Monday, June 13, 2016

Pride and Prejudice

On Saturday, I stood in a light rain to watch the annual Pride Parade. It’s always touching to see the young kids coming out for this event, their exuberance and pride so sweet and lovely to see. How easy they appear to be with being out. The millennials are said to be the most open and accepting of generations when it comes to sexuality, and this is wonderful. But when I see the older generation of gay men and women who also come out for the parade, I am reminded that “open and accepting” is brought to you by the brave men and women who came out when it was not quite such an open and accepting world.

One of the things I like about the parade is how many LGBT groups represent their companies. The parade passes quite near to my home – years ago, it use to go right by my doorstep – so I’ve been watching it off and on for years. Earlier on, there were few – if any – workplaces represented. The groups were mostly directly gay-related, or from religious organizations (Catholics from Dignity, and, of course, every UU church around). And, of course, PFLAG, starting from back in the day when, if wasn’t easy to be gay, it wasn’t so easy to be the parents of gay folks, either.

But now there are a ton of work groups. And here they were, groups from EMC, Wayfair (“you’ve got just what I need”), Eastern Bank, all of the major hospitals, Walmart (yes, Walmart!), Converse (where the marchers were sporting some excellent rainbow colored Chuck Taylors), TJ Maxx (I snagged a nifty rainbow-striped shopping bag they were giving out)… Too many workplaces to keep track of.

I remember the days when it was not such a common or easy thing to be out at work.

Once you got to know someone, they’d eventually let you know. They’d drop a name, or tell you outright. The situation was not all that hush-hush – I don’t recall anyone every saying “don’t tell anyone else” –  but it was considered pretty gutsy to put a picture up in your office, or bring a partner to an event that included spouses.

I remember one Christmas party when a lesbian colleague introduced her wife (this was decades before gay marriage) to our COO and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. COO were quite conservative (they were from Kansas, and he was retired military), especially by the standards of our lefty, Cambridge, software company. I was close enough to gauge the reaction of Mrs. COO. Her eyes were bugging out of her head. But they were pros: polite and composed. And I was very proud of my colleague Margaret. (I haven’t thought of her in years. I hope she got to really marry her wife, and that they’re still together.)

But overtime, gay was okay in the workplace. And, pretty much, everywhere else. At least pretty much everywhere else I go. (Last year, even dear old Ireland voted overwhelmingly to legalize gay marriage.)

All of a sudden, all those many years ago, I realized, hey, some of my best friends are gay.

One of them called me at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Peter asked whether I’d seen the news about Orlando, and I thought he was talking about the Christina Grimmie murder.

No, he said, the night club.

Oddly, although I usually check the headlines first thing in the morning, I hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I looked online. Oh, the night club.

We talked about whether it was going to turn into an act of jihadi terrorism or an anti-gay hate crime. Turns out that it’s looking like a two-fer.

We talked about how it was likely that those who were gunned down were young. (Let’s face it, few people our age are out clubbing at 2 a.m.) We talked about how it seemed to make it even worse that this is Pride Month everywhere.

So many different threads to unravel here.

How many disaffected young Muslim Americans are vulnerable to getting sucked into nihilistic jihadi evil. How easy it is to get your hands of weapons, even when you’re someone who’s been checked out by the FBI for having at least a whiff of terrorism around him. How many people there still are out there who are insanely, blindly, hatefully warped by their hatred and prejudice towards gay people.

And what about all those beautiful young folks I saw on Saturday, proudly walking in the Boston Pride Parade?

This was the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. And it was directed toward the gay community.

When these massacres are “generic” – i.e., not aimed at any group in particular – they are still, of course, terrible. And for the family and friends of those killed, it probably doesn’t matter whether the intent was general or particular. But when they’re aimed at a specific community – the member of Emanuel Church in Charleston, the LGBT “kids” partying at Pulse in Orlando – to those of us not directly impacted, it does seem worse.

I think of all those joyous young people I saw whooping it up at Saturday’s parade. Keep the pride, kiddos. Let’s hope that at some point we’ll be able, as a society, to do something about the prejudice.


Frederick Wright said...

This attack has left me numb. Even though I've never felt much affinity or sense of belonging to the 'gay community', I have been openly gay since a very early age, in the late 70s it wasn't exactly easy but living honestly is a huge priority. I've always held hands with the boys, and later men, that I dated. And even though we were never allowed in clubs or bars or parades, we did what we could to raise visibility and live our lives proudly.

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - Thanks for sharing your story. I keep coming back to those sweet young kids (and to me, young kid is pretty much anyone under 30) in the parade. How awful and unfair that they have to live in a world where there's so much hatred directed towards them.

Frederick Wright said...

Maureen - I hope it strengthens their resolve to live honestly. While the gay community is in the process of splintering, disintegrating now that we've achieved a measure of legal equality, attacks like this are a reminder that we will always be a minority and that our culture has deemed violence an acceptable response to anything that frightens you.