Marriage Equality, a Covered Wagon, and Metro Transit
I was on a travel writing trip the week we were waiting to hear about the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding marriage equality. When it didn’t happen on that Monday while I was still in town, I alerted Shane, our Assistant Managing Editor, to all of the various news sources he’d need to monitor for those crucial minutes in the morning on Thursday (and Friday as it turned out) to be able to get the word out on social networking and Big Gay News as soon as possible. As someone who’s usually in charge of every waking moment of my day, I was on someone else’s time and schedule; the whole itinerary was planned for maximizing our time to see and learn about everything Kansas City, Missouri has to offer.
Thursday morning, we were in Independence, rather than Kansas City proper. I consider such trips to be equal parts “journalist inservice” and travel writing, since it’s rare that I get to observe and learn from 15 other writers and journalists as were in attendance on this trip. I kid you not, as I was refreshing the Twitter feed on my iPhone like someone with a nervous twitch, I was sitting squarely in the middle of a bench of a mule-drawn covered wagon, clip-clopping through the streets. We were touring Independence, the town of President Truman, as I was waiting to hear about marriage rights for this community; the gravity, significance, and irony of those circumstances were not lost on me. One of the other writers simply asked, “Oh, do you guys cover hard news?” as an explanation for my rapt attention to my phone. I was a bit dumbfounded, realizing how different our experiences and lives were, and how we’re also just both journalists doing our jobs, if you wanted to boil it down. Rather than take over our tour guide’s microphone and lecture on the significance of the SCOTUS ruling to our entire civilization, I gently replied, “I just have to know.”
When the decision didn’t come Thursday, I was disappointed to know that it would likely happen Friday morning, just as I would be landing back at our airport in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Could I feverishly check the SCOTUSblog feed or would I still be en route when it happened? Shane would handle all the stuff on the journalism side of things, but where would I be? As it turned out, everything clipped along swimmingly for the return trip and I was on the platform, getting on to a light rail train with my luggage, as the news hit my screen at 9:01 a.m. on Friday, June 26: “@SCOTUSblog: There is a right to marriage equality!”
I was holding it together so I wouldn’t ugly-cry in public. I looked around at the other people on the light rail train car and nobody was making any indication that they had just felt the earth shift a little, despite being glued to their own little screens. Our train took us underground and I lost signal for the most important moments of the morning, as the news rippled across Twitter and Facebook and in texts and emails. My phone was the most important connection I had to the community I love in those crucial moments; I’d lost my connection to the people who also felt a similar swell of victory and pride that was in my heart, but not my train car.
That, my friends, is why Pride is so important. What I couldn’t find on a covered wagon in Missouri or train car traveling through South Minneapolis was that connection to a group of people who have the same goals and challenges and concerns and victories in heart and mind as I do. I got off the train at my platform in St. Paul and spent the rest of the day just trying to get to Pride, despite various tasks and obligations. As with many of us, I look back on that day as a throwaway as far as productivity is concerned; what I spent my day doing was “liking” every single post and rainbow profile picture on Facebook, sharing links, and encouraging and supporting the people who might also just have been hanging on to our community via the internet until we could gather together and celebrate.
And celebrate we did.
Our next issue is all about Pride in Pictures; an issue that will commemorate the people and groups who came out to support this community in the time just after history was made. We’ve come so far, we have a ways to go; together, we can.
With you, with pride, with thanks, and with love,
Lavender likes to celebrate the successes of our people and this last academic year brought us two graduates to present to you: Shane Lueck and Steve Lenius. Shane is our most recent employee, having risen from being a student volunteer of mine almost four years ago to now being the assistant managing editor; Steve is one of the two writers who has been with us from the very beginning, over 20 years ago. We are so fortunate to have them with us, advancing our publication as they advance their own development.
Shane received a master’s degree in multicultural college teaching and learning from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I asked Shane for an explanation and reflection about his degree:
For me, it just gives me the official paperwork to back up what I’ve already been doing and gives me legitimacy in the eyes of other people. I’ve always been passionate about diversity and inclusion. For example, I’ve spent years leading workshops and facilitating roundtable discussions about gender, race, sexuality, religion, and various other identities. And they’ve always been a hit, but eventually a mentor suggested furthering my education and earning an advanced degree. So, now I have the degree to back up what I’m saying, just for those people who need a little extra convincing that I know what I’m talking about. For my final project, I designed a handbook of sorts filled with tips, tricks, and reflections for how to facilitate conversations of equity and diversity geared toward those people who see the need, but might not have any actual training in equity and diversity. Now when your aunt says something problematic at Thanksgiving or a coworker says something you don’t agree with, you can have some tools to rely on and begin those conversations.
Steve, at age 59, was selected student commencement speaker and a spring semester outstanding student at Metropolitan State University. Chosen outstanding student in the university’s College of Individualized Studies, he was one of 986 students receiving bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees, he crafted his own major — cultural leadership through writing and design — completing a 40-plus-year quest to obtain a college degree. Steve received much credit from Metropolitan State for his various learning methods as well as recognition for his years of work in our community:
[Steve Lenius is] a 20-year award-winning columnist for Lavender, a Twin Cities-area GLBT magazine, and has written nationally and regionally for the popular press as well as scholarly articles. Moreover, Lenius owns Nelson Borhek Press, which has since 2010 provided editorial services and published books, including his own, Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness. He is a long-time activist, promoter, and documentarian of Minnesota’s GLBT and leather communities. Among other activities, Lenius has volunteered creative services for AIDS fundraisers and Twin Cities Pride. He headed a committee that worked several years to bring a national leadership conference for the leather community to Minneapolis, winning a national community-service award in the process.
Congratulations to both Shane and Steve. Their accomplishments and education will only enrich their lives and those around them. We are fortunate to be included in that tribe.