Last week, I received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign. This was a big moment not just for our campaign, but for me personally. I have been fighting as an ally to the LGBTQ movement for decades. While out knocking doors, I’m hearing from voters —Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike—how urgent this issue feels with the administration’s many assaults on the rights of this community. I’ve had the chance to talk to these voters about my reasons for supporting this movement and why I will continue the fight for my siblings in spirit in Congress, so I wanted to share my story with you as well.
In 1990, I lost a dear friend and classmate, Greg Witcher, to HIV/AIDS. I wrote in our college alumni magazine about the urgency with which we must address the epidemic and fight back against the stigma and homophobia underlying our silence. At the time, AIDS deaths went unreported for this very reason, and it was an honor to lift up my friend’s story and legacy. Greg was a brilliant writer and fighter until the very end, leaving those of us closest to him simultaneously chuckling and crying in the final hours of his life with the whisper of a voice he had left.
Years later, I served on the board of the Michigan AIDS Coalition, reaching out to queer young men of color like Greg to help them avoid or deal with HIV infection. Throughout my career, I have been active on human rights broadly, including doing legal work, investigations, writing, and photography in Haiti, China, Tibet, and here at home. This activism has extended to my friendships as well, such as the honor of being the photographer of what was then an “illegal” wedding of my dear friends Marita and Fran in Maryland in the 1990s, back when many politicians were still “evolving” on the idea of marriage equality.
I look at the progress we’ve made since Greg’s death alongside the forces that want to undo it at all costs, and I have a renewed energy to fight alongside our allies at the Human Rights Campaign. This president appointed an anti-LGBTQ vice president and removed all mentions of the community and their rights from the White House website within hours of his inauguration, setting the tone for his cruel leadership that includes:
cuts to funding for HIV/AIDS patients domestically and internationally
“License to Discriminate” executive order
appointing multiple anti-equality members to his Cabinet and administration
rescinding protections for transgender students
Weakening a homelessness prevention initiative targeting LGBTQ youth
attempted ban of transgender troops
the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS from a shortlist of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice candidates.
This list reads like a resume of hate and divisiveness, a turning of our backs on some of our most vulnerable citizens. What we need more than ever is to send LGBTQ champions to Congress, to pass the Equality Act, and to stand up to the president’s draconian measures that dishonor our American values of justice and equality for all.
I would be humbled to continue my advocacy for the LGBTQ community as the 9th District’s voice in Congress and as a partner of the Human Rights Campaign.