Ypsilanti made history 20 years ago when we began our work to include LGBT people from protection from discrimination in the city of Ypsilanti. For 13 months, we had terrible hearings, a highly-charged campaign, talked one-on-one with voters all over the city, and recorded an historic victory.
This week, Jackson is in the same place we were then.
I can practically have flashbacks, that year plus was so stressful. I can still tell you which houses had anti-gay (anti-ordinance) yard signs. Our daughter babysat for a family that had a yard sign (directly across the street from us), to give you one snapshot about how intimate this was and is for a community.
250 volunteers, $36K raised, a 12 point victory that was record-setting. This is something Ypsilanti can be proud of.
The price we paid was high, and I am empathetic for what Jackson is going through. Imagine public discussions about LGBT people, our lives, our rights, our families, and whether or not we deserve to be treated equally. In Ypsi, we invited our neighbors to the meetings so that they could hear, along with us, exactly what it is like to experience this, a much different feeling that reading about it. This decision changed our local community for the better, I believe.
The entire process is offensive on a personal level, yet so charged that every decision feels like life or death. Font size and type, what words we should use to describe us, what to say to voters, how much to spend on X, Y, and Z… Everything felt like it could end our ties to our town.
It is so sad to me that Jackson is in the same political place and at least for two reasons. Both are fairly obvious. They are going through this familiar and painful struggle, and I would not wish that on a community. I wish them success. The second reason is that it is astounding to me that, 20 years later, Michigan is still having the same issue. Amazing and incredibly sorrowful.
I should not be surprised really. Racism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny are all still with us despite generations of work and struggle. Why should the work for LGBT rights be any different?
If you want to read about our campaign, Gay Rights in the Ballot Box features an entire chapter about Ypsilanti as an example of how to do this work correctly. The Ypsilanti District Library has a copy.
At 7 PM on March 15, at the Michigan Avenue Branch of the Library, there will be a 20 year anniversary presentation about our local campaign. Former campaigners, council members, and volunteers will be there with lots of great stories.
Join us that night. Support Jackson in their coming campaign. Work to end discrimination in all its forms.