Dustin Lance Black at the 2012 HRC National Dinner

Uploaded by hrcmedia on 07.10.2012

Hello HRC people. Thanks for having me here. I bet there are more than a few of you here
wondering why this is the year when we have four state wide ballot initiatives that they
sent the federal strategy guy from California to talk about it. Cause didn’t California
screw it up for years ago. I think so. So in order to tell you a little bit about why
I am here, why I felt I needed to be here, I want to do it telling a little story and
that’s my job tonight to tell a little bit of a story, and I felt like for a lot of us
that story that most defines our why. Why we are here and why we are doing what we are
doing is our coming out story. I don’t tell mine that often, not publically but if you
care to hear it ill tell a little of it tonight. Mine starts in 1996 at LAX airport as I am
flying out here to northern Virginia on my break from my college and I came out to my
mother. Now a little about my family – I grew up in a Mormon home out in San Antonio,
Texas – and we were in the military so the deck was a little bit stacked for coming out right.
Not the most friendly place, not the most accepting place to come out and do it but
a lot had changed from me since my childhood. I had gone out to San Francisco and I just
discovered the theater world. And then I had gone down to LA and started at UCLA and I
started meeting actual gay and lesbian people, real gay and lesbian people and they didn’t
have those horns the Mormon prophet said they were going to have and they didn’t see particularly
disturbed, depressed or upset. In fact, we had a really good time and if you went down
to West Hollywood during happy hour we were having a great time. And so I started to have
my first crushes and one in particular this guy – I was into older guys at the time,
and this guy, he was 22 year old grad student and I’m thinking about him on this flight
out here to northern Virginia in 1996 and I’m thinking “boy how am I going to tell
my mom anything that’s happening in my life, I can’t come out, I can’t talk to her
about being gay, not in my household, and before I knew it the plane had landed right
out there at Dulles, and my step dad had picked me up and drove me through the woods to Manassas
Virginia and there was my mom her arms spread wide. And she held me, and I thought “boy
would she hold me like this if she knew who I really was” and standing right next to
her is my big brother. Now that was a real tough one, he was the tough guy of our family,
he loved watching cars go round in circles repeatedly, he loved shooting things for fun,
he had a mega death poster, and a Metallica poster, and he made endless fun of my new
kids on the block and my NSYNC posters, so I tried to fix it with a Paula Abdul poster,
and that didn’t work either. And I thought we are just like oil and water. Just constantly
growing apart. And I wondered if my family would ever truly love me for me for who I
was and I was so nervous about that I just raced through opening Christmas presents on
Christmas morning, and I raced through dinner that night, I said “hey guys I am so tired
from traveling I going to go upstairs and go to bed. And I got up there and I was so
relived I didn’t have to say anything and then I heard this sound coming down the hall
way, this click clack sound, click clack click clack click clack, and it was my mom coming,
the same sound I had heard my entire life, my mom on her braces and the door opens and
she comes and sits down in the corner of my bed and she starts to talk. She wants to talk,
its what we have always done, we talk about everything but I don’t feel safe talking
right now so she has the agenda and she decided to talk about the news of the day and this
thing that’s really bugging her, this thing called don’t ask don’t tell. It was really
bugging her not because it excluded anyone, but that all of a sudden gay and lesbian people
could just hide who they were and join up in her army. And she didn’t like that. She
didn’t understand why these broken people had any place in her army, why these people
who she had heard were sinners had any place in this nation’s army. And she went on and
on and I felt my face start to turn read and I felt the tears well up in my eyes and I
prayed for them to stay there for them not to roll down my cheeks, but they did and my
mom looked down at me and she knew. And I looked up into my mom’s eyes and I could
see the despair and the pain, her questioning what she had did wrong to break her son, what
she and done wrong to ruin her baby boy. And we didn’t resolve it. In fact I flew back
to LA the next night and I was a little worried because my mom was coming to see me in about
three months for graduation. And my friends could see that something was wrong but I didn’t
want to talk about it, they just knew my mom was coming through and they said its fine
well just makes a dinner no big deal - just pasta and salad, and it’ll be fine. And
that day came sooner than I thought. And I heard that click clack sound coming to my
door, click clack click clack, and she comes in and my friends are there with their salad
and pasta and I got to admit something I completely copt out. I never told my friends my mom was
homophobic, I didn’t want to, I never told my friends my mom had a big problem with me.
