saying about gay individuals “ It’s everyone’s own decision, it doesn’t affect me and it shouldn’t affect anyone else”. Now the word “decision” was a poor choice, but he meant well. Oh, and FYI to all the Justin fans, he is coming to Cameron to watch the UNC game this year (maybe we can give our newest ally a LOVE=LOVE shirt). To everyone who is using an apple product to read this lets be thankful for Apple and Steve Jobs (RIP). On the subject of Apple there is another thing to be thankful for. The new CEO Tim Cook is not only a Duke alum, but also a gay man. I am hoping that means that the iPhone 5 will be available in every color of the rainbow and not just white and black. We should also be thankful for our Queer friends in the animal kingdom. Gay penguins “Buddy” and “Pedro” will, after much outcry, be reunited at the Toronto Zoo (but only after they perform their “duty” during mating season to propagate their endangered species). Finally, I would be remiss to omit the single greatest thing that we can be thankful for in the realm of pop culture…Lady Gaga giving us a new anthem! While “Dancing queen”, “I’m coming out” and “it’s raining men” are all great “Born this way” was a much-needed modern addition.
So while you stuff your face with turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie remember that in our community which faces constant oppression there is still much to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!