An exploration of Pride Parades as indictors of liberty from Good.is:
From yesterday’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle comes the following letter. I thought it would be online today, but apparently it is not. I’ve transcribed it for your convenience.
To the Montana Gay Pride group and Tom Marsh, director:
A few questions:
Why do you have to openly march on the streets of Bozeman? Not all people flaunt their lifestyles before the public. Can’t you quietly live your lives the way we do? Just live the lifestyle you’ve chosen and keep quiet. If everyone with grievances to air acted like your group, our news media would be very busy.
Why were you unhappy before you came out? Why does it please you that Bozeman officials condone your actions? Can’t you live among us and remain silent and happy?
I don’t know where to begin. But I will say, Tom Marsh is a dear friend- and I don’t respond well when people personally attack my friends.
So, I’ve taken more than a day to formulate a few salient points in a letter:
You asked a lot of questions in your letter to the editor in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on October 21st, 2011. I would like to address them
People do not choose their sexual orientation. They acknowledge it. It is not a mental or physical illness to identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Intersex. Both the American Psychological Association and The American Medical Association agree with me- and they have for decades. Science is with me on this. Firmly.
We openly march, because we have to. Somewhere there is a child who doesn’t understand that people don’t choose their sexual orientation- and that child may grow up miserable, tortured and conflicted. And, according to statistics, will probably think about and attempt to take their lives as a result of that conflict and torture. I did. We march so that people will see that it is a part of the human condition to be LGBT. We are your neighbors, members of your family, in every occupation and human situation you can think of. We’re here, and it’s okay to be. And we march because there are still people who think it’s okay to hate us. We march so that maybe those people will realize that we are not monsters. We are human beings. And maybe there will be less children who think that God hates them, or that they’re less than other children simply because they are LGBT. If so, then one little annual parade is a small thing….
We would love to live our lives quietly- but there are laws (and lack thereof) and attitudes that prevent that. We don’t always feel safe. We aren’t always treated with dignity and respect. We don’t have equal protection under the law. Believe you me, I would love nothing more than to live my life quietly- and I will- when I am treated like every other person in this country and this state- because it’s hard to live a normal life when there are people just like me who are threatened with violence all over this country. It’s hard to live a happy life when you’re afraid.
If you want to know why we were unhappy before we came out, it’s pretty simple: because we were lying. Lying makes people unhappy. Stopping the lie is cause for celebration. And so we march and dance and celebrate being honest together.
And yes, it pleases us that Bozeman officials recognize the struggle to live a normal life in the face of being labelled a freak by a significant part of society. It pleases us to not be seen as freaks. Because we’re not. We’re just human beings who love and work and struggle just like you, Alice. Human beings of faith, spirit and purpose. Human beings with families and pets and houses and churches and favorite restaurants.
I also wonder if, in your letter, you substituted the word “Christian” or “Irish” or “Black” or “Woman” or “Immigrant” for the word “Gay”, would you feel the same?
We do live among you. We do. And we’re not going to do it silently. That’s not how a democracy works. I live in The United States of America, and I have a right to free speech- as do you. Silence is not an option. Because you have written the above letter to a public newspaper, I’m sure you understand.
If you have any other questions, I will be happy to answer them as openly and honestly as I can.
D Gregory Smith, stl, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Also published at Bilerico.com
National HIV awareness organization Who’s Positive is launching a ten-day effort to promote HIV testing by taking a Facebook group viral.
“Just like a successful attempt to bring Betty White to Saturday Night Live, Who’s Positive encourages people from all over the World to join a Facebook group called “ANDERSON COOPER or Dr. SANJAY GUPTA – PERFORM LIVE HIV TEST ON AIR on 6/27,” said Tom Donohue, Founding Director of Who’s Positive.
“Yesterday was not soon enough, tomorrow is too late to bring much needed attention to this epidemic” says Donohue. “We need to respond to the HIV epidemic with the same urgency as our nation has to the H1N1 virus. I’m hopeful that this Facebook group will become viral and Anderson and Sanjay will step up to dedicating a small part of their nearly daily appearance on CNN to getting tested and showing how painless and simple being tested can be.”
Painless and simple, right?
Who’s Positive is a great organization – I subscribe to their email newsletter, have been inspired by the stories of members, and used their resources for my clients and HIV+ support groups. But I wonder if the message is just getting lost with all the other distractions of Pride Month.
Like many others in HIV prevention work, I see the uphill battle every day. I see the LGBT kids who have little or no self-esteem, the married men who are secretly having unsafe sex on the side, the middle-aged out-and-proud gay men who are tired of condoms, and the HIV positive people who are worn out from rejection, hypervigilance, economic worries and fear of the future. I see them all. I’ve staffed the HIV booths at Pride festivals, I’ve handed out condoms in parades. I’ve watched the glazing over of eyes when talking about HIV to high-risk groups. I’ve worked my ass off. Often it makes me physically and emotionally very tired- and sometimes very cynical about the ubiquitous pairing of HIV and Pride.
Let’s face it, denial in the form of colorful parades, drunken revelry and hot bodies is much more attractive than the reality of an HIV wake-up call.
Don’t kill the buzz, dude.
But I take a breath, reinforce my belief in the fundamental goodness of humanity and soldier on – like thousands of others.
Like Tom Donohue.
It’s people like him who can take that cynicism and turn it around. ” A facebook group, well why not?” Maybe people can click a link in between sewing sequins on their g-strings and waxing. In fact, maybe we could make it sexy. “Join this group while naked!”
However it works, it can only help. But only if people join.
Personally, I did it while wearing my sequined g-string.