I’ve been signing my emails with the "Be the change you
seek" paraphrase of Mahatma Gandhi for many years. It is an every day reminder
that change starts within. The challenge with change is you don’t always know
where you’re going, or what exactly within you is changing, until you get
there. But you take the first step, sometimes a leap, following where your
heart leads when opportunity knocks, and change reveals itself.
I’m thankful I answered the knock as my heart led me to RH
Reality Check almost four years ago.
Another challenge with change is people come and go. In
sexual and reproductive health terms, some might consider me promiscuous,
sleeping around with different movements, more interested in the rush of new
love than long-term commitment. I’m
hoping instead you’ll see me as the quirky boy/girlfriend we always think of
fondly, thankful for the lessons we learn together, recognizing everyone comes
into our life for a reason, and some for only a season. Some relationships aren’t
meant to last, but can still be enjoyed.
Instead of specializing in one issue area, I’ve had the
tremendous good fortune to work with leaders in three. People helping to ease
transitions out of physical life in the Death with Dignity movement; philanthropists
working for equal rights no matter how we find love in this life, regardless of
sexual or gender identity at the Gill Foundation; and most recently with the
fascinating world of sexual and reproductive health, how we transition into
I consider myself a mid-wife in this latest role, bringing
RH Reality Check from concept to reality, knowing from the start I was to
facilitate the process, then let nature takes its course. The gestation period
was a little longer than anticipated, but as with any healthy delivery, the
pain resulted in joy.
We started with a simple concept: build a community of
experts sharing their evidence-based research in easily accessible articles so
more people have facts upon which to make the best decisions about public
policy, and in their own sexual health.
Along the way we found a loyal community of readers that
continues to grow. We built RH Reality Check into one of the leading health,
civil liberties and political blogs as measured by Technorati, and established
it as a go-to resource for mainstream and new media.
As important as those monitors of success are, life is best
measured by the people we meet along the way and how they touch our lives. In this regard, I am a wealthy man.
David Harwood and Ellen Marshall, the co-founders of RH
Reality Check, are two of the hardest working, most dedicated souls I know.
Thankfully after four years working closely our friendship is stronger for the
tests we’ve shared.
Ian Cairns is a visionary translator of the potential
between advocacy and technology, a Godsend for non-techies like me. He now
works with Development Seed, RH Reality Check’s original designers, with the
brilliant mind of Eric Gunderson.
Tyler LePard lifted RH Reality Check from intriguing blog to
community resource by skillfully coordinating content and adding her own unique
voice to the mix. Tyler now works on communicating these and
other issues at the Gates Foundation.
Amie Newman’s excellent writing on a range of reproductive
health issues is exceeded only by her amazing ability to create, nurture and
sustain relationships upon which the site’s growth will continue.
Brady Swenson’s technological vision and creativity propel
RH Reality Check forward – and you ain’t seen nothing yet. He’s not only my nephew, though one far-right
luminary once suggested in comments on the site that we were married, he’s also
a great friend and colleague.
Emily Douglas led a shift from our initial blog style toward
a more journalistic enterprise; coordinating, assigning, and developing
original reporting. Emily is now at The Nation.
When we contracted with Amanda Marcotte as a columnist we
signaled we weren’t going to be shy, her wit and pulls-no-punches writing and
podcasts continue to stir the blogosphere.
Cristina Page’s courageous assertions, in her writing on a
wide range of reproductive health issues, as well as in her efforts seeking
common ground in one of the most contentious issues in politics today, are
significant contributions to our success.
Margaret Conway’s leadership of an enhanced and improved
Communication’s Connection currently in development will further the site’s
role as neutral convener and technology leader.
Finally, Jodi Jacobson’s keen political sense and
provocative style have elevated our political coverage and currency. Jodi will
succeed me as Editor. Since the day I started, each of the people above will
laughingly attest, I’ve said I was not the right person to lead this site. I knew RH Reality Check’s ultimate success
depended upon someone with expertise on the issues taking it over. The proof is
evident this year, our most successful yet, as Jodi led the site while I
focused on other issues.
That we’ve done all this working in different cities across
four time zones, and feel as close as we do as a team, is a testament to each
person who came aboard uncertain what we were doing, where we were going. They
simply opened their hearts to change.
Each of these people – and many other writers in the US and
around the world equally part of this team – are proof positive that in life,
the right people always show up when you need them most. You never know who
they will be when change begins, but the best teachers are the people you are
with in the moment. I’m thankful for the moments shared with these talented
people, and everyone who is fulfilling a vision of individuals making wise
decisions about sexual and reproductive health based on respect,
responsibility, and what’s best for their health and life.
What fascinates me now are the intangibles in the three
issue areas in which I’ve worked. The science only takes us so far in
discussing transitions in and out of life. As miraculous as it is, science is
just a revelation, a quest by man to explain and understand. Life asks
questions that go beyond the evidence science provides and for many that’s
where faith comes into play. Too many
people confuse faith with judgment.
Each of us comes to our beliefs in our own way, just as we
find our unique expression of love with and for others in this life. Faith is not a narrow concept or dogma, and
like change, starts within. Faith is
often more evident in our good works than words. RH Reality Check is chock full
of words that are evidence of many people’s good works, compassion and efforts
to help inform and lift others. Even if people don’t speak of their good works
in the framework of faith, these words and the good work that goes into them
express the deepest kind of faith, our ability to learn, grow and be better
tomorrow than today.
I’ve been writing about these intangible ideas as part of
the change I’m seeking. It’s leading me someplace, not sure where yet, I’ll let
you know when I get there.
Until then, be the change you seek, and know that starts