And I never told my mom that most of my friends at that point where gay and lesbian. So she
comes in and sits down and they start serving her pasta and salad and I start backing into
the kitchen because I realize that because I said nothing they think she accepts and
loves her gay son. And this is pre Ellen, pre will and grace, they think she is a god
damn saint. So they start telling her their stories of when they came out, their stories
of rejection and pain, and being isolated by their parents not able to even come home
for Christmas and pretty soon their so comfortable they’re talking about their dating life
and their sex life. And I am rather scarred and I watch them walk out one by one by one
and she says once everyone’s gone, hey come over here and sit with me and I did and she
said well I liked your friends, ok good I like them too, she said I spent a lot of time
talking to one in particular, that 22 year old grad student. I said yeah, she said I
spent a particular amount of time talking to him and I told him he best stop taking
you for granted and he better take you to dinner and this time he ought-a pay. And I
felt this light inside of me I had never felt in my entire life, I felt hope and freedom
as she wrapped her arms around me and for the very first time in my life I knew my mother
loved me for me. And it happened in one night. It happened in one night because she heard
the stories of real gay and lesbian people and in one night it dispelled all the myths
and lies and stereotypes that she had heard from generations from our church and in the
south and in the military. And they were all gone. And I thought my god if that was the
power of personal stories then that is what I am dedicating my life too. So I graduated
from college and if it was a reality show it was the gay episode and if it was a TV
movie it was the pages of horror story and within ten years I was getting to tell the
story of my great hero, Harvey Milk, right so I’m up in SF and I’m so damn proud
of myself I’m so eager for it to turn out right and so eager for it to turn out right
and well that I’m absolutely ignoring all the phone calls and all my voicemails and
in particular the voicemails coming from my older brother. And I’m thinking these are
always hard phone calls because this is the guy who tried smoking for the first time in
our family, and he was the first to start to drink and these things in a Mormon home,
(finger shake) no no he was the bad boy, so there was always trouble and when I picked
up the phone I heard that sound of desperation in his voice that I often heard and I said
hey man what happened, did you get somebody pregnant, its going to be all right, and he
said, no no um, you know my friend larry, oh yeah, Larry’s got the tooth missing and
you guys like to watch the cars go in circles. Yeah what’s wrong? And he said um Larry
broke up with me. I said what! And he said larry um where down in the basement about
a year ago, watching a race drinking a beer, and larry leaned over and he kissed me and
there is nothing in my life that has ever felt so true, and there is nothing In my life
that has ever felt so right, and I love larry, so much and he loves me but he is afraid,
that people are going to find out and he’s afraid of what’s going to happen. And I
said OH well you have come to the right person. So I whipped out every hope speech I had,
every it gets better speech and I gave it to him and I gave it to him but there was
nothing I could do to make him feel hope, there was nothing I could do so I could hear
that sound of liberation in his voice that I had had. And I thought what a fool. What
a fool I had been. Of course I had felt freed when I came out I came out in CA where we
have laws protecting us where we have laws, some laws, so we don’t lose our home or
our jobs when we come out. So people are coming out, they are dispelling the lies of gay and
lesbian people out there and so there is a community coming out. He grew up in Texas
and came out in Virginia, where he could lose his job, he could lose his home. And people
aren’t coming out because of that, or dispelling the myths and the lies and the stereotypes,
especially in the community he holds dear. So he has every reason to be afraid. So I
said alright, it’s time for me to change my goals, make them bigger. I had the great
privilege to be on the Oscar stage and when I took that stage I made a promise to the
young people out there that they will have rights federally across this great nation
of ours. And when I got off, luckily, I knew a man who had the vision and the strategy
to make that promise a reality and that man is named chad griffin, and I am so very proud
that he is leading HRC today. And together we sewed the state of California in federal
court saying that prop 8 is unconstitutional, and if you have been paying any attention
at all, We Have Been Winning! We won at the district court, and if you were paying any
attention you would know we won again a few months ago in the 9th circuit court of appeals
and I was so excited when that happen I just wanted to race to the phone and call my brother
and say my god, we are one step away, one step away from the US supreme court where
my freedoms will become your freedoms where my hope is your hope, where my liberation
is yours but I couldn’t I couldn’t. Because two weeks earlier my brother lost his battle
with cancer and he died. And he will never know that feeling of liberation. He will never
know that feeling of hope and freedom that we all fee, we will never know what it feels
like to be a full American. And do you know why I am here tonight. I am here tonight because
that has to end. I am here tonight because I want Texas, and Virginia and Utah to be
free and equal and if that is ever going to happen then we need to send a message to this
nation. A message coming from Maine and Minnesota and Washington and Maryland on November 6,
that the voters, the people who believe in that this constitution applies to all of us.
And who will be hearing that message. The young people of this nation will hear this
message and it will give hope and it will save lives. But do you know who else will
hear this message, 9 people right here in the district of Colombia called the US Supreme
Court they are listening, they are paying attention, they are watching what will happen
in these four states. Because they don’t like to be 10 steps ahead of the country,
they like to be about 2 but they most certainly never want to be behind the arc of history
when it comes to equality in this nation again. They have seen this dark day in this country
before and they will not let it happen again. So we must send a message to that court that
the people want freedom and the people want equality. So how do we do that? How do we
do that? Number 1 and I hope I have demonstrated this today, you have to get out there and
tell your personal story, you have to come out never ever under estimate the power of
your personal story between now and Election Day. I want you to tell it, I want you to
go shopping in Maryland and come out to every cashier you meet. And number 2, and I have
some good news tonight from HRC, that every single dollar we raise from here on out will
go directly to the ground in those four marriage equality states so they have the resources
they need to tell their stories, on the phone on the television and person to person so
that they can tell their stories because we must win. So I want you to give and to give
and to give tonight until it is uncomfortable, because we must win so that we can change
the narrative of this nation a narrative that says the p[people of this nation, every single
person and every single family in this country has value, will be respected and will be protected.
And we must also change the narrative of this nation and on November 6, send a message loud
and clear that we will never again leave one of our brothers and sisters behind no matter
where they live, in these great states these great united states of American, thank you
very much. (Applause)