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I found this post a year ago after the tragedy in Orlando and felt the need to share it on Facebook. I’m sharing it again because I still don’t think people (read: straight people) quite understand.
This is what I think about every time I hear someone ask or see someone post ‘why there isn’t a straight pride parade?’. I would ask that person – have I ever feared for your life when holding your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend’s hand in public?
From Sara Hickman-Himes:
My mother texted me this morning. After asking how our trip was, she said the following:
“And please please please be careful when you are out anywhere that you and friends have gathered! I was shocked and sickened by what went on in Orlando…not to mention, scared for you! I love you!!”
I told her that Julia and I are an old married couple and don’t go out clubbing, because, well, I needed to say something to reassure her.
Because, how do you explain to your mother what it’s like to have to be careful all the time?
How do you explain that going home to Ohio makes you anxious because, what if you kiss your wife in public without thinking about it prior to – because, heaven forbid, you love each other – and it happens to be in front of someone who thinks it’s an abomination?
How do you explain that when you’re on a family vacation to somewhere like Tennessee, outside of your hotel, you and your wife silently agree it’s safest to pretend to be best friends or sisters because you’re in unfamiliar territory?
How do you explain that when you plan trips and know you’ll have to drive through small, rural towns you don’t know, that the thought that you might need to get gas or find a restroom in those unknown places gives you a near panic attack because you’ve convinced yourself that the person with the Bible verses littering their car will immediately know you’re gay and take great pains to make sure you know you don’t belong there?
How do you explain that, on your very first date with a girl – a euphoric, wonderful thing where you were awkward and nervous and just all around kind of stupid like a love-struck teenager – that someone saw you talking. Simply talking. And felt the need to scream “DYKE” at you?
How do you explain the feeling of how that immediately stole the wind from your fresh-out-of-the-closet sails and reminded you that you needed to be careful, that you couldn’t let your guard down?
How do you explain how completely fucking liberating it was to go to a gay club for the first time. Overwhelmed and self-conscious, but also so sure that these were YOUR PEOPLE and at last you were home?
How do you explain that this attack shakes you to your core because this is the stealing of the safe haven that LGBTQIA+ clubs have always been. That the places where you weren’t afraid to truly be you – no mask, no worrying about what others think – are now tainted and you feel like you need to be even more on guard anyplace your community gathers?
How do you explain that every time you meet a new person, you have an anxious knot in your stomach because you don’t know how they’ll react about your “wife, Julia”. And you war inside yourself about how you’ll react if they aren’t approving. How every interaction can sometimes feel like a choice to be an outspoken activist or to keep yourself safe?
How do you explain that, as a middle-class white woman who can easily pass for straight with little effort, you often get overwhelmed thinking about how hard it must be to be any other combination of gender, race and economy, and that you get mad at yourself a lot because, in that way, you have it pretty easy, so shouldn’t you just stop whining?
How do you explain that the words of caution and staying safe are so, so hollow, because you’ve ALWAYS had to be safe. You’ve always had to be aware?
How do you explain that when you’re in a town like Northampton or Provincetown and you can hold hands with your wife without thinking first, and you can say I love you without worrying about who might overhear, it feels like a goddam miracle and you never want to leave?
How do you explain that you’re sobbing while you type this because everything has finally hit you and it all feels so goddamn PERSONAL, even though it’s so far removed from your actual reality?
I am queer. I am blessed and lucky to be married to the absolute love of my life. I lead a life full of so many wonderful people that it almost feels like an embarrassment of riches how lucky I am.
So how do I explain that, yes mom, I’ll be careful, but it’s not me you have to worry about.
It’s the people who hate me for being happy. Who hate me for being in love. The people who have weapons of mass destruction and are driven to use them.
They’re who you need to worry about, mom.
I’m always careful, mom.
But, surely, so were those we lost in Orlando.
June 1st marks the unofficial (or maybe it is official at this point?) beginning of LGBT Pride month in the US. While several cities across the country celebrate Pride in other months, June is truly the epicenter of Pride celebrations across the nation.
And naturally every year, there are the naysayers within the LGBT community – those who think we either don’t need Pride or that we should “tone it down”, and that the half-naked men, leather daddies, and drag queens are not only a distraction but are “hurting the cause.” I would casually remind those people that if it weren’t for the trans women of color and drag queens at Stonewall in 1969, there might not actually be Pride. I would also remind people that after last year’s terrible tragedy at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, not only do we need Pride, but we may need it more than ever.
But I ran across a piece in the Huffington Post by Raymond Miller called “Pride is No Excuse for Shame” and there’s a section in the article I find particularly pertinent.
Yesterday I saw someone comment online, “If you live in the South or the Midwest or any red state as I do, you would know just how badly [the Pride parade] is used against us LGBTs.” They also said, “If the focus were on ordinary folks it would be better. The half-naked and drag queens and sexually explicit displays don’t help the cause.”
Well, as a resident of a red state, I can tell you for a fact that Southern Decadence (though not officially New Orleans Pride) is an enormous draw for people from across the country, both straight and LGBT – and many of them are “ordinary folks.” Furthermore, over the years I’ve seen hundreds of straight allies jeering and booing at the inevitable evangelical “haters” that show up each year at Pride parades in places like Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans.
But Miller follows up with the obvious question that the Pride naysayers apparently don’t think of.
What would make those Southern/Midwestern red-state anti-LGBTQ folks happy, and what exactly is their barometer for what is acceptable? How can we apply logic, reason and consistency to people whose moral compasses seem to be nothing more than ever-widening goalposts to suit their own chosen prejudices? Are people really worried about “morally offending” the people who voted into office as president a thrice-married serial adulterer with five children from three different women who has boasted of sexually-assaulting women against their will in the most crass terms possible, who has openly mocked the disabled, and whose comments about women have been staggeringly sexist? Are they really the ones whose “morality” we need to cater to and need to be careful to not “offend” with our Pride celebrations?
The fact of the matter is that there’s nothing that is going to appease the anti-LGBT crowd about a Pride parade. Its mere existence is an affront to their alleged moral superiority. The people who are choosing to hate us have excuses, not reasons, for their prejudices. As Miller remarks,
A Pride parade could consist solely of people marching in smart business suits holding aloft signs telling everyone the most boringly-normal aspects of their lives and being, and not only would that not change the minds of people who still choose to be anti-LGBTQ… it would also be the most boring parade that ever was.
Saying that Pride parades make you “ashamed to be gay” is an excuse for still being ashamed to be gay.
“Effeminate gays” are not the reason you’re ashamed to be gay. “Open relationships” are not the reason you’re ashamed to be gay. “Slutty promiscuous gays” are not the reason you’re ashamed to be gay. “Nudity in Pride parades” is not the reason you’re ashamed to be gay. “Drag queens” are not the reason your town or family are homophobic.
The reason you’re still ashamed to be gay is that you’re still putting too much stock in the opinions of anti-LGBTQ people. If we’ve learned anything since 1969, we should have learned it’s way past time to stop being ashamed and stop caring what other people think.