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    We’ll Never Give Up

    LewisGaffneyJust five months ago we joined thousands of other people at the corner of Castro and Market to come together in the face of the massacre of 49 members of LGBT community at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. We described it in the San Francisco Bay Times as “our worst nightmare as LGBTIQ people.” Two weeks ago we returned to that famous street corner, as did thousands of others, in shock, disbelief, and sadness in response to another nightmare: the results of the November 8, 2016, election.

    At the November 9 gathering we read from one of the Dalai Lama’s poems, whose refrain implores: “Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up.” We had read the same poem nearly eight years ago to the day at yet another Castro rally the night after Prop 8 passed.

    In the midst of our anger and dismay at the passage of Prop 8 in 2008, we also began contemplating the way forward, asking ourselves the counterintuitive question: Despite the horrific loss, what was the best thing that happened on Election Day? Our answer: Over 6.4 million Californians had voted on our side in favor of marriage equality, 48 percent of the electorate and the most people who had ever voted in favor of LGBT rights on any state ballot measure. And Barack Obama, who supported LGBT rights (although not full marriage equality) became the first African American President. Prop 8’s passage ended up unleashing a passion for marriage and full LGBT equality that was unanticipated and unlike anything seen before. It raised the visibility of LGBT people and their families to a new level. President Obama became the first President ever to embrace the freedom to marry and did countless things to advance LGBT rights. Just six and a half years after Prop 8 passed, nationwide marriage equality became the law of the land.

    We’ve asked ourselves the same question this year: What’s the best thing that happened on Election Day? We confess that we’ve struggled to find an answer. We, like millions of Americans, have many fears about what might lie ahead and well-founded reasons for concern. Yet we truly don’t know what the future will bring. We are struck by how many of our friends and acquaintances from many different walks of life feel threatened personally by the results of election, and by how many of us are going through versions of the grieving process. We also take note that 62 million Americans and counting voted for the presidential candidate who supported full LGBTIQ equality—and she actually won the popular vote. Indeed, for the second time in the last four elections, the candidate who won the most votes will not become President. Who knows what the results of this election and what follows will unleash in these 62 million Americans, especially those most directly affected? Who knows what might emerge?

    Our thoughts often turn to Gavin Grimm, the Virginia transgender teen who, of all things, has the task of convincing five members of the United States Supreme Court in the coming months that he should be able to use his school’s bathrooms just as all of his classmates can. No one knows how actions the new administration might take could affect the posture of the case. But one thing we do know is that Gavin is not giving up. Despite the absurdity that the highest court in the land has chosen to decide how Gavin can go to the bathroom, the case gives our community a new opportunity to educate the Court and the nation about the real lives and struggles of transgender people.

    If Gavin’s not giving up, we’re not giving up. We’ll never give up on ourselves, our community, our resilience, our power and the future. We’ll never give up on the intention of our community to make the world a better place. We’ll never give up on hope.

    John Lewis and Stuart Gaffney, together for over three decades, were plaintiffs in the California case for equal marriage rights decided by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Their leadership in the nationwide grassroots organization Marriage Equality USA contributed in 2015 to making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.