I was recently on a panel comprised of some older and younger GLBT people. The purpose was to compare the then with the now, and to inform the younger people both on the panel and in the audience how things used to be, what it took to make the progress that has been made, and, therefore, get them to understand the importance of safeguarding the rights they have enjoyed most of their lives, but which they could lose either by having laws passed to erase them or through legislation that on first glance might seem benevolent, but which could be applied to ignore rights as if they did not exist.
They thanked us for our hard work, but suggested that it was time to step aside and let the younger people take it from here.
It sounded like a logical request, but we elders had to explain that we knew the value of what we have because we had lived without it and fought for it, and we knew the fight was not an easy one. We expressed our concern that not having any evidence that someone would be there to take the reins, we feared that what we won could be lost through inaction. After all, in a relay race, no matter how hard the runners may have been running the race, if the next person to whom the baton is to be passed is not there, the race is lost in spite of the previous efforts and progress.
Not long after this panel there was a community event billed as a health fair, although the use of the word health was a broad one as there were, of course, medically related tables, but also political and social organizations. It took place on a downtown college campus one block from where the GLBT youth had their drop on center, and lasted four hours, so its location and schedule were convenient.
Those in attendance were adults. The adults knew about many of the organizations and resources, so it was geared to the youth who did not show up, unfortunately. This did not go unnoticed by the elder Gays who had been on the earlier panel, especially when the youth on that panel who had asked us to step aside and let the youth step in were nit there either.
They were not there to interact with the many allies, both organizational and governmental, with whom they would have to work if progress was to continue and existing rights safeguarded. If the adults had not been there to speak for the GLBT community, the community would not have been seen nor its interests supported.
I spent a number of years advocating for GLBT students. They need to feel safe and be safe in the schools they by law they were required to attend on a daily basis. Student safety was and is an important concern of mine, but, again, it seemed in my case, and in others with which I am familiar, the adults were working for the changes that were passively accepted by those who were glad that someone was fighting for them.
Using Columbine High School as a starting point, there have been quite a few too many school shootings, but the responses have consistently been adults demanding stricter gun control, adults objecting by promoting a heavy handed interpretation of the Second Amendment, the adults of the NRA issuing warnings about gun confiscations, adults buying more guns, adults in politics doing nothing, while those most likely to be adversely affected by what the adults do, or don’t do, the students, have remained complacent.
But that ended that day in Parkland, Florida, when the students whose lives were touched by the shooting declared no more and that something had to be done. They ran out of the stands and grabbed the relay baton out of the hands of the runner who was hoping someone would be there to take it up.
They, thankfully, pushed the adults aside and stepped up.
Had the shooting happened at another school, it could have ended in the usual outrage, followed by time, followed by loss of interest.
But the students at Parkland stepped up, have become involved, and are doing what should have already been done and demanding those in a position to do something to do it.
It is a shame it took 17 deaths for people to react, and that it might have only happened because of where the shooting happened.
Now instead of asking the adults to do something, kids are now asking the adults to help them.
I like that.
At least in this we old people can step aside and be with the doers, not be the major ones doing.
So Saturday I am going to Providence, Rhode Island to join in with the people organizing the March for Our Lives.
They have stepped up, and it is important to show we are with them.
This is one case where it will be good to be the ones helping, not the ones running the show, and it is important to be there so the young organizers can see the old people are there to support and are happy things are in good and younger hands.
I have my signs ready, so I will be doing my part the way I can, being there to lend a hand, quietly holding my sign an smiling at the fact that we old activists can retire and be there as helpers.