By Beck Gee, MA, LADC IOP Program Director

After the signs are put away, the “Vote No” t-shirts folded up, and the scratchy throats healed from days and months of talking to others about marriage, the day is finally upon us here in Minnesota. August 1, 2013 starting at midnight, Minnesota’s gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry equally and without reservation. All of us have our opinions about marriage in the LGBT community. I’ve talked plenty about the amendment with friends and family (both blood related and chosen). I’ve gotten into full blown verbal arguments over Facebook with people I don’t even know (I’m not proud of it, but it’s true) about this very heated topic.

I remember back in November tears dripping over my ballot sheet while having to fill in the little bubble that said “No”. Because I never thought others would feel so strongly about asserting their power over who I chose to love. And I remember May 13th when the Senate passed the Marriage Bill. And I was there when the Governor signed the bill on May 14th. It was like standing on the top of a mountain, feeling accomplished. If you have ever gotten to a top of a mountain, then you know how clearly you can see other mountains, and it was at that point I could see how much further we still have to go for our fight for equal rights. But for that moment, I took it all in and felt a wave of relief and emotion that had been pushed down for about 17 years (since I came out).

How does the passing of marriage equality affect the mental health, self-esteem, and acceptance in LGBTQ community? This is a question that cannot be answered by just my perspective. I have put the question out there to the community. To some, the passing of the marriage amendment did not change anything for them personally. They said that their self-esteem and self-acceptance was exactly the same as the day before. Some stated that they felt more confident and happier. They stated that they felt part-of, in a way they had not felt before. For me, on that day as I watched people cheering, crying, and hugging their partners and kids, I had a sense that those around me were uplifted to a different level.

I have to ask myself, was it the passing of the marriage amendment, or was it the coming together to fight for equality that boosted the self-acceptance and the self-esteem of the community? From a recovery standpoint, when we are of service to others, when we step out of ourselves for just a minute, it boosts our self-worth. When we become part of a greater community and we connect on a level that only a certain few can understand, we no longer feel alone. When we become the David to the system’s Goliath, our self-esteem rises and we feel worthwhile.  We gain acceptance for ourselves when we help those who are in more need.  When we reach our hands out to someone who has less than us, when we stand side by side to fight for what’s right, the sense of belonging and commitment to ourselves becomes greater.

We have embarked on a new territory here in Minnesota. We have seen what we can accomplish on a community level. That community was made up of individuals who were willing to act in service to others. We see what we can accomplish and now we can go out and accomplish so much more.  There is a sense of hope that marriage equality gives to us. It’s the journey, from where we came from, to who we are, and to what the future holds. Self -esteem is found through the journey. As I watch people on the steps of the Capital this Thursday August 1, 2013 at 12:01am, I will know I was a part of it and will continue to work towards a more equal world which includes class, gender, race and sexuality.