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    We Exist Loudly, Proudly, and Clearly During and Beyond This LGBT History Month

    By Andrea Shorter–

    You know what? I am really digging this October’s LGBT History Month. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always appreciated and gotten into the previous history months since 1988, pledging each year to learn something new about someone, a pivotal happening, or event that helped to forge the path that much closer to LGBT equality, inclusion, and respect. And, by Goddess, there is so much to learn, celebrate, and continue to conspire towards those noble, very necessary ends.

    For this particular year’s celebration, it has been especially awesome to see LGBT issues command national media spotlight during the Democratic presidential primary race. In 1988, conversely, we were in the deep throws of literally fighting for our lives in the streets—in marches on Washington to be heard by an administration that barely acknowledged that we existed, that HIV-AIDS was killing thousands upon thousands of our brothers and sisters, turning a decidedly deaf ear and blind eye to our masses and allies fighting to be heard, fighting to live.

    Thirty-one years later, while considerable and even unimaginable progress has been made—through marked events such as marriage equality, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (both during the Obama administration), and other milestones—we are by no means anywhere near utopia. But we are sure as hell being heard by the political elite loudly, proudly, and clearly. As for Harvey Milk’s bullhorn in the Castro to CNN 5-hour marathon town halls and multiple organizational forums around the country, candidates better have a damn LGBT policy plan on their website alongside plans for healthcare, climate crisis, gun control, and civil rights.

    LGBT lives remain on the line. There is an epidemic of black and Latina trans-lives lost to violence; cold-blooded murder on our streets simply because they dare to exist. Trans brothers and sisters are banned from honorable military service for no good reason other than that they dare to exist. Too many LGBT people barely survive below the poverty line, or are working without protections of being fired, because they dare to exist. Half of all homeless youth and young adults identify as LGBT, and are often thrown to the streets because they dare to exist.

    The issues and challenges facing the LGBT community are not all bad. Yes, there has been progress, and we appreciate the alliance, coalition, and co-leadership that many of the presidential candidates have provided along the way towards marriage equality by repealing bad policies and standing with us against draconian laws from impacting us simply because we exist. In this critical inflection point and fight for the soul of our republic, if you are a candidate for president, beyond expressed support for the Equality Act, if you don’t have an LGBT policy plan, talk to the hand.

    It’s not likely that a similar series of media or local forums dedicated to LGBT issues will take place among the GOP contest, if you can call it that, for president, this term or perhaps any time before 2040. With that being said, while it’s great to see nearly dozens of Democratic candidates’ LGBT-positive positions spotlighted by Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Rachel Maddow, please don’t expect an overly gracious, congratulatory pat on the back. Good politics is not pandering to a critical voting bloc. Good politics is always just doing the right thing, and doing right by the people who have fought for so long for themselves and others for the right to be heard—simply because they have the right to exist.

    In or out of the spotlight, the issues and challenges of LGBT people demand and deserve attention and critical response just as other matters of urgency are tugging at the soul of our republic. With or without an inclusive political party, we exist—and we persist. We always have, and always will: in October, in June, in November, all day, all year, all millennia long.

    Andrea Shorter is a Commissioner and the former President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights and marriage equality. A Co-Founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.