What Do We Have to be Proud of?
Back in 1981 when gay pride and the women's rights movements were still in their infancy, a disturbing statement was made about us: "Women's liberation and gay liberation are part of the same thing: a weakening of the moral standards of this nation. It is appalling to see parades in San Francisco and elsewhere claiming 'gay pride' and all that. What in the world do THEY have to be proud of?" The statement was made by the less than bright First Lady, Nancy Reagan.
Ms. Reagan did not understand the rights of gay and lesbian people, much less bisexual and transgender people. She seemed to just be frazzled by anything which struck her as "different" in our society. Arguing with Ms. Reagan would never have convinced her. Rather, I would like to present some powerful examples of what I have known as Gay Pride over the years.
When the Gay Pride Parades were in their infancy, a retired school teacher from New York saw her son being beaten and abused by the police. It entered her life through the black and white television in her living room. Jeanne Manford made up a sign which simply said "I Love My Gay Son" and carried it through the parade route. Once word was out about this mother's activism, interest quickly grew, and Jeanne Manford's phone rang endlessly-- and the beginning of what we now know as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays began. The group blossomed forth in every state and many foreign countries as a life line for parents who wanted to understand their child's orientation, and from kids who wanted to know how to make the big announcement. WE ARE VERY PROUD OF THAT!
Soon, the HIV/AIDS Crisis spread across our nation and the world. It seemed that every week, gay men were burying another one of their friends. The care needed by those suffering with AIDS was a challenge. We often heard stories about how hospital personnel refused to deliver meal trays to a patient's room. Doctors and nurses feared getting the "gay plague" from patients, rather than realizing that they themselves were the threat to the AIDS patient. Act Up became a force to be dealt with as they demonstrated about government inaction. Amidst all the pain and suffering, lesbian women rose to the occasion and voluntarily helped their gay brothers. Even Catholic hospitals such as the former Saint Vincent's Medical Center in Greenwich Village became battlegrounds against the disease, NOT the people with the disease. Even John Cardinal O'Connor was known to have made visits to the patients. It was even claimed that he emptied bed pans, but I cannot document this for sure. AIDS ministries sprang up in unusual places-- like the Saint Francis AIDS Ministry established by Father Mychal Judge at the church on West 31st Street. By the way, Father Mychal was a first responder to the Twin Towers on 9/11 and died ministering to other dying people. He is listed as "Victim Number One." AND WE ARE VERY PROUD OF THAT!
In a fast-moving world, there are many examples of our GAY PRIDE which need to be singled out. Among them are the courageous efforts of Matthew Shepard's parents after Matthew was brutally beaten and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming. Many of our high schools have formed gay/straight alliances to assist gay or questioning teenagers and straight students who didn't want any part of the prejudice. AND WE ARE VERY PROUD OF THAT!
Today, we face a seemingly never -ending assault on same-sex marriage. Some religious groups, across the entire spectrum, have insisted that gay marriage would threaten heterosexual marriage. How this occurs in their minds is a mystery. What written "proof" they give us is ludicrous. They will sweetly tell us that God made Adam and Eve-- not Adam and Steve! Well, no great theoligian here, but who did make Adam and Steve? Churches which agree on little else join forces against gay marriage. The Roman Catholic Church, only in small ways recovering from the decades long clergy sex abuse scandals feels it is an authority on the evils of same sex marriage. They are eagerly joined by the Mormons, Baptists, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. But we do have courageous spiritual leaders who have both the education and the love to illustrate that love between two people cannot be defined by gender. Look to Baptist theologian Tony Campaolo, Roman Catholic Father John MacNeil, Episcopal bishops John Shelby Spong and Gene Robinson. The list is far too long to report here AND WE ARE VERY PROUD OF THAT!
With Gay Pride Sunday coming up both in New Jersey and New York in June, let's consider attending, maybe even marching. We must never forget how far we have come in our battle for acceptance and equality.
You are from NJ, and Garden State Equality has us very close to the marriage victory we desire. We have a governor who has enacted the strongest anti-bullying law in the country. Despite any of our other reservations about the man, we can pretty much assume that he thought of his own kids when he heard about Tyler Clementi. AND WE ARE VERY PROUD OF THAT!
Let's think about it. The first Sunday in June (NJ) and the last Sunday in June(NY).....Clear the calendar and let's show the solidarity we need to reinforce again and again.
Does anyone have an excuse to stay home?