Words: Progress

Dirt road on a green path

Today’s word is progress.

 

I thought about a few other words. When my computer turned into a brick yesterday during an upgrade, I had a lot of words to use, and none of them were what I’d consider appropriate for this venue. When I sat there on Election Night and watched results coming in, though, the word that kept coming to mind was progress, and it’s still there.

 

Progress was in my head mostly as a comfort word, but you know – details, right?

 

I don’t know about other folks, but overwhelm can be a big issue for people in the writing profession. You have big projects, with deadlines, and it can seem like a huge undertaking to finish a book. For me, I’ve usually got two or three projects going at the same time. My day job is ghostwriting, and I have a few different clients. So that’s a pile of huge projects, sitting around needing to be finished. There’s marketing for my own work too, which is… er, not my strong suit. It can feel like you will NEVER make it to the end, the final prize, the finished product.

 

The trick is to break it up into manageable tasks. You figure out your deadline, you divide the number of days until your deadline into your word count, and that’s your daily word count goal. You set up a spreadsheet to deduct those from the final word count, and bam!  Now you have visible, measurable progress against that goal. You’re getting somewhere. The end is attainable.

 

What does any of this have to do with LGBTQ+ romance?

 

I’m a woman of a certain age. When I was a kid, just figuring out hormones and attraction and whatnot, I was living in a deeply conservative area where everyone I knew was Catholic. People who had attraction to their own gender were considered deviant, in need of treatment at best. Behavior was rigidly policed to ensure no one would think a person liked someone with the “wrong parts.”

 

And the problem felt insurmountable. For a lot of people, it was insurmountable. This was the eighties. I’m sure you can do the math. People believed HIV was a punishment specific to gay people (always men, not because lesbians were more acceptable but because women don’t matter) and were convinced the virus could be transmitted through casual contact. My own uncle was convinced of this. (The casual contact part, not the punishment part. He was as religious as the cat.)

 

But when his gay housemate was dying from the disease, and had no one, my uncle stayed by his side, and hugged him, held his hand, and gave this housemate the care his own family would not. This is progress. There is still work to be done. That word count at the bottom of the spreadsheet is still huge. It’s smaller than it was.

 

I sat there on Election Night, watching the returns on MSNBC and chewing on my nails. I want to say I had high hopes, but maybe hope is too positive a word. I had lofty dreams, but I wasn’t feeling very confident about the outcome. Between gerrymandering, interference, intimidation and the naked bigotry we’ve seen over the past three years, I didn’t have a lot of confidence going in, and initially I felt my lack of faith was justified.

 

Republicans kept control of the governor’s office here in Massachusetts. They gained seats in the Senate, meaning that no matter what the House does nothing will come of it. Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz, who wants me eliminated on a number of levels so yeah, I’m feeling a certain way about that.

 

But do you know what else happened?

 

Remember what I said before, about coming from a time and place when people needed to hide who they were?

 

Colorado – the same state with the homophobic baker – has an openly gay governor. Sharice Davids, referred to as a “radical socialist kickboxing lesbian Indian” by her opponent, won in super-conservative Kansas. So far, over 153 self-identified LGBT+ candidates have won their races, and some results tracked by the Victory Fund haven’t been called yet. The number could still rise. Still more of us ran for office, bringing their “whole selves” to the table.

 

The days when a person had to be perceived as heterosexual in order to serve their country and community in public office are waning. Homophobia still exists in politics. I suspect it always will. The point is, homophobia is no longer the absolute barrier to public service it once was. The current ‘administration” can refuse to issue visas to same-sex spouses of diplomatic personnel, but the reality is they are not speaking for the bulk of this country.

 

Again, this is progress. The bottom-line count is still there, and it is still high. It’s lower than it was when, as a closeted bisexual teenager, I realized I couldn’t go into politics.

 

So yes, there is still a lot of work to do. I don’t think the work will be completed in my lifetime. I don’t think a nation, or a world, in which everyone simply accepts everyone else for who they are and just moves on with their day is likely to happen. It’s something to work toward, though. Every step we take brings us closer.

 

Even the frustrations, the steps that take us two steps back, wear a path that makes the going a little easier for future fighters.

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