Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gay Prom

Tonight was the Gay Prom in Hayward.

Every June, the Lambda Youth Project and Project Eden host a prom for LGBTQ youth and straight allies.

And every year, some fundamentalists come to wave signs and scream at the kids that they'll die before they turn forty, that they're evil and that their going to the prom is making the baby Jesus cry.

So every year, Project Eden asks the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band to come stand outside the prom and play music to drown out the fundamentalists.

In the last couple of years, these fundamentalists have gotten bolder and uglier and nastier. This year, there were two men with megaphones. One wore a jacket with "Fear God" and many other Westboro-worthy things printed on it (followed by a woman in a similar jacket carrying a video camera and recording the crowd). The other man wore a shirt that on the front had the word "Homo" with a slash through it, and on the back read "Got AIDS Yet?" (photo below). Both were repeatedly yelling into their megaphones that the people trying to block their megaphones were hate-filled hypocrites.

Can you imagine? You're holding a prom, and some innocent man just happens to walk by and just happens to yell through a megaphone that everyone going into the prom is evil and going to hell. If people ask him to stop, it can only be from hatred, not from self-defense or anything like that. And if they physically try to stop him from delivering his love-filled message of hellfire, damnation, disease and early death (caringly and tenderly through a megaphone), it can only be because they hate both Jesus and free speech. And the people waving signs that say " 'Gay' = Pervert" or "Homo Sex is a threat to national security" or "You were NOT born gay!" cannot possibly be the hateful people in this scenario.

Part of me says, "Go ahead. Let them speak as freely as they want. The kids need to get used to hearing this and seeing their neighbors display their true colors." But part of me says that this could still be too much too soon for some of these kids.

The most telling thing of all to me is the fact that the organizers ask that no one videotape or photograph the kids going into the prom. The kids have no way of knowing who is behind the camera. For all they know, you might be taking their picture in order to put it on the Internet in order to say, "Here's a gay person. If you see him/her, injure or kill him/her." Which, given the fates of several LGBT youths (Californians Gwen Araujo and Lawrence King come immediately to mind), is not an entirely unreasonable fear. In past years, some kids have freaked out at the sight of cameras and turned away from entering the prom.

This year, I was tempted to walk up to one of the guys with the megaphones and say, "Dude, don't you think you're overcompensating just a little? I mean, I can totally understand why you would have some self-esteem issues, but you're not completely unattractive. I'm sure that there is some man out there who would be willing to go out with you, especially if you took a little more care with your hair or your clothes. Maybe you just haven't met the right man yet. Hell, if it will shut you up, I will personally take you over behind those bushes right now."

But I know better than to think seriously that this would accomplish anything.


Aidan Dunn said...

Thanks for documenting this, Billy.

Interesting...the signs in your photos are all the same ones they've had for the past 5 years or so. The few new ones look familiar -- I've got photos of them holding those exact same signs at same-sex marriage protests in SF. I guess their small but dedicated group of Bay Area haters just isn't terribly creative.

I'm sorry to hear that they've gotten louder this year -- they were much more tolerable when they were just silently holding their signs. I think that represents a notable change: Rather than a silent, peaceful (though upsetting) "ministry of presence," they're using tactics that are more confrontational, and highly unlikely to change anyone's mind or heart. Their goal seems to have shifted from "saving" us to judging us. Not a good way to make friends, or win people over to your cause.

Anyway, I'm sorry that I couldn't be there with the band this year, and I look forward to playing again at next year's prom!

BGreen said...

A friend of mine posted some photos from San Jose Pride, and a small handful of protesters there had signs that were very similar to some of these. In fact, it's possible that the "Homo Sex is a threat to national security" sign might have been in San Jose today.

I would say that there's a kind of "Westboro Baptist Church" quality to these new evangelists. Too bad they're not intelligent enough to have picked a more sane role model.

I notice that the hand-made signs ("We want you to live past 40" and "You were NOT born gay") are very familiar from previous years. But the professionally-painted signs are new to me. I wasn't able to go last year, so maybe they made their premiere then, but I don't recall seeing them before. Somebody said that there was a megaphone there last year, as well.