When We Rise

A scene from When We Rise

I don’t want to review When We Rise in the way I normally talk about a mini-series. Instead, I want to share some reflections on the events it dramatizes.

When We Rise was brilliant. A personal, moving, emotionally wrenching look at the history of the gay rights struggle in America.

I’m not going to mention actors names, because the actors represented real people, many who are still alive and still fighting. Academy Award winner (for Milk) Dustin Lance Black created and helped write and direct When We Rise.

Black wrangled a decades-long struggle, a huge cast, and archival footage of real events. He put it into human perspective. He did that by peering into a few lives as they made it through the years from the 1960 until today.

I was alive at the beginning of those years. I was working full time, a new mom, caring for a family – shopping, cooking, doctor’s visits. I hardly had time to look up.

I was aware of things stirring in San Francisco, I saw marches on the TV news. But it was something out there, not really part of my life.

It wasn’t until my kids grew up and I divorced that I had time to look up and look around. To slow down and listen to new people I was meeting. To become aware of civil rights and social justice. To realize I knew and really liked several gay people. I found jobs that allowed me to meet African Americans I really liked.

It was a consciousness raising for me. Social justice and civil rights started to matter. I hadn’t even been involved in the women’s movement, but now I embraced feminist causes in a deep way. After I started blogging on my tech blog, I made constant mention of women’s issues in tech.

Now, in 2017, I have a transgender family member. I know that his right to exist without fear is not guaranteed in today’s America. I watched When We Rise – the struggles, the organizing, the marching, the protests, the elections, the court cases – and I realized the fight isn’t over. As much as I rejoiced over each victory in the fight against AIDS, in the defeat of DOMA and the constitutional right to marry, I’m aware that 6 black transgender women have been murdered so far this year. I’m aware that the current administration is filled with homophobic, racist, anti-women haters who endanger all the progress of the past.

For much of When We Rise there were tears in my eyes. Tears of joy at the triumphs. Tears of worry over the battles yet to be won.

Thank you to all the people who have organized and marched and been beaten up and jailed to fight for LGBTQ rights, for black lives matter, for women’s rights – for human rights of every kind. I stand with you now as I didn’t when I was younger. Please. Never give up.

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