Funny the World...

"WHAT'S 'GAY,' DADDY?"

May 1, 2000

"What's gay, Daddy?" I overheard a young boy ask his father yesterday, as the family found itself in the middle of the largest assembly of gays and lesbians in the country's history. The father looked at the people around him in obvious disgust, "It's when men think they're women and women think they're men," he answered.

This brief exchange reminded me why gatherings like this are necessary, how much ignorance there is out there, and why I felt it important to go to Washington.

It was a beautiful day, weather-wise. After weeks of grey weather, God smiled on his gay children and brought out sun, a mild breeze, and absolutely perfect conditions. I boarded the metro at Shady Grove, the end of the line. There was a joyous atmosphere on the platform and I began chatting with Ray and Ray, a couple from Long Island. We started talking about schools and gay kids and Mitch, from Albany, joined us. He works with GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) and we talked about making schools safe for kids. A girl whose name I don't remember, joined in. She's a high school kid from Maryland whose school won't allow a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) to be formed and she talked about how gay kids had nowhere to just hang out. I suggested to her that she get in touch with her local PFLAG to see if she could get some help in dealing with the schools.

We arrived at Metro Center and went our separate ways, hugging each other, and wishing each other a good day on the mall. I met The Last Session group at Freedom plaza and we all walked down to the Washington Monument to join the parade walking the last bits to the mall area. Fred Phelps and his "God hates fags" group were there. One military officer, in uniform, asked him if he realized that gay men had fought in order to protect his right to harass them. Phelps had no reply.

We stood at the back of this sea of people and rainbow flags. Off in the distance we could see the main stage, and behind it the Capitol.  We listened to speeches for awhile--some inspiring, some tedious, but all with the same message: all people deserve equal rights. We then wandered over to the street fair, got something to eat, and then back to the mall, behind the stage, where we hauled Steve out to come sit with us while waiting for his chance to go on stage. They were already an hour behind schedule, so his scheduled 4:30 appearance wouldn't be until 5:30 at least.

We listened to more speeches--Kathy Najimy, of "Veronica's Closet," talked about the importance of speaking out; Ellen Degeneres expressed her pride in being gay and her mother, Betty, talked about the importance of accepting all our children, no matter what their orientation; Dana Rivers, teacher recently fired from her teaching job, over the protest of parents, students, and fellow teachers, simply because she had a sex change operation; Dennis Shepard, Matthew's father, talked about the importance of making the world safe for gay people everywhere. PFLAG Moms and Dads talked about loving their gay kids.

The speakers went on and on and covered all aspects of the population. However, the hour got late and they rushed through the remaining presenters -- representatives of the military, the gay Boy Scout, people instrumental in Vermont's passage of the country's first equal rights for domestic partners bill, etc. etc. The event was now two hours behind schedule and it was obvious Steve would not be able to sing. But he did make it to the podium.  He said simply "I'm a songwriter with AIDS. I was supposed to die, but instead I wrote a musical!" and invited people to check out hisweb site. The crowd cheered.

 

He'd had his 15 seconds of fame. We took a little jaunt (by this time I'd been on my feet 8 hours and this body ain't built for endurance) from A and 3rd to 7th and H. (Yes, I'm proud that I was able to keep up, but I may never walk again.) to a mongolian barbecue, where we were able to relax, replenish our fluids (I drank gallons of water), and rehash the day. I limped back to the Metro and returned to Shady Grove. It had been a full day, but a memorable one. It's criminal that American citizens have to fight so hard for the same rights that most of us take for granted. The fight for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people has come a long way. There is still a long way to go. Maybe someday when a kid asks his father what "gay" means, he can explain that gay people are simply people who love people of the same gender, and he won't look down his nose in disgust as he does it.

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created 5/1/00 by Bev Sykes

 

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