Customarily, my editorials in the Mirror have been promotional pieces celebrating the creativity and diversity of the magazine. Not so this issue.

There is something I want to celebrate, but it is you. In life, we learn that if you want a helping hand, you look at the end of your own arm. As we look back on the past year, the LGBT community has reason to be proud today.

First of all, we continue to stand strong and united against the HIV virus. It is not only private agencies and public foundations that promote social awareness and the importance of testing. It is you, each and every time you take part in an AIDS walk or bike ride, or contribute to an HIV pet project.

Second, we have become a political force not only in the halls of local city and county governments, but also in congressional and national politics. The LGBT community is represented everywhere from the judiciary to the defense department to the United States Senate. No one is bullying us anymore, and no one will silence us ever again.

Third, while ten years ago states were seeking ways to limit marriage to men and women only, today we have forged national coalitions for marriage equality in every state. Those timid voices that said we were asking for too much too soon are learning now that equality deferred is equality denied.

Fourth, while five years ago Lt. Dan Choi was chaining himself to the White House gate in protest of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy of the Pentagon, today the Under Secretary of the US Air Force, albeit a civilian post, is an openly gay man. The bottom line is that discrimination against gays serving in the military is an apartheid necklace no longer.

Fifth, hiding your homosexuality from the public eye is no longer a prerequisite for social success. In fact, it has become an obstacle. Thus, in the past few years, there has been a litany of ‘coming out’ stories from obvious celebrities to hidden closet cases. Most importantly, from Neil Patrick Harris to Anderson Cooper, the protagonists acknowledge their lifestyle with no apologies, stating they are living comfortably and content, and in their own skins as openly gay men and women.

Sixth, straight allies have openly joined our cause, acknowledging the cultural and social importance of universal equality. As President, Barack Obama has held gay conclaves at the White House, and his spirited inaugural, tying together the themes of ‘Selma, Seneca Falls, and Stonewall’ will never be forgotten. As Secretary of State, in 2011, on International Human Rights Day, Hillary Clinton delivered an epic speech on universal LGBT rights to the entire world in an address from Geneva, Switzerland.

The speech, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims a simple, powerful idea:  that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  These are not privileges we ask for, or empowerments endowed to us by governments. They are the birthrights of all people in all places. As Secretary Clinton stated, “It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are.  Because we are human, we therefore have rights.”

Here in the United States, we have a constitution that embodies that doctrine in our first ten amendments; that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights. That means the transient statutory ravings of a maniacal legislative body can’t ever take them way.

In America, as elsewhere around the globe, we have had to fight for these rights to insure they become and remain ours. Nelson Mandela’s life gave testimony to that, as did Harvey Milk or Dr. Martin Luther King. There are many heroes, from continent to continent, in courtrooms and in the streets- wherever or whatever it takes to get heard.

Think for a moment of the visual of that young Chinese student who stood alone before the cannon in Tiananmen Square. You do what you can where you can as you can. Each time you stand up for your rights, you light a candle for hope and a beacon for posterity.  The LGBT community has emerged as an integral part of our national fabric and culture. We have done so because of everyone of you who has ever walked in a parade, held up a sign, raised a gay son, or opened up a business displaying a rainbow flag. Not everyone makes the headlines, but all of you have a chance to be heroes everyday.

The Mirror is a magazine that reflects and illuminates the depth and diversity of our lives. From models to poets, from scientists to politicians, gay men and women make a difference in our community and our country. They become champions with their courage and conviction. We are glad to share that with you again on these pages.