5.8.14 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
Comments: 0

SteveBlanchardHeadshot_137x185I absolutely love history—especially the American variety. It’s the subject at which I excelled in high school and college and aced repeatedly throughout my academic career. In fact, I came “this close” to becoming a history teacher before journalism caught my attention.

That’s why I was so excited to actually shake the hand of a historic icon who has forever changed the path of this country’s history.

I can forever say that I met and spoke with Edith Windsor face to face.

The octogenarian was the guest of honor at Equality Florida’s latest gala in St. Petersburg, and she was, not surprisingly, a huge hit. With so many people in attendance, I only got about a minute with the diminutive woman who in 2013 prevailed after suing the federal government and led the Supreme Court to overturn the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that failed to recognize same-sex marriages.

When studying in school or even seeing historic sites in our country, I often wondered what it would be like to chat with Abraham Lincoln after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, sit next to Rosa Parks on that Alabama bus or ask Martin Luther King Jr. what he thought about the status of racial equality in 21st century America.

What would Harriet Tubman tell me about the Underground Railroad that I don’t already know? Would Harvey Milk be as engaging as I expect and as I’ve heard?

Unfortunately, I will never know what those experiences would be like. I have to rely on the history books and documentaries available through educational channels to form my own opinions.

Unfortunately, there’s no changing that reality. There’s a reason why historic icons are, well, historic. Typically that means they are no longer with us.

But that’s not always true.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet the Rev. Troy Perry, the founder of the Metropolitan Community Church.

It’s rare that I get tongue tied or nervous when meeting a person of note. But even after interviewing him on the phone prior to his visit to St. Pete Pride that year, I was apprehensive about shaking his hand. I wasn’t afraid of him, I just wanted to ensure I didn’t make a fool of myself.

Like so many, I was raised in a religious home and heard the anti-gay speeches that are, at this point, just boring. And while I don’t know what religious affiliation, if any, I have these days, Rev. Perry is a historic figure for his activism and the healing benefits the church he created has passed along to countless members of the LGBT and allied community.

Meeting him was a highlight of my career, and my life.

No offense to the good Reverend, but meeting Edie Windsor was even more monumental. This woman decided to take on a government that refused to acknowledge the love American citizens have for members of the same sex—and she won. Because of her efforts to battle estate taxes thrust upon her after the death of her wife in 2009, Windsor has ignited a firestorm of marriage equality that has already planted seeds here in Florida, and will someday arrive in my home state of Missouri as well.

It’s unfathomable, the things she’s accomplished.

What was most remarkable about Edie—which, despite only a brief encounter I feel I can use her nickname—is that she doesn’t introduce herself as anyone other than a widowed woman who lost the love of her life. She’s real. She’s sweet. She’s a friend of not only the community, but of everyone she meets.

Fifteen or 20 years from now, I know that each time I hear about the historic toppling of DOMA or the lawsuit that’s named after Windsor, I’ll immediately tell anyone nearby that I had the honor of meeting her.

There are a lot of “icons” in the gay community. Cher, Lady Gaga, Madonna…all have the “icon” status thrust upon them. I’ve never met any of those women, and if I do someday I’m sure it’ll be noteworthy in my journey through this life.

But I seriously doubt I would be more excited to shake their hands than the hands of the soft-spoken, history-making Edie Windsor.

Share this story: