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Just Happens to be LGBT: How social media saved SA’s equality campaign

Photo: Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Mary Tuma

Members of CAUSA, an alliance of LGBT groups, outside of City Hall

Chan’s comments, in particular, became a flashpoint. If people needed a reason to act, suddenly that reason became clear as day. Her comments came up frequently—especially among straight friends and family, who asked if I could believe what she said.

The social media events of Alva’s and Chan’s stories going national were—and are—significant in this road toward LGBT equality. At our core, Americans loathe the idea of discrimination. We have collectively re-discovered that loathing time and again. It’s a cleansing act each time we do it, as once observed by Martin Luther King Jr. in “Letter from Birmingham Jail” where he cites non-violent direct action as a path towards equality:

We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

I re-read Dr. King’s letter at least three times a year. It reminds me of the need to constantly re-expose those boils of inequality. In keeping with that idea, I implore people to understand what Elisa Chan clearly does not: that equality has to include everyone for the concept to work.

The people with by far the toughest challenges for equal treatment are our transgender neighbors across the city. An assurance to be free from discrimination is not a lot for a neighbor to ask. And there is nothing more neighborly that we as gay, lesbian or straight citizens can do than to expect our council members to ensure “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” are both protected classes in our city code.

Each month, we feature a reader’s personal “I am” statement that encompasses who they are. Send me your own “I am” statement in 100 words or less, and we’ll publish one statement each month. Contact us at


Bree Kristensen
I am the same as you, but I am different. I was born with what some might consider an abnormality—visible not to the naked eye, but to the compassionate heart. I am transgender. It has caused me to struggle greatly, but also to learn and grow. I do not look back on it with regret, for it has made me the person I am today. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a fiancée, a computer scientist, a country girl. I am the same as you, but I am different, and I just happen to be LGBT.

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