By CM Hall
In 1992, I remember working at a video store while I was a student at Western Oregon University. I would always wear my No on 9 button, in support of the campaign against the anti-LGBTQ Measure 9 in Oregon. I wore it everywhere, even to work. While I wasn’t out yet, I was always steeling myself for the possible anti-gay comments that might come from wearing my button. I was surprised my employer didn’t say anything about the button.
I came out as queer in January of 1994. That fall, LGBTQ Oregonians faced the Oregon Citizens Alliance’s Ballot Measure 13, the odious sister measure of Measure 9. The Oregon Citizens Alliance had been trying for several years by then to disenfranchise and criminalize LGBTQ Oregonians through a storm of ballot measures. And, back then, the state’s political and social atmosphere were very much in their favor.
As a college student on a small, rural public university campus, the anti-LGBTQ sentiment was palpable. Faculty and staff were closeted. The homophobia was more blatant and not yet underground. I was in student government and, besides registering students to vote, I needed to do something specific around this issue. There was too much at stake. This time the personal was political and the political was personal.
I organized a No on 13 panel and promoted it everywhere. For a campus our size, I was blown away by the huge turnout. Usually, our events would see one to two dozen attendees. This event saw more than 100 turn out. The energy and emotion in the room was electric. LGBTQ panelists from other communities (including Rob Nosse, now a State Representative) told their stories and changed hearts and minds.
I had the opportunity to work on the second No on 9 campaign staff in 2000. By then, I felt more confident in my identity and even clearer that we were on the right side of history. It was becoming less an issue of stigma if LGBTQ folks were identified with the campaign. And to see the throngs of straight and cisgender allies come together to stand with us and against hate was amazing. We successfully put the last nail in the coffin of the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance.
After that, I went on to work for Basic Rights Oregon, a then-fledgling organization born out of the maelstrom created by the Oregon Citizens Alliance. We helped pass city ordinances that protected transgender Portlanders, passed a civil rights ordinance in Salem and Eugene, and witnessed a greater groundswell of support than we had in years prior.
While Measure 36–the infamous measure that amended our Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and woman–was a loss, it was short-lived; and what happened in Oregon sparked a national conversation about dignity, fairness, justice and the freedom to marry and commit to whom you love. The outcome of that conversation was a win for all.
We’ve come a long way in the last two decades, and our work is far from over. Looking ahead to the next 20 years, I envision an Oregon that is even more LGBTQ-friendly than it is today. I want to see an Oregon where transgender people do not experience discrimination in insurance plans and in doctor’s offices, where the experiences and voices of LGBTQ people of color are well-represented in our state legislature, and where LGBTQ youth are safe in every school in every corner of our state.
CM Hall is Co-Chair of the Basic Rights Oregon Equality PAC, which works to elect pro-equality candidates throughout Oregon. During the 2014 election cycle, the Equality PAC endorsed 52 candidates, 46 of whom won their races. You can see the Equality PAC’s list of 2016 primary endorsements by clicking here.
CM will be hosting tonight’s sold-out performance of the Coming Out Monologues tonight, May 10.