“You can. We can. We must.”
Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy recently spoke these words at The Windy City Toast, a fundraiser held by the Victory Fund, which works to elect LGBT leaders into public office. With her words, Cassidy wanted to motivate any LGBT members of the audience considering running for public office. Her message was that we need more people in our government fighting for equality and if you believe you can do it, you can.
I attended this brunch because my best friend’s grandmother asked me to. Before I arrived I knew next to nothing about the Victory Fund and I did not really know what the event would be like. I do know, however, that I was not expecting to be so moved and inspired by what I witnessed that Sunday morning.
I was not expecting to tear up when Angie Craig, a current candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, told her story of coming out at 17 after being raised by a single mom in an Arkansas trailer park. As an adult Craig had to fight a long custody battle for her adopted son because his biological grandparents did not think it appropriate for him to be raised by a lesbian couple. The case, which Craig won, went all the way to the Tennessee Supreme court. “My son,” she said, “is so proud to be that kid who paved the way.”
I felt proud just listening to her story, and I felt proud listening to Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana and Indiana’s first openly gay mayor, who spoke of working toward a day when having a gay politician is not news at all. He said he hopes our future children will be stunned to hear it once was considered a big deal to elect someone who is openly LGBT.
The only way to get there, however, is to be open, and to show LGBT children that who they are will not limit them from becoming anything they want to be. Angie Craig said one reason she decided to run for office was so LGBT children could see her on their television screens and think, “That is available to me.”
I am lucky because I was raised in such a way that I have never had to feel like my sexuality would limit me in other areas of my life, and while it shouldn’t have to be a matter of luck at all, not every child has that luxury. LGBT children deserve to have strong, successful LGBT role models. It is the only way they will feel less afraid to come out and the only way they’ll see that being gay or bisexual or transgender does not make them less than.
It is people like those I saw speak at the Windy City Toast who are not only fighting for equality every day but who are helping inspire other LGBT people. These people are working to make Buttigieg’s vision come true. I am confident that because of people like Craig, Cassidy, and the many other speakers at the Victory Fund event, a gay politician or CEO or football player won’t always be news, and more and more kids will see all the wonderful opportunities available to them.
LGBT rights are human rights. Until everyone is equal, no one really is, and I was honored to be able to witness such a special event held by people who are truly paving the way toward equality.