A milestone in personal rights seemed to have been achieved recently when US basketball player, Jason Collins declared publicly he was gay, hopefully setting an example for others that it is now “safe” to come out of the closet. The news in and around his announcement has me thinking about heroes, mentors, and risk-takers, those willing to sacrifice themselves to change the world.
Martina Navratilova, the famous tennis star who revealed her sexual orientation over 30 years ago, talked about receiving thousands of letters over the years from men and women telling her of how she saved their lives. Her courage gave people a role model. In an interview on NPR she said:
I’ve gotten letters over the years from men and women saying you saved my life. I was ready to commit suicide because I thought I was the only one that was like this, and then I saw you on TV or read about you, whatever. And now this is going to happen again. So there’s no doubt in my mind that [Jason Collins] will save some kid’s life.
Confronted with prejudice for her actions, Navratilova’s career went downhill but she never gave in nor up. Discussing the struggles Collins may face in the future, she shared:
Our sexuality is just a small part of who we are as a human being. Nobody wants to be defined by that. I spoke at the march on Washington in 1993, and I actually said that I hate labels. Labels are put on a drawer or on a piece of clothing, not for people. I totally get where Jason is coming from. Like it or not, he’s a pioneer and he’s a hero and a role model for many.
When Ellen DeGeneres, comedian and television star, came out publicly in 1997 on her television show, she also set an example for others to be brave about what defines you, be it sexual orientation, opinion, belief, or culture. She’s risked her career. Sponsors backed out and so did the studios. Her successful comedy sitcom was cancelled. She rebounded and today is one of the most popular talk show hosts with her own show, “Ellen.” Sixteen years later, Ellen is proudly married to movie and television star Portia de Rossi, accepted world-wide as a powerful and strong advocate for gay rights and equal marriage, blogging a Supreme Court brief in her unique comedic style to convince them to approve same sex marriage.
California’s Proposition 8 is headed to the Supreme Court. Hundreds of companies and families as well as Republicans are submitting briefs urging the 9 judges to allow gay people to marry. I thought that was ridiculous. Why would judges want all of that underwear? Then, after a quick talk with some people, I found out what a brief was.
I’ve never filed a brief to the Supreme Court, so I thought I would post mine here. I’m sure someone will tweet it to them.
Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don’t think we hurt anyone else’s marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they’re fine.
…I hope the Supreme Court will do the right thing, and let everyone enjoy the same rights. It’s going to help keep families together. It’s going to make kids feel better about who they are. And it is time.
Stunned by the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, an openly bisexual teenager and activist against homophobia and bullying, television and movie actor, Zachary Quinto, was inspired to come out publicly and stated his reasons in a New York Times interview:
In light of Jamey’s [Rodemeyer] death — it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it — is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality. Our society needs to recognize the unstoppable momentum toward unequivocal civil equality for every gay lesbian bisexual and transgendered citizen of this country.
For thousands of years people have put much energy into hiding, disguising, or lying about who they are. They’ve put up with injustice, bigotry, and bullying – by individuals, governments, and community and national leaders. It takes brave people to stand up – and out – and often alone – to change the world.
Think of the names of people who stood against the tide of popular opinion, often at the sacrifice of their lives. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Thich Quang Duc, the monk famous for setting himself on fire for religious freedom in 1963 protest against South Vietnam’s persecution against Buddhists, and Wang Weilin, the lone man at the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests standing against the tanks…these are people who said no more to narrow minds, bigotry, prejudice, and loss of rights.
I’ve been very lucky in my career to have people tell me how grateful they are that I helped to change their lives. Certainly not like Rosa Parks and Nelson Mandela changed the world, but in small ways, helping them with their sites, confidence building, clearing up the confusion that is web publishing to give them the courage to have their say on the web. Several people have told me that by my example they have chosen or changed careers, published books, and made differences in other people’s lives. It makes me cry with happiness and humility.
I don’t think I do much. To quote Ray Stevens, “I just play my piano and sing my little songs…”
I think we all set an example for others, be it family members, our children (the little sponges), co-workers, and people we meet only once as we pass down the road of our life. We just don’t stop and think about it much, and if we do, like me, we like to dismiss it with a wave, denying we’re special.
Today’s blog exercise is to stop denying you’re special and seriously consider how you are changing lives. After all, you have a blog, a site where you are a rock star. You freely share your thoughts, expertise, feelings, and opinions to the world and on the world around you. It’s your stage, your platform. Your voice.
Never in the history of the world has it been so easy for someone to let their voice be heard. It’s a powerful and incredible moment and we need to honor it by paying close attention to the influence it has on the world.
These people I’ve mentioned, they all had the courage to admit that they have changed the world through their actions, all advocates for a better world by the examples they set.
What kind of example are you setting on your site? How are you leading the world to a new vision? Does your site serve to mentor others, to set a standard for others to follow?
There are many ways to lead by example and today’s blog exercise is to identify the ways you do so through your site.
For example, on Lorelle on WordPress I focus strictly on blogging and WordPress, along with some social media as you cannot publish and interact on the web today without it. I specialize in helping beginners to intermediate level web publishers with a strong focus on content presentation, structure, organization, and development. Your voice, if you will, as that is the most important aspect of web publishing – speaking clear enough to be heard.
Throwing aside my humility, – something I don’t do well nor often – I’ve been a long time advocate of web accessibility, long before web accessibility long before it became law in many countries. My efforts have brought to light the need for web designers, developers, writers, and online businesses to not just present accessible code and sites, but to value accessibility as part of their business model.
I’ve volunteered and been the keynote at WordCamps and many web publishing and social media events around the world, often at my own expense, sharing my passion for web publishing and WordPress with so many, and learning about all the myriad ways people use WordPress to have their say and share themselves with the world. What an honor.
I’ve been training and teaching WordPress, blogging, social media, and web publishing online and in person around the world for over 20 years. I helped to create the WordPress Codex, creating and editing hundreds of articles helping WordPress user learn how to use WordPress better. I worked with the first WordPress developers to create a strong atmosphere of customer support in the WordPress Support Forum for self-hosted and WordPress.com users. I’m also known as the first WordPress Plugin Crash Test Dummy, assisting many who now work for Automattic learn how to write, develop, and test WordPress Plugins, some still in use today, 10 years later. While definitely not a solo performance, these efforts helped to create a strong and healthy WordPress community that was inclusive and open to everyone, giving them the tools for free to explore and expand their web publishing options without fear of code.
Today, I teach WordPress at two colleges and helped to develop the most amazing community college two year degree in web development at Clark College – teaching future web publishers, developers, designers, coders, hackers, and content strategists how to lead us into the future of the web.
Whew! That was scary.
As I looked at my own personal accomplishments and self-summary, I took another look at the content on my site, the categories, topics, and direction this site is going. Based upon this new reassessment, I will be making changes on this site soon.
Early in these blog exercises, I asked you to examine what you do and how you introduce yourself and define that purpose on your site. I also asked you to define your demographics and target audience, those you speak to and reach out to through your site.
Go through those blog exercises and similar ones to reassess your site’s purpose and mission, then look at your personal accomplishments, how you represent yourself and how you lead by example – do they all line up? I asked you to share your dream speech with your readers to help change the world. Now it’s time to dig deeper on your site to ensure your dream will become a reality as your entire site measures up and represents that dream.
It’s your time to let down your humility guard and consider how you are changing the world.
Take the risk today.
LOOK OUT! I’m working hard on creating an ebook of the first six months of Blog Exercises due out in July. Stay tuned for news on how to get your free copy.
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