The problem with being part of a civil rights movement is that at some point, someone will believe you’ve “won.”
Someone will assume that civil rights movements — the fights for equality and justice, the battles to exist — have a defined beginning, middle, and end. You go from a bad thing to a good thing. You are lost, and then you are found. And you win — you win freedom and respect, and now you’re secretary of the army or adopting children in Alabama. Or you’re married, finally, in every state in the Union. And now your story is over.
But that’s not how it works.
Marriage equality wasn’t the end of the story for LGBT equality. Federal benefits weren’t the end of the story. Inclusive military service, and pride parades with corporate sponsors, and living longer and healthier lives with HIV — those weren’t the end of the story, either. Coming out wasn’t the end of the story. Not by a long shot.
When the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land, some people thought that marked the end of the road in the battle for full equality. But there is no “end” to a fight for freedom, because “freedom” isn’t a destination. It’s a feeling. It’s holding hands, or wearing a dress or a suit in public. It’s existing as you are, and being seen as you want to be. And all of us — lesbians, gay people, bisexual people, trans people, genderqueer people, the whole damn shebang — have to get there together.
We’ve come so far, but this month, Pride Month, we remember all of the work left to do. We’re not there yet. We’re not free yet. Not when transgender people can’t go to the right bathroom because, apparently, Republican leaders are very concerned that straight dudes might break into women's restrooms with abandon. (This says a lot more about straight dudes than it does about trans people.) Not when 50 percent of homeless youth in Washington, D.C. — our nation’s capital — are LGBT, most of them in that situation after running away from something that was worse, much worse, than being homeless. Not when we’re still dying.
We can’t be divided. We can’t be complacent. The same people devising anti-trans bathroom bills were the ones voting for laws that told us our relationships were second-class and our lives less worthwhile than those of our straight brothers and sisters and next-door neighbors. Those narrow-minded people haven’t changed. But we have. We’ve gotten bigger, and brighter, and there are more of us, out and proud, than ever before.
There’s no end to this journey, no final chapter to this story. There’s just the work ahead, and the history we share. It only got better because we made it better. We may not be free yet, but we’re getting there. We may not have won yet, but we are winning. Our story is just beginning.