Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Ove Overmyer
photo: Bess Watts
It was probably two minutes just before we stepped off marching in the Puerto Rican Parade in downtown Rochester, N.Y. last weekend, when my youngest boy (12 yrs) tugged on my sleeve and asked me point blank why I spend so much time at work and with union stuff-- and the question kind of caught me off guard. 
I began to wonder myself, thinking the reason why I wake up every day is to try and make this a better world for him, his brothers, and his generation. I know firsthand what it’s like to be the object of oppression, whether it’s the color of your skin, your sexual orientation or what gender you are. I personally know what it’s like to be fired because you are gay, and I also know what it's like to be discriminated against when it comes to housing, healthcare and job opportunities. I don't want my boys living with that kind of oppression-- I see the world as it is and say this just won't do. I have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.
Each of us, regardless of our age, background, or walk of life, each of us should have an opportunity to contribute to the greatness of our communities. I want my boys to have fair opportunities to become the best possible citizens they can be.
I also began to think about all the time I spend reading political science books, legislative bills, contract language, blogs and basically anything that gives me a better insight on world events.
Later that afternoon, while Tysen was on the couch catching some zzzz's after the long parade walk, I looked at him and began to wonder if my writing and labor advocacy is really making a difference in his life. Is my work changing hearts and minds? Then I thought, maybe I should just persevere-- and stop questioning myself and continue to document our communities’ history through a combination of story-telling, photography and writing "hard news." I have to believe with all my heart that all my efforts will indeed pay dividends for them down the road—I have to believe they will, I really do.
In 2004, when Gerry Szymanski, Todd Plank and I revived the GAGV Library and Archives Project in Rochester, N.Y., it solidified for me the notion that documenting the importance of the labor and LGBT communities, which incidentally often go unnoticed in a real and objective way, are not fully represented in the fabric of American life. We need to be telling and sharing with pride our own individual stories and not allow others to define us. I also realized then that we all need to be documenting, creating and celebrating our own living history while we are living it.
I thought about the thousands of articles, columns and blogs that I have written and read over the years. I thought about the daily Tweets, videos, photographs and Facebook posts that actively portray the reality of our complex lives, our work, our love and our struggles. I thought about how revolutionary it is that we are now creating our own personal and public memoirs as we speak-- an autobiographical record of our lives for future historians and genealogists.
It’s this agency of community building and this passion for documenting our history that enamors me about digital journalism and helping members find solutions when they are in crisis. It motivates me to keep on writing for The Voice Reporter, The Empty Closet and overtly sharing the way we live online and off.  
I don't think I will ever forget Tysen's face when he asked me that question last Saturday. And, I remember quite well sighing with some sort of paternal complacency as I watched him sleep away that afternoon on the couch, as I went on with my task at hand-- reading, Tweeting, Tumbling and posting.
-Ove Overmyer

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