Orlando

June 25, 2016

The only way I know to honor those killed and  injured in Orlando is to make sure that we elect Democrats.   I am going to do all I can to make sure that in 2016 we elect Hillary Clinton as President and that I help work on down ticket races that will elect  Democrats to Congress here in Virginia.   Canvassing door to door is the very best way to engage voters.  People will remember that I came to their door and asked for their vote.   I need to do my part to register voters too.  I also need to find a voice to speak up when I hear lies from the other side.  Because left unchallenged folks on the other side will tell a lie and keep telling a lie until other people begin to believe the lie is the truth.  I have to renew my membership in the “truth squad”.

So my ask here is that each and everyone renew their own memberships in the “truth squad”.   Speak up when you hear a lie.  Don’t let lie talk become a truth.  To make a personal effort to step out of comfort zones and canvass door to door, make phone calls, register voters, volunteer with the local Democratic Committee and the Coordinated Campaign of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

And when we are tired, and there are still more pages of doors to knock or calls to make, let us find it deep down in our souls again and remember that “yes we can”.

I came late to Democratic activism.  I didn’t get going until 2000 at the age 48.

I grew up knowing that something was a lot different in me.  In the 1950’s and 60’s nobody was really talking about gay anything.   So trying to fake it on the outside while hiding on the inside became a way of life for many many years.

I served in the Navy and Reserves for twenty years.  I had a federal career and I raised a son as a single father.   Keeping a secret was a safe place. Coming out of my safe place was horror.

But I had to do it.  I stood at a crucial turning point in my life.  Go and Grow or run and hide.

In 2000 I got active with the Democratic Party in Virginia Beach VA.  At the 2000 Democratic State Convention in Norfolk I found a group of activists within the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club.   I joined that club that night and have been an LGBT Activist ever since.   Little did I know that night, that six years later in 2006 I would be elected President of that organization and serve as President for five years.

Moving to Arlington VA on June 1st of 2004 was life changing.  I became active with the Arlington Democrats three days after moving to Arlington and I have been active with the Arlington Democrats ever since that day.   So in 2006 when I was elected President of the Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club folks were still not talking about a whole lot of gay stuff.   I remember Democratic candidates telling me to my face “I am with you and your people –  I just can take your money or your endorsement”.  It made me feel mad and sad.  I really thought that we were fighting a losing battle.  And when the citizens of Virginia voted for the Marshall Newman amendment in November of 2006 I was stunned that hatred would officially be written into the Constitution of Virginia.   (Marshall Newman wrote discrimination against gay folks into the Constitution of Virginia).

By personally endorsing Barack Obama  in May of 2007 I felt I was on a mighty journey and off to change the world.  Second only to being able to raise my son, the last eight years have been the most rewarding years of my life.    Barack Obama flushed out a lot of gay folks in 2008 and that little Virginia Partisans Gay and Lesbian Democratic Club grew into an official caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia.   Today the LGBT Democrats of Virginia is the strongest and most active caucus group within the Democratic Party of Virginia.  I am proud to have been a founding member, a past President and serving currently as Vice Chair for Elections.

Thanks to President Obama LGBT rights and marriage equality is widely accepted and honored.  But there are still those who wish us ill will and spew hatred.  The struggle goes on and our voices must be raised against hate.

For the last six years I have been a substitute teacher in Arlington and Fairfax County public schools.  This year I got to witness seniors graduating that I have known since the sixth grade.  Those boys and girls have grown to young men and women.  And they look so much  like those young folks who were killed or injured in Orlando.

I am Orlando, you are Orlando, we are all Orlando.  The stakes are very high in 2016.  We must set our feet on a mighty journey once again to save America.

About the Author

Charley Conrad
Charley is a founding member of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia, a former Chair of the Caucus, and former President of Virginia Partisans. He is a committed grassroots Democratic activist who can be seen knocking on doors and making phone calls for Democratic candidates every year.