From the Editor: A different kind of power
October 3, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 5:20 pm)
On last year’s Power List, Out Front named 45 movers-and-shakers – LGBT people and dedicated straight allies in positions of power in Colorado. The message was that more than 40 years after the Stonewall Riots – that furious backlash against a time when being LGBT was in itself illegal – our community has built itself up from obscurity: Out LGBT people and close supporters are now state legislators, local government officials, activists and community leaders with large followings and in charge of successful businesses and nonprofits.
Last year’s list represented power in the most conventional sense: LGBT people who command, not just the friendship of our community itself, not just our straight supporters’ sense of justice and altruism, but authority – as we ask the rest of the world to give us equality, we have community members in positions to deal the world something it wants in return. They’re in positions to not just ask, but bargain. They prove LGBT people can aim high despite the odds.
This year’s list is not mutually exclusive from that definition of power, and many of the names and faces could be the same. But this time the emphasis is a different kind of power, one that does not require a title or position: the power of choice. Some of those honored this year have names you likely don’t yet know, some of whom we only came to know through broad input from the community. Out Front is honoring individuals who use their lives – and whatever positions they entail – to be change agents, speaking for justice, community and the betterment of others.
That kind of power is the one alluded to when someone is speaking of “powerful words,” “powerful ideas” and “powerful deeds.” Those terms always refer to things we hadn’t been anticipating – their significance strikes us like a lightning bolt, startling us from complacency and awakening, in our own selves, that same sense of responsibility and agency. They’re things that hit us in the gut, or give us goosebumps.
This power, when any of us invoke it, involves personal risk and sacrifice. We accept that we might not be well received, our efforts resisted or unnoticed, or we may turn out to be following the less personally advantageous path. We might not live long enough to see the return of our investment or might be punished for it by those threatened by the goal.
Our 2012 list includes Michele Ostrander, director of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Denver affiliate, who put her job on the line to speak up against the national Komen Foundation’s decision to de-fund its cancer screening program through Planned Parenthood, a program Ostrander believes saves lives of low-income women in Colorado. It includes Joseph Soto, an 18-year-old who has been spending his youth immersed in the long-game of activism. It includes Ellis McFadden, a man who through the decades and with tireless humility has dedicated innumerable hours volunteering for Colorado’s LGBT community.
It includes Mario Nicolais, a straight ally and Republican who has been working to, not tow his party’s line, but restore it to its higher principles and foster voices for equality on both sides of the aisle by advocating civil unions. It includes Jace Woodrum, who, from a publicly-oriented position in One Colorado, came out as trans in April and chose to expose his deeply personal journey to the public eye in real time, hoping to draw attention to trans issues and inspire other trans people to speak up.
We’d love to say that virtue is its own reward, but as LGBT people, we, among many other groups, are in a position to understand justice is not a given in this world. We can do our best, we can do everything right and by the books, but sometimes we still lose. Many are overlooked – generations enjoy benefits of progress without knowing all the unnamed and much less-rewarded ones who built that. Achievement of any kind is something to celebrate, but we choose to use this occasion to celebrate achievement we believe hasn’t yet been celebrated enough.
There are many others who should be on a power list. There are still people out there for whom it’s a crying shame they’ve gone yet unacknowledged. Without a doubt you know a few of those people – and we do want to hear about them – and without a doubt your own life is speckled with many loud, and silent, acts of faith. We’re celebrating all of those now, and hope we can appreciate and encourage each other enough that we inspire many more.
The world is far from perfect still, but whenever we honor the risks, sacrifices and commitments individuals in our community make toward higher goals, we hope we bring it a little closer.