Dear Brothers and Sisters… Dear Family,
I am happy to join with you today to celebrate the different journeys which we have travelled, and the good things we have experienced along the way.
When I look back over the years, I see how much our community has developed and strengthened. We understand ourselves better; who we are and how we came to be here.
I rejoice in the freedom we have found in accepting ourselves just as we are, not pretending to be what we are not.
I rejoice in the fellowship and trust we have found in each other, even though we don’t always agree.
I rejoice and am grateful for wives, partners, families and friends, who have stayed by us, tolerated and supported us as best they could, and more than anything loved us, in spite of being different.
I rejoice in the special richness of life that our situation has provided, even though problems and difficulties have often blinded us from any concept of goodness.
And I rejoice that we live in a country where the Law protects rather than prosecutes us, and where we are not in constant fear of persecution or physical harm.
Dear brothers and sisters, we have so much to be thankful for, and we celebrate that today. But whilst we can be proud of how far we have come, we should not be complacent. Let us remember that for some of us life is a struggle, where guilt, shame, remorse and deceit take hold, and where loneliness and despair are never far away. Secrecy becomes a way of life and the fear of discovery pervades every move. For many of us, a sense of peace and wholeness never comes.
And yet…….and yet……there is hope….. We need not accept the status quo.
I believe we must speak out on behalf of our community.
My friends, I have a dream…. that one day our people will walk the streets of this land without fear of abuse, attack or ridicule.
I have a dream…. that one day we can all be open and honest with our partners and children, our families and friends, our work colleagues and our church congregations, and without any fear of discrimination or rejection; where those around us accept us just as we are, no embarrassment, no confusion.
I have a dream that one day all of us will be freed from the years of negative feelings about ourselves, and will be able to stand up and be proud of who and what we are.
Yes, I have a dream today!
My friends, does all this sound impossible? Do you feel it will never happen in your lifetime? I admit, we can’t be sure. But let us dare to lift our eyes towards the horizon, to the world which the next generation will inhabit. Let us hope and dream that their world will be a better one than our world; that they will not have to endure the traumas and heartaches that we have experienced.
But how can this happen? Is it just a question of time? Should we just sit back, wait and hope? For me, the answer is ‘No’. We need to play our part by encouraging those we meet in our everyday lives to join us on what I have called ‘The Road to Acceptance’? We can do this as individuals, and on behalf of our community.
It is my hope and prayer that in our lifetime we will see dramatic and positive changes in our social culture, where we are accepted as part of the rich diversity of life, people who can make a unique and valued contribution to our society.
Together we can make this world a better place, where all people are equally respected and affirmed.
This, dear friends, is my dream.
Elaine Sommers © 2010 (revised 2013)