Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pride in SF: It Sure Beats Being Exorcised of a Gay Demon!

Gay Pride Week in San Francisco. For one week, the city of San Francisco swells by more than a million people. They frolic, they attend the International Gay Film Festival at the Castro Theater, first-timers take millions of pictures. And if aren't gay? So what? The people and the parade will always be fun. Why is San Francisco so special to so many people? Why does it seem, in a way, like making a pilgrimage?

Why not New York? After all, that's where the Stonewall riots were that sparked the gay freedom movement. To me, the reason lies in one word: compassion. And true compassion means total, unequivocal acceptance.

When I first came to SF in the Stone Age (the '70s) I quickly realized why so many gay people were coming here: not for the cable cars, the beautiful views, the weather. They came here not because San Francisco was so good, but because most other places were so bad for them. SF was attractive, to be sure, but the real magnet to the city was the fact that people could come here and be accepted. Not questioned. Not pre-judged. Not merely "tolerated." Accepted.

Then the AIDS crisis hit and San Francisco's compassion went into much-needed over-drive. Within a year of the first diagnosis, San Francisco had developed several forerunners to today's AIDS agencies. By 1990, PWAs were coming to San Francisco from around the country. It was the same reason they came in the '70s: compassion. They came to be treated here. They came learn more about AIDS here.They came to die here with dignity.

So San Francisco is the place to celebrate Pride. It's also the place where we can stand back and look at the rest of the country. Most of the time, however, the picture we see is not very encouraging. Oh, we can see how far gay civil rights has come in the past 40 years, but take a closer look: see how many enemies have sprouted in 40 years, how many lies and how many speeches filled with hate we've had to endure. For every right we fight for, there's an organization eager to fight us. Mostly it's religious. Some just plain hatred of people who are "different". Gays are the convenient scapegoat for just about every ill that surfaces. They are the "alien," the "heathen," the "outcast."

A video just surfaced that encompasses all those words. In it, a gay teen is being "exorcised" of a "gay demon." According to reports, the teen writhed on the floor for a full twenty minutes, vomited and (possibly) had a seizure. Two videos about the exorcism. One could be embedded, but one couldn't. To see the one from CNN, click HERE. It's more telling. The interview with the church's "pastor" was a prime indication of how backward much of America truly is. It looks like the event is happening in the rural South. Surprise! It's in Connecticut! The pastor of a storefront church (congregation: 25) seems barely literate. I know that someone somewhere will cite me for racism here, but don't bother. I lived in the ghetto too long to go that route. This is purely a congregation led by a pastor who went to a Bible-Thumper college (if at all). A pastor who believes that a "spirit" lives in everything and that since homosexuality is a sin, the "Gay Spirit" is evil and will lead us to hell. It is a demon to be cast out.

This is what we are surrounded with. This is why we need protection. Scary, but true.

I'm not fear-mongering. In these days of the Family Research Council, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley, Paul Crouch, Fred Phelps, Concerned Women of America, and Pope Benedict XVI, we need to do more than just watch our backs.
We need to be more vigilant than ever.

Just a thought.

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