Recently, I was at a bus stop and saw an image painted on the top of the garbage can lid. At first, I thought that it was just some tagging until I looked closer.

In raised, pink-toned, glittered paint was LGBTI on the brown background.

I was not sure how I felt about this. At first, I was momentarily offended and thought that it was “trashy” to put this on a garbage can, but then began to process the whole experience.

The colors were unlike what I had seen recently on walkways, bridges and the like. It was not so indistinguishable that one could not read it. The sparkly pink paint glowed in the sunlight. And, I became amused. Why, you ask?

Well, it seems that in our changing world, we are leaving our mark on society everywhere. From marriage equality creating a domino effect nationally, to acceptance for LGBT people in the military and in major league sports, to appreciation of TV, stage and screen stars who have come out — well, it’s all quite exciting, even as, it seems, we’re even leaving our mark in everyday graffiti!

Our global existence has seen a rush of changes over the last decade for sure (and even longer since the days of the Stonewall riots). And, it came on the backs of many courageous men and women (and even some younger folks) who said enough was enough and raged against the system.

I remember a time when I twice helped to create gay and lesbian switchboards. I also was on the precipice with being a member of NOW’s Sexuality & Lesbian Task Force in the mid-1970s. I’ve done other things, but I have seen so many of my friends and acquaintances do even more. They were brave enough to march on Washington, were activists on a number of issues and did not stop there. They became a voice and face for us all here in the South.

Were you one of them? How did you create a legacy for the LGBTQIA community (yes, more letters; finally, we are beginning to truly recognize our community’s amazing diversity!)? Did you go to an event that championed the cause? Did you hold a picket sign? Did you speak out to thwart the designs of those who espoused anti-LGBT ideology? And, did you embrace someone who was struggling with their sexuality, sexual identity, gender or orientation, even to the point of considering suicide?

Take some time to consider how you contribute to your community. Perhaps you can help to shape a stronger organization. Or, you may even be able to mentor someone who may need some coaching along the way. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to branch out, to even push against your own comfort zone.

Be a force for change — be the change for all of us who one day will be able to stand as true equals among the citizens of this country. Maybe it can extend to the world. One can only dream! : :

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.