Steve May speaks at AEN in Atlanta
You could feel it in the air. This was not just any AEN meeting. Steve May could turn out to be the catalyst that changed the most powerful military system in the world. He was our featured guest on December 16th. Someday, many of us may reminisce and say "Oh, I was in the same room with him, back in '99."
Steve rose to the occasion with a very powerful and inspiring message. One thing he made very clear is that he does not see himself as a poster child for gay rights. Although he feels the current "don't ask, don't tell" policy is "morally bankrupt," his struggle is about freedom of speech. Steve's fight is about values. Honesty and integrity were mentioned frequently during his remarks.
The value of citizenship is also clearly important to Steve. He told us that he had wanted to be a part of the military since high school. From the first time he put on the uniform as part of an ROTC program, he has always been prepared to give his life for his country. Steve's love for America is the reason he is telling the world about his impending discharge and the circumstances that have led to the present situation.
He wants our country to live up to its noble dream: that every citizen is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When it was first expressed by the founding fathers, that dream did not include everyone. Blacks were excluded, women were partially excluded... and, certainly, gays and lesbians weren't even considered. Over the years, however, the American dream has expanded to equally encompass almost all our citizens. Steve feels that our community is now on the brink of being fully included. He has faith in the American people.
Steve said he finds it interesting that his sexuality has become such a prominent part of his public image. He stated that his real job is representing the needs of his Arizona constituents. Health care reform, changes in banking regulations and increasing public school funding are the issues about which he remains the most concerned. He said that some of his political colleagues are a little envious of his newfound notoriety. His humorous reply to them is, "Just be gay, and you'll be on the front page too!"
His visit with the AEN followed an appearance with Georgia's own Congressman Bob Barr, who some have called a bit loony, on CNN's Larry King Live. He joked about Arizona's own "Bob Barr in drag," the female homophobic state representative whose hateful legislation is what made him speak out on the house floor about being gay and started the Army's "don't ask, don't tell" investigation.
Steve finds it interesting that the right wing movement characterizes his case as a threat to national defense, while the left wing paints it as a gay rights issue. He said that he actually agrees with his opponents... that it is about national defense, but that what our national defense needs are bright, talented gays and lesbians just as much as anyone else. He added that he feels the real struggle is about being true to himself, being honest with the public and defending the country that is so dear to him.
Steve concluded his remarks by saying that in the future he was just going to "continue to serve my country in the best way that I know how... and continue to tell... and tell... and tell!" The AEN audience genuinely appreciated Steve's message. This was obvious from the standing ovation, which arose spontaneously and crossed political boundaries.
The gay/ lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender community includes people of all kinds of political ideologies. As one century began to draw to a close and we all faced the impending start of another, Steve May reminded us that there are certain issues on which we must stand united as ONE community. Thanks for the gift, Steve.
Ronald L. Moore is a member of the AEN Board of Directors and serves on its Program Committee. He is the Atlanta Site Manager for Hewlett Packard, the company's senior executive in Atlanta.