My husband and I were celebrating the fall season with friends late into Saturday night when someone uttered the unthinkable headline as they read from their phone:
“5 people killed at a gay club in Colorado Springs.”
It stopped the party for those of us in earshot. With so many advances for our community over the last decades, here we were again learning about LGBT people being killed. While the motive of the murderer is unknown, it doesn’t reduce the sting of the massacre at Club Q.
The Matthew Shepard murder is particularly memorable for me.
In 1998 I had recently come out to myself and everyone in my life. The killing of a young man — about my age — simply because he was gay haunted me at the time.
That moment created a touchpoint for many Americans. Maybe they didn’t understand gay people, but they also didn’t want those gay Americans killed simply for being who they were.
A year later, Jim Buzinski and I would start Outsports to create a community where LGBT people in sports felt welcome, a reprieve from the cruelty of the darkest corners of that world.
Over two decades later, moments of aggression and violence against the LGBT community persist. I’ve lived with this reality for over 26 years. I’ve had eggs thrown at me and been harassed on the sidewalks of West Hollywood, a city built on LGBT inclusion.
There are so many LGBT people today who hadn’t yet been born when Shepard was murdered in 1998. They have not experienced some of these searing moments for our community.
The murders in Colorado Springs bring up their most violent fears, as it does for all of us.
I am heartbroken for the friends and families of the victims in Colorado Springs. I cannot imagine my husband or a friend being killed in a moment of hate, the likes of which took the lives of Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump.
I’m also resilient from the stories of courage of the people who fought back that night, and the determination of people who will take this moment and push harder for our social and political acceptance.
Still, our reality is this: Occasional violence against the LGBT community isn’t entirely going away anytime soon, if ever. I live with its specter every day, as I look over my shoulder jogging in my neighborhood, open suspicious-looking mail and dance with my friends wondering if we’re next.
When I attend a large-scale gay party, I identify items like bottles and fire extinguishers in case I need to fight back. Homophobes come after me on social media almost daily. There are a handful of anti-gay crazies out there who know few bounds.
Yet I take solace in our collective reality with which I often retort when challenged:
They can yell and scream all they want, but there is no going back on the core rights, liberties and widespread social acceptance for which my friends, family, colleagues and I have fought and won.
Same-sex marriage, employment protections, inclusion in sports, corporate acceptance, equal access to adoption and surrogacy to build our families, the widespread embrace of Pride — These things are here to stay, and where they don’t exist now, they are growing.
We as the LGBT community are winning and, as an SB Nation colleague told me on Monday, “there is NO going back.”
Acceptance continues to grow.
People claiming “marriage is next” after the SCOTUS abortion ruling are wrong. Our access to marriage is not going anywhere, despite what Clarence Thomas wants. That’s evidenced by 47 House Republicans and 12 GOP Senators giving their votes to the federal right for two men or two women to marry one another.
These votes were truly impossible a decade ago.
That reality is sinking in for people who don’t want LGBT people accepted in our culture. Yet generally speaking, every corner of our country becomes more accepting of our community every day.
Sports, often held up as “the last closet” because of the lack of publicly out gay pro athletes in men’s athletics, has changed dramatically. I’ve seen that growing support from powerful sports figures like Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin; NFL team owners Michael Bidwill, Robert Kraft and John Mara; NBA legend Dwyane Wade; and from the embrace of gay men like Major League Baseball VP Billy Bean and NFL player Carl Nassib and the dozens of out women in professional sports.
There are right now 61 current NFL players and 13 owners who have expressed support for us. Within hours of the Colorado Springs shooting, every major pro team in Colorado shared their rainbow-colored logo in support. The Dallas Cowboys recently welcomed Jeff Rohrer and his husband back to Texas. US Soccer turned the USA logo rainbow in Qatar for the World Cup.
Despite all of this, there is a fear that we as a society are going backward in the overall acceptance of LGBT people.
We are not.
That we are winning the culture war is the very reason we are being attacked by some in a minority dedicated to an anti-LGBT philosophy and belief system we will continue to fight.
I came out in my personal life in 1996, shortly after President Bill Clinton did the unthinkable and signed the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — the two most cruel anti-gay measures ever signed by a President of the United States.
Since that time, I’ve grown confident in our community’s forward movement, gaining insights about it from my family.
When I came out to my parents, they eventually got 100% behind me and the acceptance of gay people. Though in 1996, that came with some struggle. Today — and it’s now been the case for many years — they love both my husband as they do me, a source of great pride for us.
I remind people all the time that Dick Cheney — considered “Darth Vader” by some in our community — was neck-and-neck with Barrack Obama and many other Democrats on same-sex marriage.
Why was this staunch conservative leaning “left” on same-sex marriage?
His daughter Mary is gay. Cheney realized that his love for his daughter was bigger than his commitment to homophobia despite what his Republican colleagues at the time told him, just like my parents realized 26 years ago with me.
We LGBT people pop up in the middle of families — even the Cheneys — and force people to reconcile their long-held beliefs with LGBT family members. This dynamic has transformed traditional conservatives faster than anyone had thought possible.
I was reminded of that recently by our contributor Karleigh Webb, who shared her tear-jerking experience revealing her true self as a trans woman with her family while recently visiting them in Omaha, Neb.
You gotta watch:
Yes, awful things will happen to some of us in our community because of our assertion that we are present and equal. These moments are cruel and hateful. Indescribable.
We will be attacked verbally and physically, and some of us will be killed. That’s hard to say in words. It’s unimaginable.
A handful of crazed homophobes will lash out.
Like Karleigh, I pray it is not me.
Yet no matter how hard some of our opponents might try — through political intimidation, social-media memes and even, indescribably, death — the homophobes have permanently lost the culture war.
Lesbians will forever be stars for the United States Women’s National Team and the Women’s World Cup on the world stage, and Americans — in fact people across nations — of every gender, race and age will shower the out athletes representing them with praise.
Gay fathers like Robbie Rogers and his husband, TV producer Greg Berlanti, will raise their kids how they see fit. Those kids will grow up to be like their dads: productive contributors to our society.
Professional sports leagues and teams will turn their logos rainbow-colored, and many of them will host Pride events, to showcase their support for the LGBT community. The handful of anti-gay fans claiming they won’t watch sports anymore because of it will not be missed.
In their regular sports coverage, ESPN will continue to showcase LGBT voices like Izzy Gutierrez, Steve Mason and Katie Barnes. They will show young kids they can have a voice too.
We will collectively play sports, be elected to public office and star in films and television while being publicly out.
LGBT acceptance is growing every single day. Nothing — no one and no horrific incident — can stop it.