The first of three kids, I was born in Memphis to Lou and Valerie Hansen. We lived a decidedly lower-middle class life in Memphis, where went to Audubon Park Baptist Church, played sports, and learned the value of hard work. My family spent a lot of time at Lake Enid in northern Mississippi, the Ozarks, and Gulf Shores.
I moved to Birmingham in 2008 and it is without a doubt home now. As I’ve come to know and love Alabama, I have become familiar with the bad rap we get in the national media…one that I think is unfair. Alabama is one of the most biodiverse, beautiful places in America. It’s home to some of the nicest people and greatest food on the planet. Sure, we’ve got our fair share of hateful, embarrassing, and corrupt politicians, but we’ve also got game-changing entrepreneurs, incredible community leaders, and forward-thinking innovators.
The bottom line is that we’ve got a lot worth fighting for here, and that’s why this week I plan to file paperwork to run in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate. Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a long shot — I’m 35, gay, and a Democrat — but it’s one we have to take.
Folks are sick and tired. Literally. We’re all sick from mediocre healthcare that prioritizes profits over people. We’re tired from working longer hours for stagnant wages. We’re sick from breathing polluted air. We’re tired from trying to make ends meet in a lackluster job market. We’re sick of almost all of the economic gains over the past decade going to the top 1 percent. We’re tired of corrupt politicians getting ahead while the rest of us fall further behind. We’re sick and tired of systems that aren’t working.
People of color are fed up with systemic racism that locks away black and brown men at disproportionately higher rates and longer sentences than their white counterparts for the same crimes. White folks are dog-tired of being labeled racist or hearing about white privilege. Women are over rape culture, and men are over being treated like misogynists by virtue of their anatomy. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals are exhausted from a society that discriminates against them. Christians are jaded by that same culture which automatically assumes they’re homophobic. Liberals have had it with the stereotype they’re all “snowflakes” and conservatives are equally disgruntled with the perception they’re all hateful. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Our list of grievances with one another goes on and on, and it’s unsustainable.
There are numerous reasons things have gotten to this point, but finger pointing won’t do us any good. What matters is that we come together and solve our problems. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” If we’re going to move forward, we’re going to have to get real with each other. We need a revival of spirit and a return to authenticity. We need to reckon with the fact that we’re all in this together, and that prosperity must not be seen as a zero-sum game. Our fates are tied together—black and white, gay and straight, Christian and Muslim, young and old.
I am running for Senate because I truly believe that we’re better than our disagreements and troubles suggest. I believe we have more in common than silly labels allow us to see. I believe in Alabama and Alabamians. We have the opportunity to give Alabama a fresh start. We will never get the change we need by electing the same old politicians and elite insiders over and over again and expecting different results.
My pledge to you is that I will run a campaign based on empathy, love, and kindness. I know what it’s like to live paycheck-to-paycheck. I know what it’s like to have to choose between prescriptions and groceries. I know how it feels to lose a loved one to the opioid crisis. I have felt the sting of discrimination. I know your pain because I too have lived it.
I ask you to join me in this campaign regardless of your political party, ideology, religion, or identity and work with me to put compassion back into our policymaking and get back to solving our problems.
We can do this, but only if we do it together.