A long time ago — probably six or seven years now, I started up an e-group entitled “Late Bloomers.” I was still learning to live in my own skin, having recently embraced my sexuality and looking forward to the life ahead of me.

I belonged to the (now defunct)women.com message boards and invited women to my group if they showed any “interest” or “curiosity.” I made some friends there, a couple of which I still correspond with.

One is now a lawyer down in Florida and we still chat from time to time over IM. The other, Leigh, lives in Texas and, I believe, works in the IT field in some way. She’s also a “correspondent” with a new gay e-magazine.

This group was designed for women not unlike myself — women who had lived for a long, long time trying to fit into some societal mode, denying who they were, and living miserable lives. A couple had contemplated suicide, some were still married and not willing to risk losing their children. We talked about our fears, our hopes and dreams, our feelings of guilt, and supported each other through a lot of turmoil.

I, too, was going through some stuff. I was having an affair with a married woman who played games with my head and my heart. Like Ennis DelMar in Brokeback Mountain, I wished I knew how to “quit” her because while my head said “RUN,” my heart wouldn’t give my feet purchase. It was a huge mistake in a lot of ways. But, in some ways, it taught me some things, too.

As time went on, the group as a whole seemed to grow as each individual member of that group grew. It has been a few years now since I let the group go. It didn’t fail, however. Letting the group go was necessary because almost every single one of its members grew wings and learned to fly. I often wonder what became of our members. Have their lives changed? For the better? Worse? Have they found someone with whom they can share their lives?

Anyway, I sent out an email to folks regarding my lawsuit, asking for their input. This is the reply I got from Leigh:

I don’t know if it will be righted in our lifetime…. look at the civil rights battles for blacks and for women…. but it will be righted one day, as those other issues have taught us. But the world evolves at it’s own sluggish pace. When you feel despair in your battle – look behind you at what our sisters 100 or 200 years ago or even before went through. We do not disguise ourselves as spinsterly sisters or live in fear of our lives. We stand up and tell people exactly who we are. And each time we do, we strike a small mark on the canvas of time. And then there are the true heroes…. those of us who scream loudly from the rooftops and storm across the battlefields.

You are my hero, Pat. I am honored to have the chance to know you. I have seen you when you were at some pretty low points with all that Kim shit, but you picked yourself up by your bootstraps (and me, and a whole lot of other people too) and you kept us going. And you made a difference. Equality will come, if not for you, then (at least in part) because of you. Someday people will argue case law based on Martinez VS some poor Christian right schmuck.

I’ve never before, nor do I now, look at myself as a “hero.” Lisa insists that there may be something to the fact that people use that term a lot when they talk to me about our legal case. After all, we’ve put it out there for the world to examine under a microscope, she says.

I prefer to look at it as a responsibility to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. As citizens of this country, we have a responsibility to pay taxes, vote, peform jury duties, and comply with the laws of our land. On occasion, we’re asked to defend our country.

As a member of the GLBT community, we also have similar responsibilities. If there is a wrong that we have the resources to help right, then it is our responsibility to use those resources, whether it be financial donations, rallies, or legal actions.

When Lisa and I made the decision to go with this lawsuit, it was with the idea that we couldn’t just sit back and wait for someone to build a superhighway for us to travel. It was up to us to try to cut a path for others to follow and widen and improve upon until it became that superhighway.

I’m no hero. I’m just a schmuck trying to get by in this life by trying to make my life better and, in the process, maybe helping someone else out along the way.

But thanks for the sentiments, Leigh. I’m flattered, and honored to have you and others like you as my friend.

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