“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead’s famous quote puts the power to make social change in the hands of individuals, but the way forward is not always clear to us.
This talk shows how the advancement of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people’s rights in the United States is rooted in individuals’ decisions to take action, whether as LGB people or as heterosexual allies. The talk will draw on research in public policy, economics, psychology, history, and sociology to show how transformative individual decisions contributed to the policy victories of today. LGB people developed a conscious sexual identity with a strong social element, laying the groundwork for an influential social movement. Sometimes at great personal risk, LGB people who wanted to live lives of authenticity began disclosing their sexual orientation to family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers and politicians. Those actions contributed to attitude change and to winning formal equality in some parts of the United States. Along the way, family members and allies of LGB people have also had to develop their own “coming out” strategies. The talk includes a discussion about how these actions have changed our culture and have opened up opportunities and strategies for other less obvious minority groups in the U.S.