In my lifetime, I have seen the first woman Supreme Court justice appointed (Sandra Day O’Connor), the first woman Secretary of State appointed (Madeline Albright), the first woman Attorney General appointed (Janet Reno), the first woman vice-presidential candidate of a major party (Geraldine Ferraro), the first African American president (Barak Obama), the first Jewish person to come in a fairly close second for a major party’s presidential nomination (Bernie Sanders), the first First Lady to be elected to congress (Hillary Clinton) and the first woman presidential nominee of a major party (Hillary Clinton).
In this same lifetime (months short of half a century so far), I have lived to see marriage equality, the first woman bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion (Barbara Harris), gays accepted into most major seminaries in the US, multiple Christian and Jewish denominations ordaining same-gender loving people and blessing same-gender loving marriages.
What an amazing time to be alive! Of course, there is still a lot work to do. Homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and racism are still with us and those social ills continue to plague our nation and threaten to slow our progress. There remains in our society a great deal of misinformation about bisexuality. There has been growing animosity toward transgender and gender non-conforming people. Immigrants are still scape-goated and Muslims are openly demonized. AIDS still has no cure. There is ageism and body shaming within the gay community. There is work to do to make our community, our society, our nation, our world healthier, better, kinder, and more inclusive. And yet, as we say at Sunshine Cathedral, “the future has infinite possibilities.”
We cannot ever think that everything is good enough; but, we can acknowledge and celebrate the things that are better…things that my grandparents, and for much of their lives, my parents would have never dreamed possible.
June of this year is the 35th anniversary of the first documented cases of AIDS, and now, there are treatments that are keeping people with HIV alive. June is the month when LBGT Pride celebrations seem ubiquitous. In my adult life, I lived in states where demonstrating my love and attraction for men was actually criminal. Now, same-gender loving people have marriage equality. It is appropriate to spend June thinking of firsts and breakthroughs and progress. It is also appropriate, and necessary to acknowledge where things are not yet good enough and to recommit to working for “liberty and justice for all.” And most of all, it is appropriate and necessary to have hope that things will continue getting better and better. Look at what we’ve done in just a few decades! And we aren’t nearly done yet.
Durrell Watkins holds a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in NYC and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Episcopal Divinity School. He is the senior minister of the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale.