A Few Things Giving Us Hope Right Now

June was a rough month, and July is shaping up to be so as well. The number of incidents of senseless hate and random acts of violence around the globe seems to be increasing (several world terrorist attacks have happened in just the last six months, ranging from Cameroon to Bangladesh, Indonesia to Kazakhstan), even as people are calling for more compassion and inclusion. With so much negativity in the news, it can be hard to find the bright spots of hope. But we need that hope now more than ever. 

Here are a few things that are giving the LGBT community hope right now.

Orlando’s AngelsFunerals, memorials in wake of Pulse nightclub shootingphoto by Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

When a handful of members of the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC)—which the Southern Poverty Law Center has termed “the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America”—showed up to picket an Orlando shooting victim’s funeral (the church also picketed the funeral service for Steve Jobs. Seriously.), staff and volunteers from the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Orlando arts community wearing massive white “angel wings” blocked them from the view of friends and family while counter-protesters drowned out the WBC members’ anti-gay chanting by singing “Amazing Grace.”

In all, about 200 people formed a human chain to stop the WBC, including everyone from bikers to priests. As of this week, the Facebook group Angel Action Wings for Orlando alone has 770 members looking to participate in some way and separate Orlando-based groups are arranging additional Angel events in the city and around Pulse. (Angel Action was originally founded in 1999 to oppose the WBC’s picketing of the trial of Matthew Shephard’s killers.) That many of these “Angels” and Angel supporters are heterosexuals who want to make the world better for their queer friends gives us hope. 

Pro-LGBT PoliticiansThe Annual Pride Parade Takes Place In Downtown Toronto With PM Justin Trudeauphoto by Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Local politicians have been marching in North American Pride Parades for decades, but this year more senior politicians than usual showed up at Pride Parades. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who launched his election campaign last year at Vancouver Pride and has participated in Parades for many years, was the first sitting Canadian Prime Minister to march in a Pride Parade. He was joined by interim Tory Leader Rona Ambrose and all three declared candidates to take over Tory leadership—Kellie Leitch, Michael Chong and Maxime Bernia, who walked in the Toronto parade to show the party has changed its stance to be more inclusive of LGBT issues, and Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May (New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair walked in last year’s Montreal Pride Parade, as did Bloc Québécois’ then-leader Gilles Duceppe, but looks like those parties’ leaders gave this year a miss).

Marching next to Trudeau was Syrian refugee Bassel Mcleash. Mcleash arrived in Toronto in late May as part of a program for LGBT Syrians set up by the Toronto NGO Rainbow Railroad. Before coming to Canada, he had scraped together a meager living for three years in Egypt as an undocumented worker because he was barred from obtaining a legal work permit based on is HIV-positive status. The open-mindedness and caring of Canadians for all people gives us hope.  

Meanwhile, in the US, former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton marched for two blocks in New York City’s Pride Parade, flanked by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Al Sharpton and Cynthia Nixon. Clinton marched in the New York parade in 2000 as First Lady when she was running for a New York Senate seat and again six years later as she ran for re-election, but this is the first time a US presidential candidate has marched in a Pride Parade and lays down a marker for Clinton’s stance on LGBT issues if she’s elected President (she has called gay marriage a “fundamental right”). The gradual shift in the US political landscape to be more inclusive, at least on the Democratic side, gives us hope. 

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgU.S. Supreme Court Women Justices Are Honored On Capitol Hill For Women's History MonthPhoto by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Ruth Bader Ginsburg might not be a name you recognize. If you’re an American woman, you should. Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the US Supreme Court (the first was Sandra Day O’Connor) and she has been in office since 1993. Ginsburg is a rockstar Jewish feminist who’s an LGBT ally and the head of the Court’s liberals. Before becoming a judge, Ginsberg spent much of her legal career working for women’s rights, including co-founding the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project (she also learned Swedish in 1961 in order to co-author a book on Swedish civil procedure—because she’s that badass).

In the last two decades, Ginsburg has established a clear track record of supporting LGBT rights. In May 1996, Ginsburg joined the majority in striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2, a provision that would have prevented gays from being placed in a protected class in the state—effectively legalizing LGBT discrimination—in Romer v. Evans. In June 2003, Ginsburg joined the majority in striking down the remaining sodomy laws in 14 states, technically decriminalizing homosexuality in the US at last, in Lawrence v. Texas. In June 2013, Ginsburg again voted with the majority that the federal government must extend federal rights, privileges and benefits to married gay couples in The United States v. Windsor.

On August 31, 2013, Ginsburg officiated at the wedding of Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser and John Roberts, a government economist, the first time a Supreme Court Justice officiated a gay wedding. Finally, in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, Ginsburg was credited with “shutting down” the anti-gay marriage argument with three counters:

1)   To the charge that the US Supreme Court didn’t have the authority to change the institution of marriage, Ginsburg noted that in 1982 the Court struck down Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule, which gave husbands ultimate authority over all domestic issues and made the wife subordinate to him, asking rhetorically whether the Court should have stayed out of it then as well.

2)   To the charge that marriage exists only for the purpose of procreation, Ginsburg asked whether in that case two 70-year olds (she herself is the oldest on the Court, at age 83) should be denied the right to marry, as they would be unable to procreate.

3)   To the charge that gay marriage would hurt straight marriage, Ginsburg flatly refused the argument, saying that to give gays access to marriage benefits did not mean straight people wouldn’t still get those same benefits.

Ginsburg was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1999 and underwent surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. During the process, she did not miss a day on the bench. She also does 20 push-ups during her workout sessions (remember she’s 83?) and parasailed, waterskied and white water rafted into her 70s. Because she’s Superwoman. If discriminatory legislation like North Carolina’s House Bill 2 come before the Supreme Court, it’s clear how Ginsburg will vote. The Notorious RBG’s staunch defense of gay rights and women gives us hope. 

Lesbian PenguinsTO GO WITH AFP STORY    Two male penguinPhoto by DAVID HECKER/AFP/Getty Images

In 2005, the children’s book And Tango Makes Three made headlines because it told the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who over the course of six years became a pair and were given an egg by zookeepers to hatch (the resulting baby was Tango, of course). Meet Chupchikoni and Suki: around 2012, the two African penguins (also known as jackass or black-footed penguins) paired off at Ramat Gan Safari in Tel Aviv. The breed mates for life (chinstraps do not, and Roy and Silo subsequently broke up), and Chupchikoni and Suki since then have done all the things a mated pair would, such as building nests together. Although homosexuality in female birds is found among in notable numbers among gulls and pigeons, it is considered highly uncommon among penguins, where male same-sex pairings have been observed more frequently.

But wait, there’s more! Missy and Penelope are two gentoo penguins at Dingle Oceanworld in Ireland. The pair has been together for three and a half years and is a popular attraction at the marine park. Missy and Penelope have been given eggs to try to hatch, but so far without success. These penguins’ commitment to building a life together and raising chicks—as well as their zoos’ support for them—gives us hope.

So tell us: what gives you hope?