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I’m not a fan of silence. Wait.  Allow me, please, to clarify:  I’ll take contemplative silence whenever I can, or the silence that comes from crisp mountain air or the hush that befalls your heart when gazing up at the galaxy of stars on a moonless night. Oh, I love that kind of silence. But silence in the face of oppression? Nope. Not a fan. Never have been. Can’t imagine I ever will be. That doesn’t mean that I always know how to speak up, that I always do speak up, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I always know the most effective way to speak up in order to actually invite people to listen, and then – under the best of circumstances – perhaps to actually feel the call to action. No. I’m not an expert in any of those areas.

But I can tell you that I at heart, in the very center of my being, not comfortable in staying quiet about causes I am personally invested in.  Especially when a person’s inherent dignity is at stake.

I have two passions that I simply cannot stay silent on: arts education, and equality.

Finally in the real "Land of Oz", Lansing, Kansas.

Finally in the real “Land of Oz”, Lansing, Kansas.

Today, my mind is on equality.  I have been the fortunate student of some of the most courageous, brave, stirring and inspiring teachers I’ve ever known: my gay and lesbian friends.

I sit here as a straight, white woman, born into a lower-middle class, Christian, American family, and because I’ve chosen a profession where the woman is celebrated, (perhaps even revered) I’ve never, ever had to prove myself in a public venue as being worthy of existence.  I have no first-hand knowledge of what that struggle entails.  (I’ve absolutely had to fight my own personal sense of self-worth, but that’s an entirely different post!)  Society has never deemed me “lesser than”, simply because of my genetics, race, class or sexual preference.

But I have witnessed it. And it pains me.  I know of this oppression, denigration, dismissal, abuse, and utter disdain that has been shoveled upon some of the most beautiful human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, through their personal stories, their suicides, their illnesses, their cowering and their subtle shame that often seeps through their downward cast eyes.

Now the 21st Century world knows first hand of this criminal, attempted superiority as images pour out of Russia under the permission of these official anti-homosexual propaganda laws.  (I’m resisting to link to any of the shocking, repulsive images, because I simply cannot bring myself to spread them around further.)  The Russian Government (among others) is systematically silencing their own citizens and those of us that support them around the world.  (I have dear friends and colleagues that are Russian and incredibly tolerant and generous human beings – it isn’t them.  It is their government ~ a plight I’m particularly empathetic to, being a child of the USA. We all certainly have our own civic obstacles!)

But, you know what? It’s not only Russia. There are well-intentioned parents, siblings, friends, strangers, communities, schools, as well as governments, that insist on trying to make homosexuals feel like lesser human beings, hoping for their silence, which is seemingly so much easier for their oppressors to bear. “These gays” are much greater human beings for having to look into the eyes of these misguided forces that try with all of their might to degrade them, and yet they audaciously stand up and say, “No. You listen: I am worthy.”  What a courageous, shining example of being true to yourself.  They deserve the applause and celebration for their valiant courage and for teaching us (if we’re strong and brave enough to learn) how to be better human beings.

On Saturday night I will be the honored guest of the BBC Proms and will lend my voice to the greatest party for Classical Music on the planet: the Last Night of the Proms.  I am MOST honored and feel incredibly humbled to be asked to take part.  We programmed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” ages ago, but as the Russian law came into focus and I felt this impending sense of dread wash over me, I knew that I simply had to personally dedicate my performance on Saturday to all of those brave, valorous gay and lesbian souls whose voices are currently being silenced – either by family, friends, or by their government.  As I’ve done in the past, this is a very individual dedication made only here (not on the stage of the glorious Royal Albert Hall), but I do invite you all to use your own voice, in whatever (safe!) capacity you can, and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves at this moment.

This simply cannot stand.  We are TRULY better than this.  And it is the very least I can do to repay my wonderful life-teachers who have supported me, lifted me up, and quite simply, made me a better person.  Here’s to knowing your own worth … Here’s to daring to dream  … Here’s to flying over the rainbow and, of course, to being utterly fabulous while soaring!!

The full, fabulous spectrum from the Santa Fe Sky. July 2013

The full, fabulous spectrum from the Santa Fe Sky. July 2013

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~ Joyce DiDonato