Stand together and keep fighting

Todd WhitleyDear Dallas LGBT Community: First of all, I want to thank you for being the beacon of hope and the example you are to the rest of the state of Texas and to our entire nation. You’ve worked tirelessly and diligently for decades, and have helped accomplish so much in the struggle for an end to the second-class citizenship of gay and lesbian Texans.

Thank you for letting me work among and alongside you. This little po-dunk, small-town boy came to the big city to expand his life and ended up finding his purpose. So much of the knowledge I have gained is because you let me learn from you. And the work we have done together in coalition — for gay causes and for others broader than LGBT — has been some of the most fulfilling work of my life.

But I also want to make an appeal to you what I know you’ve already heard before: Please don’t quit working for others — those within the alphabet of our community and those outside it.

Don’t walk away like some leaders in our movement and pundits predict you will now that we have marriage equality.

As I stood on the Legacy of Love Monument on June 26, 2015, I saw an incredible celebration! I saw us there, all together — gay and transgender, lesbian and straight, black, Asian, brown and white, cisgender and gender-queer. And I believed us — really believed us — when we chanted, “Gay! Straight! Black! White! Same struggle, same fight!

Never have I felt more unity in our community than at that moment.

But friends, we have some serious challenges in our state and country right now. In Texas and other places, many of us can be fired simply because of whom we love or how we express our gender. Transgender people — particularly black women — are being murdered right here in our own damn city.

Young black men continue to be hunted down, victims of white police brutality. Undocumented workers among us live in fear of being separated from the ones they love, while the safety and very lives of gay and transgender people caught in detention prisons are at risk.

The rights of our sisters to make their own healthcare decisions continue to be controlled by white, evangelical men. The same group in power also wants to cut vital funding for HIV/AIDS education. They couldn’t do it this time, but mark my words, we have not heard the end of this issue.

It doesn’t matter what your own personal politics are; we don’t all have to believe the same on every issue. But where we do find agreement, it is critical that we get involved. Where we find disagreement, it is vital that we find common ground.

Don’t forget those generations who never even dreamed to hope for marriage equality, and honor them with your own relationships and your own activism.

Don’t forget the generations of our predecessors lost to AIDS.

Don’t judge each other. Don’t bicker and fight like those in other gay communities are known for doing. Don’t let people tear us apart!

Instead of criticizing, do something. Partner. Reach out. Consider how you can form coalition with each other.

Speak the truth, for sure, but work with others, not against them, to find solutions to challenges.

Support the people around you, even if they’re different from you.

Don’t stay silo-ed into your groups — you know: just white, just trans, just lesbian, just straight, just black, just Christian, just gay, just wealthy. There is a time to break bread with those like us and there is a time to expand the table to invite others to join.

Mix it up. Go where you do not usually go and stand with someone not like you.

Lend your privilege, your energy, your passion to someone else’s fight.

Model compassion for others and with moxy, make a difference with your talents and gifts.

Friends, in this historical moment in time, we have earned the trust of some in our community who are outside the “L” and the “G.” We have promised them that we will now turn our energies toward them. Continue to work toward earning the trust of those who previously or still view our commitment to them with skepticism. Show them, and the world, with your words and your bodies that you will not let them down. That you will not quit fighting until all of us are equal and no longer viewed as second-class to anyone.

You’ve done it before, and I know that the LGBT community in Dallas, Texas will continue to rise up and be a “city set upon a hill” for the whole state of Texas and the rest of the country to see, inspiring a revolution and changing hearts and minds for the benefit of all.

Todd Whitley left his career in the corporate world last year to work as an activist for social justice in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Now he is moving to Berkley, Calif., to attend Pacific School of Religion, so that he can continue to do the work he feels called to do.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 21, 2015.