Chicken sandwiches and feathered boas
Well, the past few weeks have been full of chicken sandwich eating craziness, some uplifting equality movements across the country in support of companies that support diversity and marriage equality and a few fantastic examples of family and love.
During the past few weeks, I’ve felt a plethora of emotions. While social warfare has taken place on Facebook.com, conservatives waved their Chick-fil-A bags and waffle fries in the guise of freedom of speech. It’s the lie they were told – the lie they wanted to believe. Meanwhile, gays and lesbians around the country knew the real story. Words were said, scripture misused and unfortunately more money was spent to take away the equal rights of a group of people. I removed “friends” from Facebook, including some family members. I was even told that I was being intolerant and for the first time since middle school, I felt bullied.
My feelings were hurt, but that’s not the most important part of the story. It wasn’t a gay vs. Christian debate. It wasn’t a free speech debate. I consider myself both (gay and Christian) and will fight for free speech as long as I live. When people give their money to an organization that wants to hinder the equality of a group of people, it’s active support of that cause.
On the same day as National Chick-fill-A Appreciation Day, my partner and I entered into a newly-legislated Domestic Partnership Registry in our home city. I had family and friends who filled up on chicken sandwiches that day, but sadly there were only a few who congratulated us. I realize that the DPR may have been foreign to some of them. They may not have realized the importance of it – the fact that even though there are more than 1,000 rights that we are denied because marriage equality doesn’t exist, registries like this give us some of the protections our relationship deserves. Beyond the fact that we now have protections in hospitals in our city, the right to make important life-altering decisions for each other, financial responsibility for each other and recognition of our relationship in the eyes of the law – it’s symbolic of our relationship and our family. That fact should not be foreign to anyone.
I spent several days feeling like that sad, desperate teenager. I remembered sitting on my bed crying and thinking suicide was easier than being myself. I remembered how horrible it felt to think that even my family would never accept me or love me as a gay man.
I say all of this because I think it’s important that people realize how our actions affect others. How detrimental it is to young LGBT people when they look around and see people parading their support of hate groups. I don’t think many people realized the impact of those little chicken sandwiches. I don’t think they even do today. The national kiss-ins and other protests by LGBT and allies don’t really change much either. And as much as I’m tired of talking about it, tired of seeing the Facebook posts and tired of feeling like that sad, scared kid again – I hope that the conversation continues. I hope that some good comes out of it.
There are glimpses of hope around us every day. Just a few weeks ago, while vacationing in Key West I came across two young gay kids out on the town. The cute duo was out at one of the popular drag bars along Duval Street – nothing too uncommon. Then I noticed that they were with their parents and upon further investigation (OK, nosiness) I determined that this was actually part of a meet-the-parents weekend. They weren’t a day older than 21 and it brought a smile to my face to realize the generational difference between their experience and mine. It made my night so much that I even presented their mothers with feathered boas so they felt even more fabulous. (For those who know me – the idea that I have a stock of boas handy will come as no surprise.)
Don’t get me wrong – the majority of my family does accept my relationship and loves and appreciates my partner. I would never have thought that would happen in my 20s. In small glimmers of hope, kids are coming out not only earlier but stronger. Through the efforts of thousands who have participated in the It Gets Better Project, our messages of hope are getting out to scared kids everywhere. The project actually celebrates its two-year anniversary next month. Bit by bit, things are getting better.
I’ve been re-reading many of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches lately for inspiration. In his 1967 address to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King said, “I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future . . . Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
So while a big part of me hopes that this will be the last column I ever write about chicken sandwiches, I hope that I continue to write about the change in understanding and the continuity of conversation that makes a better world tomorrow than there is today. With hope, I’m stocking up on more boas.
OUT & ABOUT
Friday, Sept. 7 – The First Friday Happy Hour group will meet from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 7 at 2nd Avenue Pier Open Air Bar, located at 110 Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach. First Friday is a gay professionals after work happy hour where everyone is welcome. For more information visit www.firstfridayhappyhour.org.
Sept. 29 – Careteam’s 2012 AIDS Walk is just around the corner and its time to get registered so you can start raising funds for this great community-based event which raises money to support those affected and infected by HIV/AIDS in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties. This year’s event will be on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Plyler Park on the corner of North Ocean Boulevard and 11th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. Registration is at 9:30 a.m. and the walk starts at 10:30 a.m. Minimum donation is $5. The annual AIDS Walk is an important community awareness and fundraising event. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information, email Terry@GambleLivingston.com. For general information about the walk, visit www.careteamsc.org.
Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Chris Rudisill an e-mail to SouthernGayWriter@gmail.com. You can also follow along on Facebook.com @SouthernGayWriter for more news and events.