The paper had been out on the living room table, Michael was featured rather prominently fighting for some cause (I can't remember which one at this point as there were so many battles in Alberta in the 90's) and the adults were talking about politics as they occasionally did and one of them referred to him with a common gay slur and immediately dismissed what he was saying. The specific slur has faded from memory but the consensus of those talking was that they agreed.
In my life as a closeted boy immersed in the ultra-conservative Klein era prairies I had a few flash points of hope/recognition that I was not alone. RuPaul was one of these flash points and Michael with his larger than life personality, his over the top glasses wardrobe and fierce activism on the front page of the Journal was another. Here was this guy who was different like me who was not only elected but making a difference in a place where I thought that was impossible.
From that day on I watched for him in the news and through him discovered many other queer activists making massive changes to what was for me a dangerous and unfriendly province. Michael was a beacon in the dark. Through his work I discovered there were many lights battling the darkness and they were not as far away as I had originally thought.
If you had told me at that time that I would be sitting in a school gym filled with people celebrating his work in under 25 years and that they would be naming said school after him I would have laughed at you and called you crazy for such a thing would have been impossible. I think that in itself is the most amazing testament to this man who makes the impossible possible.
I was pretty emotional last night and inspired. Michael's story is one that shows that change can happen if your willing to work for it and one person's energy can ripple across and activate thousands of others who go on and try to do good. I like to think (and hope) that I am one of those people.
There is a saying "never meet your heroes". Michael and the other amazing queer community leaders that I have met over the last decade or so (you know who you are) proves that adage completely wrong.
Meet your heroes be inspired by them and work with them if you can. Give back to your community and help those without voices speak not because you want the pat on the back but because its the right thing to do. Its what Michael does every damn day.
The sate of world affairs and the hatred I have seen on my own Facebook feed from people who should nknow better can be so demoralizing. Last night showed me that change for the better is coming and it may not happen tomorrow or the day after but with work it will come. I saw how one person can make a difference for millions. There is no force in the universe, not ignorance, bigotry or hate that can stop the spread of that kind of energy.
Thank you Michael for teaching me that, for being a role model for me and for showing me how powerful one voice can be.