Living OUT and Proud Changes the World

[caption id="attachment_6528" align="alignright" width="300"]Robert and Claus Robert (left) with his husband, Claus[/caption] By Robert Roman Living my life OUT and proud has been… so many things.  I thought my life was going to be simple. I would find someone to love. Live a simple life in suburbia and not pay attention to how our country was going to treat us.   We weren’t going to change things….there was no possible way.  Boy was I wrong. My life has been filled with many great moments….  I remember when Claus (my husband) and I went to the polls in 2006 and stood their holding hands asking complete strangers to vote no on the marriage amendment.   We received many thumbs up that day but we got more scowls and judgmental looks.   When we got home, I cried. I asked Claus why.  Why did they hate us? Why did they vote for something that would deny us the right to be together? He held me tight and said no one could take away our love.  Well… it was at that moment we said we were going to fight.   We were going to fight long and hard until we achieved equality.   And we haven’t stopped.  Living OUT and proud is the way I realized that I could make a difference.  Coming OUT to everybody around you is not always an easy journey, but it is one of the most important and powerful decisions I have made in my life. We went to every rally we could.  We engaged every ally we could to help with the marriage equality battle.  But we also made sure we were true to our love by showing and telling everyone… and I mean everyone…. that we were married and not worry about their reaction.    Creating an educational component to our lives was also very important.   We attended to many classes and seminars that talked about marriage benefits such as Social Security and Federal Government benefits and asked questions we already knew the answers to.  The answer was… Sorry you don’t qualify because you are a same-sex couple.   But after these seminars were over, many couples came up to us and told us how they had not thought of these inequalities and they assured us they were going to help us create change.  For us, that was a vehicle to create change. And, we went to Richmond and lobbied for change.  We focused on legislators who did not think we should have the same rights. And look at where we are now.  We have marriage equality and are no longer second-class citizens… Wait a minute….  Maybe we are….   This fight is not over yet.  We look forward to fighting for protections in the workplace, LGBT elder rights, LGBT fairness in housing, and many other areas where we still need protection. It has been a difficult but rewarding journey that takes us in different directions every day.  We have heard many stories.  Successes, failures, and hopes and dreams realized.  I would not change this for anything in the world. It is my hope that living OUT and advocating for LGBT equality is making other peoples’ lives better.  Maybe a young person in my community now feels more comfortable with who they are, or maybe I changed a strangers mind when they saw me walking down the street holding hands with Claus. The icing on the cake is being acknowledged for my work.  It seems surreal to be recognized as an Outstanding Virginian by Equality Virginia, and it adds credibility to our work.  

Every year, at its Commonwealth Dinner, Equality Virginia recognizes OUTstanding Virginians who have represented the community with distinction.  Click here to learn more about past OUTstanding Virginians and to nominate somebody who you think is deserving of this award!