Hoping to make history

I can honestly say I love everything about the town where I live.  I am surrounded by the austere natural beauty of the desert.  We are used to extremes here and weather has been known to change on a dime — the temperature was a sweltering 101 on Friday, and right now it is a chilly 60 degrees and raining.  It is not uncommon to see two men or two women holding hands and walking down Palm Canyon Drive amidst families and teenagers and seniors every Thursday evening for Village Fest.

PS villagefest

Palm Springs Village Fest
every Thursday @ sundown downtown comes alive with local arts & crafts & food!

And now we here in Palm Springs are poised to make history!

The city council has four seats, one held by a lesbian, two by gay men, and one by a straight man, elected by citywide vote, and two seats are up for election this year.  Palm Springs Planning Commissioner Lisa Middleton, who is 64 years-old, is one of seven people running for a council seat this year.

If she is elected, Ms. Middleton would make history as the first openly transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in the state of California.

I often think, at times like these, of Harvey Milk’s now famous “Hope Speech” after he was elected as the first openly gay man to public office in California.  In a simple way, he explained why it is so important to elect LGBTQ people to public office.  He said:

You see there is a major difference — and it remains a vital difference — between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide. We’ve been tarred and we’ve been brushed with the picture of pornography. In Dade County, we were accused of child molestation. It is not enough anymore just to have friends represent us, no matter how good that friend may be.

The black community made up its mind to that a long time ago. The myths against blacks can only be dispelled by electing black leaders so the black community could be judged by its leaders and not by the myths or the black criminals. The Spanish community must not be judged by Latin criminals or myths. The Asian community must not be judged by Asian criminals or myths. The Italian community must not be judged by the mafia–myths.

And the time has come when the gay community must not be judged for our criminals and our myths. Like every other group, we must be judged by our leaders and by those who are themselves gay, those who are visible. For invisible, we remain in limbo. A myth. A person with no parents, no brothers, no sisters, no friends who are straight, no important positions in employment.

A tenth of the nation is supposedly composed of stereotypes and would-be seducers of children. And no offense meant to those stereotypes but today, the black community is not judged by its friends but by its black legislators and leaders. And we must give people the chance to judge us by our leaders and legislators.

A gay person in office can set a tone, can command respect, not only from the larger community, but from the young people in our own community who need both examples and hope. The first gay people we elect must be strong. They must not be content to sit in the back of the bus. They must not be content to accept pabulum. They must be above wheeling and dealing. They must be, for the good of all of us, independent, unbought.

The anger and the frustrations that some of us feel is because we are misunderstood. And friends can’t feel that anger and frustration. They can sense it in us, but they can’t feel it. Because a friend has never gone through what is known as “coming out.” I will never forget what it was like coming out and having nobody to look up toward.

I remember the lack of hope, and our friends can’t fulfill it. I can’t forget the looks on faces of people who have lost hope, be they gay, be they seniors, be they blacks looking for an almost impossible job, be they Latins trying to explain their problems and aspirations in a tongue that’s foreign to them. I personally will never forget that people are more important than buildings.

I use the word “I” because I am proud. I stand here tonight in front of my gay sisters, brothers and friends, because I’m proud of you. I think it’s time that we have many legislators who are gay and proud of that fact and do not have to remain in the closet. I think a gay person upfront will not walk away from a responsibility and be afraid of being tossed out of office.

After Dade County, I walked among the angry and frustrated night after night. And I looked at their faces. And in San Francisco, three days before Gay Pride Day, a person was killed just because he was gay. And that night I walked among the sad and the frustrated at City Hall in San Francisco, and later that night, as they lit candles on Castro Street and stood in silence, reaching out for some symbolic thing that would give them hope. These were strong people whose faces I knew from the shop, the streets, meetings, and people who I never saw before but I knew. They were strong, but even they needed hope.

And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, and the Richmond, Minnesotas, who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant on television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only are the gays… but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the “us-es.” The “us-es” will give up.

And if you help elect to the Central Committee and other offices, more gay people — that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone. So if there’s a message I have to give, it is that I found one overriding thing about my personal election. It’s the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it’s a green light. And you and you and you —

you have to give people hope.

Thank you very much.

I want that young (or old) transgender man or woman out there to be able to open up the paper and feel hopeful by reading:  

PALM SPRINGS ELECTS FIRST MALE TO FEMALE TRANSGENDER PERSON TO PUBLIC OFFICE IN CALIFORNIA HISTORY.

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