LGBT advocate speaks

Anthony Viola

Rep. Brian Sims comes to NMU

Christmas lights hang above the gray suit jacket-wearing, sweater vest clad gay man. Brian Sims, a state representative from Pennsylvania, stands at a podium in the Great Lakes room of the University Center. He stands in front of a crowd of mostly students and talks candidly about what it is like to be a gay man.

As a state representative he advocates for LGBT and women’s rights. He advocates for the marginalized people of the country. A country where on Jan. 20, for the first time in history, a president of the United States mentioned the word transgender in a State of the Union address.

It may be a small thing but it shows a move toward equality. It shows that activists are making headway.

Rep. Brian Sims was selected as the MLK featured speaker for NMU.

If a white guy from Pennsylvania doesn’t make much sense to be speaking in honor of MLK, let MLK’s words shed some light on the decision: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The LGBT community has been receiving injustices for a long time. However, in recent years the push to rectify these injustices have made huge strides. More than half of the states in the union now recognize gay marriage (Michigan is not one of them).

“There’s a lot of talk and buzz right now, especially over the last year or two, with the LGBT movement really pushing forward and saying we deserve equal rights under federal and state governments,” member of NMU Allies, OUTlook and Q & A Jeffrey Kontio said. “There’s a huge movement throughout the country.”

But it isn’t like that everywhere. Which is why when Rep. Sims came out to his college football teammates, it is surprising how well it went. One day the quarterback of the team asked him if he was gay.

“I always thought I would have some cool, epic response,” Sims said. “And I turned around and said, ‘yeah man, thanks for asking.’ Like jeepers mister, I am so gay.”

His teammates continued to surprise him. Most apologized, saying they probably didn’t say anything good, albeit inadvertently, to him during the years of college football. But he understood and forgave.

Understanding is a virtue that policy makers need to learn, and Rep. Sims could probably teach a few.

In a world where religious reasons are, more often than not, given for the restrictions of LGBT individuals, Sims is not one to hold a grudge.

“I’m not a person of faith,” he said, “but I don’t begrudge anyone their faith. Mostly because I can’t find any faith in the world that I believe is legitimately anti-LGBT.”

Ultimately, the fight for equality comes down to respect. Respect for one another, respect for different beliefs and ideals.

“I respect anybody’s passion,” Kontio said. “Whether or not you are for same-sex marriage I respect your beliefs — on the same breath though, it’s about equality. Everyone is equal under the law, that’s how it was written, that’s how it’s supposed to be.”

The most important thing that was taken away from Rep. Sims’ speech is that the more people talk about LGBT rights, the more it advances LGBT rights.

So talk, keep talking, until everyone in the country is equal.