Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yes, All the People in Red are Homos

June marks Gay Pride Month and to celebrate I will be taking off work tomorrow and Friday to attend Gay Days here in Orlando. For those of you who don't know, Gay Days is one of the biggest Gay Pride Events in the country. 150,000 gay people come into Orlando for the celebration. The days include visits to Disney, tons of parties, a big gay expo and plenty more. This will be my forth time participating in Gay Days and I honestly can't wait for it to begin! Tonight I will be kicking it off with a wine tasting that benefits the gay youth alliance here in Orlando. 

For me Gay Days provides a real sense of community and belonging. The main event is Saturday when every goes to the Magic Kingdom wearing red. The park becomes a sea of red (or a sea of gay). It's such a powerful statement and probably one of the best activist moments, because there we are on display but just being ourselves. We aren't yelling or fighting, but having a good time. It also shows all the other people who just happen to have picked that day to come to Disney how diverse the gay community is. We are not the stereotype you see on TV. Honestly I wish every straight person was required to attend this day just once because I think it would change their perspective. How could it not? I mean when you see a balding, 300 lb man in a leather vest with a full beard holding hands with another man, you have to think twice about everything you've ever thought about gay people. We are everywhere. We are anyone. 

I still remember my first time going, just four years ago, and feeling that overwhelming sense of community that I had never felt before. Growing up in Indiana where I basically knew no other gay people gave me very little chance to have this feeling. Often you don't realize how much you want that community until you are presented with it. Living in Orlando I now have this on a regular basis, but for thousands of gays coming here in the next day or so they don't. Gay Days is their escape. It is their vacation to a better world.

This June also marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the sort-of official beginning of the modern gay rights movement). This makes me both sad and proud. Proud because of the strength of those who came before me, but sad at how little the country has progressed. Yes, I said how little. I'm tried of people saying we've progressed that much, because we haven't. I can still be fired from my job in most states, I can't get married in most states, in my state I can't adopt children, and if I'm killed for being gay it's not a hate crime. Let's recap: can lose my job, can't get married, can't have kids, and can be murdered. No the police don't attack gay clubs, at least not in Orlando, but that's not too much progress. We still have a big fight ahead.

Regardless Gay Days is a time to celebrate and come together as one community and for that I'm very thankful. I also hope to get some ideas for poems over the next few days, which is bound to happen. I will either see something, hear something or do something worthy of a poem. Can't wait!

-Stephen (the Happiest Gay Poet in All the World)

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