Vote, Donate, Volunteer

I had the honor of speaking at a fundraiser for the 16th Legislative District in Washington State (I’m one of their two state committee members), along with another local activist, Jessica Monterey, and former Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley. Here is the text of my speech:

Hello, everyone, and thank you for coming. One year and two days ago I stood behind the podium in the Press Secretary’s briefing room pretending to take a question from Gwen Ifill, enthusiastic about the possibilities for 2017. It was an exciting time.

Everett being fake photobombed by Martin O'Malley
We are now four days away from the next election, which may seem like it pales in comparison to last year’s contest for the White House. But despite our bitter disappointment from last November, on Tuesday we have new opportunities to reset our collective political future. We will launch the political careers of three progressive people in Walla Walla to city council, or we will fail to do so. We will elect Manka Dhingra to our state legislature in the 45th LD and either shift the balance of the Senate chamber to the Democrats, or see more conflict and posturing from the GOP and another eventual budget fight. In Richland, we will either elect an incumbent woman of color or a man who has openly called for a replay of Kristallnacht, and who has a fraud conviction on his record. Countless school board seats, contests for port commissioners, city councils, and many other local government posts are the entry point for the next generation of Democrats. I know it can feel like an afterthought or a letdown, or small potatoes compared to the travesties we read about every day from so many news outlets.

But make no mistake, this is how political movements get started, for good or for ill. After all this is how extremism tunneled its way into Congress. These seemingly small levers of power are how To Kill a Mockingbird gets banned from school districts and how trans students get ordered to use the wrong rest room. This is how cities shut down effective programs to help people out of homelessness. This is how governments decide not to expand public transportation programs or continue segregationist zoning ordinances.

And all along, accountable and unaccountable politicians work their way up through increasingly influential offices until they are the people refusing to seat justices on the Supreme Court, or opening investigations into conspiracies against our fair elections. Voting matters.

I wasn’t always a voting zealot. I was a college student who came out as queer in 1990, who tried direct action like holding a bullhorn at the front doors of the Family Research Council in DC so I could tell the crowd exiting the nearby basketball game about their hurtful practices toward LGBT people. I “infiltrated” an ex-gay group hoping to learn their secrets, but apparently lipstick and earrings were not enough of a disguise to hide my lesbian-ness. In 2003 I came out as trans, and helped to found the DC Trans Coalition. Along with 20-some other trans and nonbinary people and allies, we flew under the radar of Congress to amend the District’s Human Rights Act to include transgender people, and then the real work began. Because just as the extreme right decries “regulations” as horrible inventions that hurt communities, it’s those regulations that give us safe milk to drink, clean air, overtime pay, accountable advertising (we’re coming for you, Facebook), and in DC, the most comprehensive, robust protections for transgender people in the entire country.

Even so, there are limits to regulations. They can be rolled back, reinterpreted, discarded, as we’ve seen this White House do everything it can to erase critical regulations in environmental policy, civil rights, immigration, and so many other areas of governance. I still love direct action. I will yell into a bullhorn whenever you need me to. But I have joined our state Democratic Party because I now understand the importance of legislation, and yes, so much of it happens at the local level, too.

We must elect progressive and even moderate voices to our government. We need young people to run for office so that they too will have the experience they need to run for Congress someday. We need to see women, people of color, LGBT candidates, not because we have some fetish for identity politics, but because Congress was designed to reflect our populace, and these communities have been sorely underserved for more than 240 years now. Vote, donate to the political organizations that are invested in your lives and your successes, and volunteer.

Vote, donate, volunteer. You’ve hopefully done the first already, you’re doing the second right now, and you can do the third so easily. It has been a painful year, I agree. Each one of us in this room deeply cares about democracy. I appreciate everything you’ve done for your neighbors, I was so honored to walk with you in the women’s march, also known as The Largest March Ever in Walla Walla. You still have great power. Because of all the calls and emails and in office visits we made to our representatives, the repeal of the ACA failed. Again and again it failed. You did that. We did that!

We can do it again. Don’t let people tell you Democrats can’t win elections out here. We can and we do. But remember: Vote, Donate, Volunteer. Say it with me! Vote, Donate, Volunteer.

I will never stop fighting. The Democratic Party will never stop fighting for you. Whether we are up against neo-fascist, wannabe authoritarian regimes in the White House or local candidates who lead with ignorance and hate, we will fight together for a better, fairer, more just community. Thank you for coming here today.

And vote, donate, and volunteer!

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Categories: LGBT Civil Rights

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