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.