There are very few people who go through life and make the positive difference that Frank Kameny did. I was fortunate to see Frank Kameny recently at the Human Rights Campaign dinner, where he was in a wheelchair with a big smile on his face, being pushed around by a beautiful young man. His wish was to die at home, and he did, in his own bed. One can only hope that he passed with that same smile on his face.
Frank Kameny is an icon in the LGBT community in Washington and across the nation. He began his struggle to right a personal wrong after he was fired from the federal government because he was gay. But his fight continued for all the others across the nation who were not allowed to live the life that god had decreed for them. Frank knew before science told us that we were born the way we are. Being gay isn't a choice. But Frank embraced who he was before many others had the courage to do so. Over the years Frank continued to fight for his and others' rights and spoke out in his brash way to all who would listen and faced down those who wouldn't. He often said he was proud of coining the phrase "Gay is Good," and I hope that will go on his tombstone.
There aren't many people who get the honors and respect they deserve while still able to enjoy them, but Frank was fortunate to see his life's work honored in many ways in recent years. He was given an award by John Berry, the Director of the Office of Personal Management (OPM), who is gay himself. At the ceremony Frank quipped that what he didn't get was his back pay for all the years he could have served in the government. He once stated boldly that had he been allowed to serve, he could have been an astronaut.
He lived to see one of his greatest fights, to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, come to fruition. He was honored by the president and stood with him during a bill-signing ceremony for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. And more than that, Frank Kameny lived to see an entire new generation benefit from his struggle to live and work openly as a gay man. I have friends whom he helped to be reinstated after they were thrown out of the Foreign Service for being gay, and today there are hundreds of thousands in the LGBT community who are serving our government openly and proudly because of the work Frank did.
There are many in our community who have fought for our rights, but few have had the impact that Frank Kameny did. He was one of the first, and he fought and spoke out until the day he died. He knew that the struggle wasn't over but felt a true sense of accomplishment about how far we had come. Many, including me, were encouraged by Frank and given courage by him to continue to fight and speak out. There wasn't an issue -- from the right to federal employment, overturning sodomy laws, the right to serve in the military, and the right to marry -- for which Frank didn't join the fight and make a difference. He had an agile mind until the day he died. His body may have been giving out in recent years, but his mind never did, and you didn't want to be on the receiving end of a Frank Kameny tirade when he thought you were wrong. For those who knew him, he will be missed on a personal level. For the LGBT community today and future generations, his work will always be remembered.
We have lost an icon and a hero. May he rest in peace knowing he lived a life that made a difference!