By Elliot Leonard and Roger Litz
It’s not a very easy time to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community today.
But then again, has it ever been?
From the moment the first brick was thrown at Stonewall, this has been a fight for our lives. Although, lately, it does seem like the fight has become more urgent, especially for the most vulnerable members of our movement, such as people of color, and the transgender community.
We are often seen as easy targets in a culture war intent on erasing us by any means necessary. But out of the darkest storms can be born the most vibrant rainbows that defy erasure.
When my husband Roger and I started the Leonard Litz LGBTQ+ Foundation, we had the goal of supporting nonprofit organizations that serve the needs of our diverse community. We knew that, no matter at what level, every single gesture of support can make a tremendous difference.
That is truer than ever today.
With recent efforts to dismantle pivotal progress in LGBTQ+ equality in state legislatures and local communities throughout the country, much of our movement has had to rely on legal challenges through the judicial system as a backstop against the hate. Our Foundation has been privileged to support efforts by organizations like Lambda Legal and the ACLU to fight for equitable medical care for incarcerated transgender people, for example, and to defend transgender children and their families from unjust prosecution in places like Texas and Florida.
If it’s a fight they want, we’re here to win.
For every Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ron DeSantis, we have advocates like Brian Sims, and Jared Polis, and Pete Buttigieg, who are no strangers to fighting for their very right to exist. These young, intelligent, tenacious leaders represent not just historic examples of the progress we’ve made over the past few decades into the present, but also shining beacons of hope for the future growth and success of this movement.
Past. Present. Future. Every new triumph springboards from prior challenges along the same continuum. So many of our friends and chosen families never got the chance to celebrate the first openly gay U.S. Secretary of Transportation, because they were felled not just by the pandemic of the 80s, but by the slow and callous public healthy response to it. As a burgeoning generation of LGBTQ+ seniors now navigates what it means to age in this strange twilight of COVID, let’s not forget their place in our community, and our movement. Over at New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, for example, they’ve created a program called Aging Together, which provides assistance, referrals, education, and peer support to LGBTQ+ elders—a program which our Foundation has also been very proud to support.
We’re all in this fight together, regardless of race, immigration status, gender, or age. The progress we make today will need to be defended —and relitigated—tomorrow, and there’s no surer way to ensure progress than by preparing a new generation of leaders to take the baton. To that end, our Foundation has also supported the City University of New York’s efforts to expand its LGBTQ+ Student Center and the Mixner LGBTQ+ Equality Fellowship, both based at City College. We keep ascending the ladder only by helping people up behind us.
That’s precisely why our opponents have spent so much time and resources attacking our systems of education. Some of the most critical advancements in our movement come not from marching in the streets or winning at the polls, but by learning in school that all people are created equal, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Kids sure know the darndest things.
That’s the real grassroots of our movement. While there’s no doubt we need the folks at Lambda Legal and ACLU fighting the good fight at the national level, we also know that charity begins at home. The organizers, advocates, and volunteers working in community-based LGBTQ+ Centers in cities, towns, and rural areas throughout the country have long been described as “the heart and soul of the LGBTQ+ community.” In just over two years, our Foundation has been honored to support dozens of organizations helmed by amazing leaders all working to protect the safety, equality, and well-being of our community. We are grateful for their activism and proud to count them as partners in this work.
We urge you to take some time to research the LGBTQ+ Centers in your own communities. The joy of giving takes on new meaning when you realize the tremendous impact that seemingly small gestures can have on the lives of so many.
And, speaking of joy, let’s not forget what the crux of this fight is anchored by in the first place: Love, Hope, and, of course, Pride. See you in June!