Com­ing full cir­cle

Fight for mar­riage equal­ity book­ends my mem­o­rable ca­reer in LGBT jour­nal­ism

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“I armed my­self with a key­board and cam­era and be­gan my ca­reer in LGBT jour­nal­ism in 2004, just months be­fore the crush­ing de­feat we were handed when 78 per­cent of Ge­or­gia vot­ers es­sen­tially said to us, ‘We don’t like you.’”

By DYANA BAGBY

The first LGBT equal­ity rally I at­tended in At­lanta was on Feb. 14, 2004. A few hun­dred peo­ple stood in the rain on the steps of the state Capi­tol to de­cry the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s at­tempt to write dis­crim­i­na­tion into the state con­sti­tu­tion by draft­ing an amend­ment to ban same-sex mar­riage.

This was not a joy­ful rally, of course, but it was thrilling to stand there and hear from so many peo­ple I had read about in lo­cal news­pa­pers, in­clud­ing the (now shut­tered) South­ern Voice. While there, I also looked around for the re­porters whose work I had been read­ing and ad­mir­ing.

I thought, wouldn’t it be great if some­day I could be one of those re­porters, writ­ing about some­thing as im­por­tant as the fight for equal­ity?

••• I be­came a re­porter straight out of col­lege, some (cough) 20 years ago, at the Her­ald-Citizen, an af­ter­noon daily (ex­cept Satur­days) news­pa­per in the small Ten­nessee town of Cookeville.

At that pa­per, I learned how to lis­ten, ask ques­tions, write a com­pelling lede, take pho­to­graphs and cover con­tro­ver­sial sto­ries (fairly) ob­jec­tively. I loved the adren­a­line rush that hummed through my veins dur­ing a break­ing story, mak­ing me feel alive.

Most im­por­tantly, I loved the peo­ple who shared their in­ti­mate sto­ries with me, so I could in turn write and share them with the rest of the world. That re­spon­si­bil­ity is hum­bling, and I will al­ways be proud to have borne it.

When I de­cided to live my life openly as a gay per­son, I packed my bags and cats into my dusty Nissan Sentra and headed for the LGBT mecca of the South: At­lanta.

I was soon able to find a job at the Gwin- nett Daily Post, and was back in the groove of work­ing for a daily news­pa­per.

Dur­ing this time, I also found the South­ern Voice and was amazed and so glad there was an en­tire news­pa­per de­voted to re­port­ing on is­sues fac­ing LGBT peo­ple, peo­ple like me, and that there was a com­mu­nity that sup­ported this news­pa­per.

••• When the Gen­eral Assem­bly de­cided it was time to let Ge­or­gia vot­ers de­cide on a ban of same-sex mar­riage—and cod­ify it into the state’s con­sti­tu­tion—I knew I wanted to be part of the fight against it. I was an­gry and hurt. Af­ter all, I left small town Ten­nessee for big city Ge­or­gia to be able to live my life openly, and now leg­is­la­tors were telling me and all other LGBT peo­ple that we were wrong for want­ing equal­ity be­cause their God said so.

Be­lieve me, I’d had enough of my own deal­ings with God—try­ing to pray the gay away, forc­ing my­self to date men, etc.—that this at­ti­tude pissed me off. I armed my­self with a key­board and cam­era and be­gan my ca­reer in LGBT jour­nal­ism in 2004, just months be­fore the crush­ing de­feat we were handed when 78 per­cent of Ge­or­gia vot­ers es­sen­tially said to us, “We don’t like you.”

••• When I be­came deputy editor of Ge­or­gia Voice just over five years ago, I was ex­cited to be part of a new vi­sion and so happy to be cov­er­ing the com­mu­nity I love. Then I be­came editor, ful­fill­ing a dream of head­ing up one of the best LGBT news­pa­pers in the coun­try.

To­day, I’m say­ing good­bye and leav­ing this job to a new gen­er­a­tion of jour­nal­ists who have the drive, the energy and the tal­ent to lead this news­pa­per into an ex­cit­ing era of re­port­ing on the sto­ries that spell out the fights we still have to face while also cel­e­brat­ing the sweet vic­to­ries.

One such vic­tory is mar­riage equal­ity. Like many ac­tivists, I never imag­ined Ge­or­gia would be poised to have mar­riage equal­ity, along with the rest of the na­tion, just 10 years af­ter that somber day in 2004.

As a state, as a coun­try, we have come full cir­cle when it comes to mar­riage equal­ity. My ca­reer as a gay jour­nal­ist has also come full cir­cle. I’ve cov­ered more than a few ral­lies, and will be cov­er­ing at least one more be­fore I of­fi­cially hang up my fe­dora. I be­lieve be­ing here for the very end of a story that’s been on­go­ing since the start of my ca­reer is an ex­cel­lent way to close my ca­reer, y step down and find some­thing new to do. I’m not sure what that en­tails, but I look for­ward to restart­ing while also re­main­ing ac­tive in our move­ment.

I know there is still so much to do. Not only in the fight for LGBT equal­ity, but for full equal­ity for all of us. We have only to look at the church mas­sacre by a racist gun­man in Charleston, S.C. and the nu­mer­ous po­lice shoot­ings of un­armed black men in this coun­try to know a fed­eral vic­tory does not mean com­plete vic­tory for any marginal­ized com­mu­nity. Please, stay vig­i­lant.

Thank you for the mem­o­ries and for shar­ing your sto­ries. They all re­main in my heart.

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