Recently I was at Spot Coffee with friends. There was a big sign on the wall for Pride Week, which started earlier this month. It made me think about how many years we have been celebrating Pride Week in Buffalo and nationwide. Gay rights activists have made this happen. Their decades long efforts contributed mightily to the current state of gay rights now.
One example is the proliferation of Pride events throughout the nation. To see the expansion of our own Pride Parade from the early days of the 90’s to now is amazing. In addition, when I was teaching high school then, there were no Gay-Straight Alliances in schools. Now there are 63 from schools all over our region. Many march in the Pride Parade. Activists helped to make this happen. Thankfully activism works, perhaps slowly and not always in a straight line. And I count you as one of those activists.
When you told us you are gay we were changed. Since you were so honest, Dad and I knew we could not be silent either. It spurred our activism, albeit in quiet ways. I wrote op-ed pieces for our local newspaper, joined PFLAG, hosted gay-friendly events at the college where I taught. Dad told his jock friends at the high school where he taught and raised their consciousness so that even the new physical education director became more aware of LGBT students and teachers.
So many achievements are due to the many gay rights activists, from the Stonewall drag queens to the Act Up marchers, to the Pride Parade founders. But also there is the quiet activism of telling the truth about your life. That is what you did back in 1993. That is what thousands of gay people did over the last several decades. That truth telling activism caused a societal shift that led to marriage equality as well as the new visibility and rights for the LGBT community. Even staunch church goers had to change when they knew they had family or close friends who are gay. Even Republicans, who used gay rights as a wedge issue for voters in the 90’s, changed when they knew they had gay sons or daughters. A prime example of that is former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Of course that does not mean bigotry is dead. After this past presidential election it has reared its ugly head. Unfortunately, our current Vice President, Mike Pence, has promoted anti gay legislation when he was in congress and when he was governor of Indiana. Even though we have so many Gay-Straight Alliances in our community, it took the threat of a law suit by the ACLU to get one local principal to allow one. But the inroads made both legally and culturally will not change (I hope).
Last month I had breakfast with both my granddaughter Zoe and my grand niece who made that clear to me. Both girls told me that no one cares if someone is gay or straight or trans. No one cares about that anymore. It’s up to the person, they said. (I love the wisdom of teenagers!) But I think polls have shown that attitude is true among most young people today. So I have to hope that society will continue to evolve.
Your honesty has had many branches. Besides your family and friends, your students know who you are on the first day of your high school classes. To be sure that everyone knows you have photos of your husband and children for all to see. I am sure you are a powerful role model to any gay students. Something you did not have as you were growing up! Now across two coasts and in the middle of the country your extended families are gay affirming and very proud. There is your brother Mark’s family in Maryland, your husband Patrick’s family in Long Island as well as Philadelphia and Orlando. And us, in upstate New York, trying to be sure our friends and colleagues are aware of gay issues.
Telling the truth has it’s own important activism. That is not to discount the more voluble activists. Their work is vital. But quiet activism can speak loudly too.
Love & Happy Father’s Day,