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COMMENTARY: Finding common ground in our community

(This editorial was originally published HERE in SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)

Election season 2012 is finally over. Not only are we finally done with all the campaign and pollster calls, the mailers, the emails and the debates, we are also done with the extreme nastiness that was the Presidential campaign season.

This year the Republicans had over 20 debates, more than ever before, as they paraded a large number of not-quite-qualified individuals before us. It has been estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent marketing the candidates of this election cycle, dollars that could have gone to the Sandy relief efforts, or homelessness, or the economy. Regardless, most reading this are happy with the end result; another four years of a president whom will hopefully lead us to prosperity, and at the very least, greater inclusion and acceptance.

On a local level, we saw the same – too much money and dirty politics on both sides, and what bothered me the most was the angst that came from within our own community. We had two LGBT candidates running for mayor this year. A win would have meant yet another “first” for the LGBT community, and what many failed to see was that a LGBT republican mayor would have still marched us forward toward equality on so many levels.

Openly gay elected officials are not new to America’s Finest City, despite the fact it is often touted as a “conservative” city.

Our first openly gay elected official, Christine Kehoe, who first took office as a San Diego City Councilmember in 1993, has cruised up the ranks of public service and is still in office at the California State Senate. Her protégé, former San Diego Mayor Pro-Tem Toni Atkins, just solidified her second term as a state Assemblymember. Atkins’ own protégé, Todd Gloria, just expanded his city council district. In 2003, Bonnie Dumanis became the first openly gay District Attorney in the entire nation.

San Diego has long been a city of LGBT “firsts.” It boasts a Pride celebration that is the largest annual civic event – in the eighth largest city in the nation. We also have the second oldest and third largest LGBT Center in the nation. We have one of the largest LGBT archives in the nation.

We have the only known LGBT Veterans Wall of Honor, where we salute our brothers and sisters who served under horrible circumstances, and who have also worked hard for equality outside of that service. We have the only known Matthew Shepard annual remembrance group, which just celebrated five years and keeps the tragedies on the forefront so that we never forget.

We have an enormous rainbow Pride Flag flying in the center of our community, that passed through the town council and planning commission before being officially voted into being. It stands second in the nation only to San Francisco’s famous Castro flag, but there are many differences. Our flag, funded by San Diego LGBT Pride and maintained by our straight-allies at the Hillcrest Business Association, acts as a pillar of inclusive commentary for our community. In its four short months of service, it has flown at half-staff when prudent, it flew the “stars and stripes” on Veterans Day, and on Nov. 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, it will fly a Transgender flag high above Hillcrest, where the Castro flag, embroiled in territorial and ideological battles, will not.

Our active duty and veterans gained worldwide attention as they marched proudly in our pride parade two years in a row. Once before repeal, and the first opportunity after. Earlier this year, we became the first city in the nation to name a street after the LGBT icon, Harvey Milk. These firsts, although not inclusive, are things we should all be immensely proud of … so why is there still such a divide?

I’ve lived in San Diego since 1987 and I worked at Paradigm bookstore and have known people within the local LGBT community for decades. However it wasn’t until three years ago that I became fully immersed in it, and I’m incredibly proud of what we have here. But what saddens me is to see and experience the many people in our community that spend such a great deal of their time bullying others.

Bully: A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

We have an incredibly supportive ally community and we stand up and fight every day for those LGBT teens bullied into taking their own lives, and yet it is rampant within our own community.

Unfortunately, I see bullies within all ranks of the many organizations and threads that make up the diverse quilt of our community. They are political and LGBT activists hawking their focus of the moment; they are publishers on both sides of the coin or have been executive directors flaunting their causes. Sometimes they come under the guise of nightmarish emcees or sisters who have over-indulged, while others are just drag queens beyond their time. Sometimes they are board members once removed, others are just volunteers with a cause, and many are veterans still fighting a war in their heads.

But regardless of whom they are or why they choose to bully their brothers and sisters, it is time for it to stop. Let’s lock arms and be proud together of our accomplishments, of the community we’ve all created here.

After all, don’t we all deep down, wish to be appreciated for who we are? Don’t we all want equality? Aren’t we proud of the many “firsts” this LGBT community has accomplished? Can’t we all find a common ground and appreciate the similarities in each other instead of always needing to tear one another down?

Yes, the election is over, but this call goes well beyond that – it is time for us to drop all the divisiveness we harbor and get along. Our thrill over Obama’s reelection should prove our as guide. Won’t you join me?

Morgan M. Hurley is Contributing Editor of SDGLN, Editor of San Diego Downtown News and Assistant Editor of Gay San Diego and San Diego Uptown News.