For a straight grandmother who had never ventured beyond writing letters to the editor or signing online petitions, Lobby Week in Tallahassee was nothing short of a revelation and a transformative experience. I felt very shy walking into the training meeting Sunday night (I made my daughter and her fiancé come with me for support), but everyone – EQFL staff, local workers and volunteers -- made me welcome. I was taken in hand by experienced activists who explained the specifics of our mission and the ins and outs (and do’s and don’ts) of lobbying. Changes to the anti-bullying legislation, civil rights inclusion, an adoption amendment permitting judges to keep families together -- with each successive day and each new issue, I became more amazed at the breadth and depth of what was happening around me.
I learned more about the nuts and bolts of how my state government works than any course or book had managed to teach me. I sat in the offices of our legislators and heard directly from them how the system works and why it often doesn’t. I had my say, too – which is a great antidote to feelings of helplessness and cynicism in the face of so many injustices that still exist in our country. And I *almost* learned my way around the complex. Walking the labyrinthine halls, jumping elevators that skipped some floors, decoding office numbers, trying to remember where the bridges to the Senate and House buildings were, I wondered if this was how a bill felt, making its convoluted way from conception through hearings and committees, to legislation.
It was exhausting and exhilarating, confusing and illuminating. But the most incredible part of the experience, for me, was the people with whom I was working – the members of the GLBT community who carry on the good fight with astonishing courage, persistence, dignity, humor, intelligence and good will in the face of hostility, ignorance, and intolerance. I’ve rarely felt so proud to be a member of homo sapiens sapiens. By the end of the week I realized that I’d be back. I also realized that I would be a different and better mother, grandmother, and teacher, for having been here and for having worked with the staff and volunteers who made this week so inspiring.
I walked into the training session Sunday night with the vague notion that this was someone else’s fight and I was a sympathetic outsider. I feel differently now. There’s no ‘us’ and ‘them’ here. There is simply justice, fairness, and human decency at stake -- and the question of whether we as a nation can live up to our ideals.