With all the media attention being given to presidential speeches lately, I thought I’d give some attention to a recent speech by another president: Randy Ingram-Lile, president of the Atons of Minneapolis.
Ingram-Lile delivered his president’s address at the annual Atons officers’ installation banquet on Feb. 5. Normally, a president’s address is not a feature of this annual banquet. However, these are not normal times.
I thought I’d begin by quoting some excerpts from Ingram-Lile’s speech:
Ladies and gentlemen — or whatever pronoun you prefer — it’s a new day.
Let’s face it: 2016 sucked! Can I get an amen? Many of us have had individual troubles (heartbreak, disappointment) but it’s a new day.
We need to stop fighting among ourselves. The enemy isn’t sitting in this room. They don’t care if you call yourself gay, or lesbian, or bi, or transgender, or any of the other terms that we argue about in our community. To them, we’re all the same. And if you don’t think that they’re an enemy, then you need to wake up and realize, it’s a new day.
We have to remember what we have fought for, and realize that it can be taken from us. And we can’t allow that.
I want 2017 to be a great year for all of us. It’s going to be a struggle. We have so many challenges facing us from the outside. We all need to find our strength within our community and our families. It’s a new day.
Yes, as Ingram-Lile said, it’s a new day. Many people are facing challenges they never thought they’d see. Suddenly things that were formerly beyond the pale seem to be seen as increasingly acceptable among certain groups. It’s a backlash, and it’s ugly.
This doesn’t just apply to folks like us: sexual minorities, whether GLBT or leather/BDSM/fetish. This also applies to religious minorities, immigrants, people of color, the poor, and even the middle class. We all have reasons to pay attention to what’s happening now, and to take the steps necessary to keep our families, our friends, and our communities strong.
How do we keep our sanity in times like these, when truth itself seems to be under assault?
One way to stay sane is to remain true to our values. So-called “values voters” are not the only voters who have values. Our communities have values too. Values like respect for self; respect for others; personal integrity; communication; negotiation; and the ever-popular “safe, sane, and consensual.”
In times like these, we need these values. We need to remember them when the going gets tough. Then, we take them seriously. We live by them. We uphold them. We cherish them. We defend them.
Another way to maintain our sanity is to stand in unity and support with other people who are being oppressed or threatened. We as a community have been there. We know how bad it feels to be oppressed or threatened. It wasn’t and isn’t okay for us to be oppressed. And it isn’t okay for other oppressed groups either. We all need to have each other’s backs and each other’s support. In times like these, standing together like this also provides a valuable reality check.
We need to remember that individually, we can’t do everything. But we also need to remember that each of us can do something. We need to remember that we are not alone. We have a community to fall back on. And we have our personal values, and our community’s values, to fall back on.
We maintain our sanity by understanding and appreciating the difference between facts and fictions/fallacies/fantasies. Yes, the leather/BDSM/fetish community appreciates the pleasures of fantasies. But we need to keep fantasy in its appropriate place. Fantasy can be appropriate in a bedroom, in a dungeon or playspace, or on a stage.
But fantasy becomes dangerous when it becomes the basis for public policy that will negatively affect the lives of millions of people. When that happens, we need to call out the danger and do what we can to stop it, the same way we would intervene to stop an unsafe scene in a dungeon.
We have overcome in the past. We can overcome in the future if we do what is necessary. But first we have to know what is necessary. And then we have to do it.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” That sentence no longer seems like the platitude I once thought it was. Now that sentence seems like the new reality. At least for a while.
It’s a new day.