Thursday, March 26, 2009

Equality & Justice Day – “Treated as a friend and an ally of the LGBT community”

Below is the second post in our series of E&J stories. Check back with us in the next few weeks for more – and don’t forget to register for E&J Day.

Fareed Michelen, NYS AFL-CIO, Albany:

Last year I attended my first Equality and Justice Day in Albany. I have lobbied for years prior to this event, but was asked by a friend of mine to help out with the activities, to be a marshal for small groups, and to make sure no one got lost. I figured it would be like every other lobbying activity I went to before: people would gripe about their conditions, some politician or his/her aide would provide lip service and we would move on to our next appointment. I must admit I was grossly mistaken. For starters it was one of the most organized and fluid events I ever participated in. No one got lost, scattered or injured. The greatest debate we got into was who wanted to go to legislative visits and who wanted to attend the workshops being offered. There were enough participants to do both and not diminish the numbers or voices of the constituents at the visits with the legislators.

The most amazing thing for me was the stories told by the folks involved. As a heterosexual male, I had assumed I knew the troubles facing the LGBT community and that they suffered like the rest of us folks of color. While oppression is a universal pain, what I learned from the great folks I was with was that we do not experience it universally. The struggles, ostracizing, harassment and disenfranchisement faced by members of the LGBT community are very unique and complicated in our society. To be able to put a face and a voice to these struggles was as much of an educational opportunity for me as it was for the legislators we saw. The scope of the suffering inflicted on this community is beyond my ability to put in words. All I can say is that more people need to hear it and be involved to learn about it.

Not only was I treated as a friend and ally to the LGBT community, but they were so patient with my ignorance and prejudices. I am not a perfect person and I was raised in a family and culture not open to the LGBT community. To share this openly with the attendees and then have them take me under their wing to educate and nurture my development was an amazing experience. As a firm believer in equality and justice for all, I learned that I was unaware of the scope and depth of the inequality and injustice the LGBT community faces on a daily basis. I encourage more people to participate in this wonderful event.

Want to join us in Albany for Equality & Justice Day? Click here for more information or to register.

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