Election Day is just a little more than three weeks away, which means we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty now, vis a vis Mark’s Congressional campaign. It’s a rare evening that we have a chance to share a meal together, because there is always some event he needs to attend, a prospective constituent for him to talk to, hands to shake, and votes to ask for.
I’m okay with this. I’ve got my own academic fish to fry, as it were. And when there are no school obligations to deal with, I have a perpetually messy house to clean, recipes to try, Foo blogs to write, and a full queue of viewing options on Netflix.
Occasionally, though, I get a chance to participate, especially for something special. Last Saturday brought just such an opportunity. Greene for Congress had a float in the Fort’s annual Gay Pride Parade.
I chose this event to do a ride-along because A. I’m a very proud ally to the LGBT community, and B. I’d never been to a Gay Pride Parade before. So, why not?
The day began cool, crisp, and sunny. I met up with our crew about an hour before the parade launch to help decorate the float. Our campaign float is dressed up in a wrapping of bright green and deep blue banners, but for this parade, we needed some additional embellishments. You don’t go to a Gay Pride parade and hide your light under a bushel basket, after all!
We added crepe paper streamers in rainbow colors, rainbow flags and festoons, and everyone in our party donned a rainbow lei prior to show time, which led to multiple comments about all of our participants being required to get lei-ed before getting on the float. But I digress…
Those who have attended our parade and the one in Dallas tell me that the two cities celebrate this event very differently. The Dallas parade is flashier, more in-your-face, as Gay Pride parades in big urban cities often are. Fort Worth leans to the conservative, and our parade is a little more subtle, and family-oriented. There were lots of kids in attendance, including a little one on our float.
There were rainbows everywhere. Participants traveled on floats, in cars, on bicycles, and on foot. There were stunning drag queens sporting gowns and feathers, groups from area businesses and churches, including a large group of Delta Airlines employees, friends, and family members. This may have been my favorite entry, because one of them was the most spectacular drag queen I’ve ever seen – tall, elegant, and costumed in what I believe was a vintage Delta stewardess uniform from days gone by.
The streets were lined with people of every size, shape, color, and gender preference. Gay couples, straight couples, kids, and even dogs sporting rainbow dye jobs on their fur filled the sidewalks. Lots of happy, friendly faces in the crowd.
But of course, no Gay Pride event would be complete without protestors.
Prior to the parade’s start, we were warned about them, and told we should not engage them, regardless of what they said. The first pair I saw stood quietly on a corner, amidst other revelers, an older couple. He was dressed in dark clothes, and sported a long white beard and a sign which read “Repent. The End is Near.” She was wearing a long cotton floral print dress, and holding a bible. They looked like a 1930’s farm couple. Picture the pair in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”, but more somber.
Further on, however, was a group of younger picketers. Most vocal of these was a young man in casual dress, with his cap turned backwards, a stark contrast to the farm couple. And he was angry. He pointed at the little girl on our float and said “She’s going to hell because of you! That child’s going to hell! You’re all going to hell!”
I couldn’t help myself. I looked him in the eye, and gave him my most innocent, quizzical look, and pointed back at myself. Who? Moi?
He continued the rant, pointing directly at me and yelling “Yes, YOU! You’re going straight to hell!” So, despite the warning not to engage, I smiled sweetly, shrugged my shoulders, and hollered back “Well, at least I’ll have lots of good company!”
If you think about it, there’s really no point in trying to fight this kind of hate and prejudice with more of the same. The words of Dr. Martin Luther King remind us that “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” If we are ever to overcome the bigotry against those members of the LGBT community once and for all, we’ve got to counter the hate with love, respect, and acceptance.
Mark and I have two precious, beautiful children of our own, but over the years, there have been a number of kids – now adults – who I think of as my “other” children, and also as my friends. I would put my friend Jasson at the top of this list.
They say that a friend will help you move, but a GOOD friend will help you move a body. That’s the kind of friend Jasson has become to me over the years. He was a friend of Celeste’s during their senior year in high school, but we took a shine to each other, and she was happy to share him.
He fell in love with my lemon squares, and I fell in love with his raucous sense of humor. I call him my gay son. He calls me his Jewish mother. He was raised Mormon, but was excommunicated from the church in his late teens. Evidently, you can be gay or you can be Mormon, but you can’t be both. When he told me this story, it hurt my heart.
I chose to become an LGBT ally largely because of Jasson, and for all the young adults I know who don’t always get support from society in general, and sometimes, from their own families.
Like another young man I know, who I’ll call Jim, to protect his privacy. A friend of my son’s since pre-school, then later a college classmate, Jim is now a writer. He’s intimated that every conversation with his parents is strained. His traditional, straight-laced father is hostile to him, and his mother won’t show support for fear of upsetting his father. I’ve met his parents. They seemed like lovely people. But they cannot accept the fact that their smart, funny, handsome son is gay.
And I just don’t get it. I can’t imagine any situation which would cause me to disown one of my children. How do you turn your back on your own precious child? Talk about a parenting fail…
Regardless of sexual preference, race, color, age, or religion, we are all human beings. We are each unique in our beliefs. I don’t have to be gay to accept Jasson, or to love him, or to want him to be happy, and he doesn’t have to be straight to feel those things for me. I strive to apply this same philosophy to my other friends who are not just like me – be they transgender, black, Hispanic, Christian, Muslim, or any other of the myriad descriptors that don’t apply to me.
C’mon, people. Love. Respect. Acceptance. It’s really not that hard.
This week’s blog post title is a quote from spiritual teacher Ram Dass.