It is almost impossible to describe what it was like to work with Edie Windsor, especially as it related to her status as a historic figure, a beloved member of the LGBTQ community, and an iconoclast and trailblazer throughout her life.
I worked with her after the Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, which paved the way for full marriage equality and made her a household name. I was blessed to get a glimpse of the person behind the headlines, although in truth, she was not that different. She was a ray of light and hope to anyone who met her, and for me was the client of a lifetime who became more than a friend, but what we in the LGBTQ community call "chosen family."
As the accolades and tributes to Edie fill social media and stories about her impact on American history are recounted – from President Barack Obama to children whose parents could not legally marry thanking Edie for her courage and activism - what strikes me most is that she would have been so joyful at the love people were sharing. The image in my mind is of her, dancing with her love, Thea Spyer, laughing and reveling in seeing her legacy and fight continue in the hearts and minds of the LGBTQ community and our allies. Or as New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio put it in a tweet, "The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But sometimes it needs a good kick in the ass from people like Edie Windsor."
I have been very fortunate as a communications professional and activist to find myself at the center of so many historic moments but for me it has always been about the people I serve and help tell their stories. And few stories are as extraordinary as Edie’s.
Edie was, by far, one of the most amazing people I have ever worked with and helped tell her story. And marriage equality was just the historic coda to a life of activism and social change work that spanned decades. Many do not know Edie was part of the lesbian activist movement since the 1960s, served on the board of SAGE, and was planning on helping with its upcoming 40th anniversary. She also participated in so many programs with other LGBT seniors on a regular basis, helped the New York City LGBT Center get a computer system and database up and running, and spent much of her time speaking to and working with LGBTQ youth, who were always left inspired and energized by her infectious spirit. And so much more.
It did not hurt – especially when it came to media – that Edie Windsor was one of the most affable, joyful, friendly, passionate, funny, sassy, and photogenic people you could ever have as a client. From Time’s "Person of the Year" to Bruce Weber to Out magazine, doing a photoshoot, interview, or taping with Edie was exciting and inspiring – for me as well as the journalists.
In our first meeting, she was very clear about one thing: wanting to know, now that she had a very large public platform, what the issues were that she could most affect and bring attention to for all of us. Marriage equality often seemed the sole focus of the LGBT community and it thrilled me to have that be her priority. And so, LGBT youth, seniors, trans communities, and other issues became the focus of her work.
It was an inspiration to me. Her rallying cry to all of us was to keep fighting, to love each other, and most of all to "not postpone joy." This was a woman who knew how to bring joy to others – even in struggle – because she was so full of love and joy herself.
Edie Windsor will never be forgotten – by her family and friends, by her community, or by the world. And for those of us who worked with her, she lives on in our hearts and the work we do every day.
Cathy Renna is principal at Target Cue.