I am humbled by the amount of progress the Gay Rights movement has achieved over the past 50+ years. My humility has been reinforced in the past few weeks with the passing of landmark legislation protecting the civil liberties of the LGBTQIA+ community. But we must not become complacent allowing hard earned efforts to erode. Now is a time, unlike any, to remain vigilant and willing to speak up for fair and just civil rights for everyone. This includes taking a stand for Black Lives Matters, particularly as it relates to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
It is important to recall our past and recognize efforts that led us to where we are today. In a not-too distant past, at the end of WWII, being Gay, Lesbian or Trans was considered an act of Sodomy punishable by law. Through a series of events and uprisings, including the Cooper-donuts riots in Los Angeles, followed by a standoff at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, people pushed back against law enforcement and make their voices heard. Those intense efforts are the underpinning of events we now celebrate as part of PRIDE month. There are many parallels to the LGBTQ and the Black Lives Matter movements as people are calling for action and equal civil rights.
I’m proud to be a principal at a JUST certified firm where we strive to be more diverse and inclusive. This commitment is most evident in our public projects, Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill, in particular. Cal Anderson Park, named after the state’s first openly gay senator, will be home to the AIDS Memorial Pathway (AMP). Designed in collaboration with artists and storytellers to commemorate how the AIDS and HIV epidemic affected the LGBTQIA+ community through a memorial pathway from the Capital Hill Transit Oriented Development to Cal Anderson Park. I truly believe we are fortunate to live in a time where significant development in the treatment of AIDS/HIV makes it possible to manage the disease and embrace the LGBTQIA+ community for their struggle.
It is more apparent than ever to acknowledge there is more work to be done to promote diversity and inclusion in my profession of landscape architecture. While younger generations of LGBTQIA+ are out and proud, there is still a large majority of Gay, Lesbian or Trans people across this country who are not comfortable being themselves in the workplace or in public. This leaves an impressionable gap in the ability for us as designers to express ourselves and to represent the full spectrum of the communities we shape. We also need to be cognizant of our diversity and equity, and make sure that we are not contributing to the problem by displacing the people in the community who call the area home.
To this end, I am taking a pledge to work harder to speak up, and take a stand to open the dialogue and engage conversation within my community. I know what it is like to lead multiple lives and not share with everyone who you actually are. Nobody should have to do this, and it is my goal to lead the change. So this year for Pride, I ask that all of you take a moment and consider how you can make a difference. There is an incredible wealth of resources at our fingertips, and we all need to be in this together.
Andy Mitton, Principal