When it comes to community involvement, I’ve experienced my share over the years. Our early marches were based on a simple message of equality. We didn’t want to be fired from our jobs or not allowed to eat in a restaurant because we were gay. We often found ourselves adapting to the look and speak of the conventional world just to fit in, not to be noticed.
Imagine that, Ru Paul.
It took many marches, parades, demonstrations, firings, evictions, lawsuits, and the untiring efforts of countless supporters to help change the image of our community and to provide it with the dignity which it has since come to enjoy. Some say it took the ravages of AIDS to wake our community up, to acknowledge and adapt to its new political imperative in order to ensure its survival. Others might just thank “Will and Grace” for letting people understand that gay life is like every other sitcom, except that we are more inclined to stretch the boundaries of everyday life.
The measure of our success is nothing less than full equality, and we are far from it. Just because a same-sex couple can walk down Wilton Drive holding hands doesn’t mean those same two persons can canoodle a mile away on Galt Ocean Drive. It’s great that we have ordinances in place that legally protect us from certain types of discrimination, but discrimination is an insidious menace that permeates the very bones of our ordered society, and is often undetectable.
A supporter on whose lawn in Victoria Park I had placed a campaign sign woke up one morning to find the sign missing. Not knowing that the supporter had video cameras, he waltzed to the front door of his next door neighbor and on his iPad replayed the video to her, revealing her ‘caper’. Her response was simply, “I don’t want gay stuff near my lawn.” Did I mention this was in Victoria Park, once the bastion of gaydom?
Yet as I go door-to-door and appeal to our community’s numbers to support campaigns that will advance the LGBT cause, I’m often greeted by those famous sisters, Apathy and Complacency. There they are: hair in curlers and soft bunny flip-flops warming their toes. They are all happy and content in their world. But outside the bubble of content in which many people see themselves living, is a world simmering with distrust and distaste for who we are.
I for one continue to push our agenda to ensure that we someday achieve full equality. It happens in steps: first by asking, then by urging, and ultimately by seeking a seat on the dais in order to let it always be known that we are an important part of society.
My fiercest opponent is not the other candidate. No, it’s those twisted sisters, Apathy and Complacency, who think that we don’t need one of our own at the table because are friends will take care of us. Yeah, right. If everyone who is eligible to vote did vote, we would never have to rely on the kindness of strangers. Otherwise, we will find out the hard way, that if we don’t have a seat at the table, we will more than likely be served on the menu.
Dean Trantalis, a former Vice Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, is a Fort Lauderdale-based attorney with a legal practice in Wilton Manors. He is a candidate for Fort Lauderdale City Commission, District 2, in a runoff election against Charlotte Rodstrom, which will take place on March 12.