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Spending the day with NOH8

Since 2008, April 4th has always been a difficult day for me. It’s the anniversary of my grandpa’s (Buster) death. Buster and my grandma raised me right alongside my parents, and losing him my senior year of high school was devastating. Typically, I’ve spent April 4th either with my family or going to the park/ petting zoo where Buster used to take me and my brother and sister after school.

This year, for the first time that I can recall, April 4th passed and I only thought of Buster a little bit.

Despite my initial feelings of guilt, I am honored to say that I spent the 4th anniversary of Buster’s death volunteering with the NOH8 Campaign (Find them on Facebook or Twitter!). I wore my Buster necklace around my neck and close to my heart all day, and I undoubtedly made a difference.

I arrived at the Rutgers Student Center around 9:30am to help set up for the event. We weren’t sure how many people would be coming to the event, but we anticipated about 200.

At 11, the other volunteers and myself gathered together and applied the NOH8 tattoos to one another’s faces. I was assigned to be a bouncer (ha.) and monitor crowd control by the door right by the shoot. Along with 3 other volunteers, I was in charge of calling out numbers and making sure nobody was trying to beat the system and sneak to the front of the line.

The experience I had volunteering with NOH8 was indescribable. I jokingly said that it was a wonderful volunteer opportunity because I got to check out queer women all day, but in all seriousness the day was simply amazing. So many people from all different walks of life were at the shoot. So many different races, religions, socio-economic classes, gender identities, sexual orientations, and ages were represented throughout the day! It was really heart warming to see so many different people come together for the same cause.

Me fooling around with my volunteer lanyard at the end of the day

For me, one of the most rewarding parts of the day was seeing my hopes and dreams reflected in so many different people. I was lucky enough to interact with each and every person that had his/her/hir photo taken, and it was truly amazing to learn a bit of every person’s story. I felt especially connected to the various lesbian families who were having their photos taken. There was one lesbian couple who was taking a photo with their four teenaged children, and it just made me incredibly happy to see a lesbian couple who made it to the point of having a big, beautiful family. It also gave me hope to see a few lesbian couples at the shoot with their babies. I want nothing more than to get married and have a family one day, but there aren’t many lesbian couples to look at who have long, happy marriages and beautiful families. Seeing these families at the shoot truly gives me hope for the future.

At the end of the day, all of the volunteers gathered to be in a volunteer shot, and to have their individual shots taken. After laughing, joking, singing, and dancing with my fellow volunteers all day, to have our mouths duct taped shut and to be silenced was incredibly powerful. As a white woman from a family of working middle class, I’ve been lucky to never have truly dealt with a lack of opportunities. I have always been surrounded by love in my family, and although there was an initial moment of shock and denial when I first came out, my family has been extremely loving and supportive of me. To finally be silenced and feel my rights and privileges taken away was truly momentous, and I definitely felt the impact of the NOH8 campaign in that moment.

All of the NOH8 volunteers, plus the co-founders of the campaign, Jeff (left bottom corner) and Adam (right bottom corner)

In addition to interacting with them all day, I was also lucky enough to eat dinner with Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley, co-founders of the NOH8 campaign. After dinner, I helped with and attended the Marriage Equality Panel at Rutgers. The panel consisted of Javonne, a LGBT activist, a Lambda Legal Community Educator named Aron, my friend and  Rutgers Grad Student and US Army Reserve Veteran, Nina, and, of course, Adam & Jeff. The panel was really interesting and truly explored different aspects of equality not only in New Jersey, but in the entire country. While I identify as a queer woman, I’ve never participate in advocacy for marriage equality until a few years ago. My then-girlfriend was very passionate about LGBT rights, and she dragged me to a lot of Marriage Equality meetings. We also went to a NOH8 photoshoot together and had a couple’s picture taken, but I really never had a passion for marriage equality until recently.

The panel (Adam, Jeff, Nina, Aron, Javonne, and Eric, the moderator/ organizer of the entire day)

I suppose it could be me getting older, but with Same-Sex Marriage being made legal in New York last June, my attitudes changed. It hit really close to home that I had the ability to get married, but only if I hopped the border and went to New York state. Even though I am single and nowhere near ready to get married, knowing that I am unable to do so in my home state of NJ really frustrated me. It is a right that I want and deserve. I have a chronic medical condition. If, God forbid, in the future I have to be in the hospital or have surgery, I want my future partner to be by my side. I want to be able to know that the woman I love can be by me when I need her love and support the most.

At the panel, Jeff said, “Every single person for marriage equality needs to tell someone, to speak up, to use their voice to get the dialogue going and to show their face.” Jeff and Adam both spoke about using your talents to get your point across. Folks, that’s what I’m doing here. I’m taking something I love– writing and having an opinion– and using it to express my thoughts.

Thank you so, so much to Adam & Jeff for giving me such a wonderful opportunity yesterday. The event truly made a difference in not only my heart and mindset, but in the lives of hundreds of people.

Adam & I

Even if you have never met a queer identified individual, you’re reading my blog. You’re now linked to a lesbian, congrats. You now know one person who is being treated like a second class citizen because I am attracted to other women. We are all human. Embrace those like and unlike yourself, and fight for everyone to be treated equal. If we don’t come together to at least learn to get along, how can we ever hope of achieving a world with less anger and hate?

Take some time today to visit the NOH8 website, embrace those who are different than you, and make a difference in the world one step at a time.

Simply put… All love, NOH8.

PS To see all of my photos from the day, please click here. Thank you! Be sure to like the official GingerSass Facebook page while you’re checking out the pics!

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