It’s Pride Week in my city. Today, our busiest downtown avenue is shut for the annual parade. I get the warm, nostalgic fuzzies when I realize it’s that time of year. The Pride Parade was my son’s first parade. He was one and a half, and I’m not sure he understood the socio-political ramifications of his attendance there. He may have fallen asleep at one point. I wanted to get him a t-shirt, proclaiming his solidarity with the gay cause. But I was pretty busy. So I just put him in his best plaid shirt, as a nod to our lesbian friends.
I was shocked when strangers started thanking me for bringing my baby. It never occurred to me that a housewife and a kid in a stroller could lend some legitimacy to the event. It was a good time: popsicles, people I knew, and fabulous evening wear (for a prairie city, we have some of the most beautiful drag queens around). Not everyone was having a lovely Saturday. People drove up to the barricades, just to shout homophobic insults at the participants. The biggest church in town is on the parade route, and they had a rousing little protest group going. I started to cross the street, fired up with pro-gay sentiment. I just wanted to ask these people why in the hell they were so afraid. Then I looked down at my baby boy, and realized he’d peed through his diaper, pants and the stroller. My righteous indignation had to bow to the almighty power of bodily functions. But I like to think they were shaken by my glare.
One morning about a year ago, I went to my front porch to bring in the newspaper. Laying beside it was a piece of white paper. I turned it over, and was confronted with a picture of a man’s rectum that had been taken over by anal warts. As my mind raced to figure out what I was looking at, I started to read the text. It was an incoherent, rambling diatribe against homosexuality. The author made crazy, unsubstantiated claims about various government officials, ties between homosexuality and pedophilia, and diseases he believed God had reserved especially for gays. And he finished by advocating any form of violence necessary to rid us good, decent, straight, God-fearin’ folks of the scourge of man-on-man love.
I took the flyer to the local police station. Livid doesn’t even begin to cover what I felt. I’m all for free speech. If this arse had stood in the middle of City Hall, screaming his wrong-headed beliefs, I would be right there, supporting his right to do so. But he spewed his hate, unsolicited, into my mail slot. My house is not a democracy. I don’t need to put up with his shit in here. And threats of violence are best dealt with by the authorities. The police officer took the flyer, and said he’d look into it. Later that day, he called to let me know that the guy was actually well known to police. He’s in and out of court, defending his rights. He’s also more than a little unhinged, according to the officer, who’d called him and let him know I’d complained.
While people like this nut case exist, we need to have a Pride Parade. Falling in love with someone of the same sex? Not a choice. Being hateful, violent, and narrow-minded? Now that’s a choice. The wrong choice. I look forward to the day that my grandchildren read about the Gay Rights movement in their history books. And they laugh in disbelief that there was ever a time when gay people weren’t allowed to marry.