Friday, June 26, 2009


This Sunday is the Gay Pride Parade in NYC. It's my favorite of all parades and I love the message of inclusion and fun. I know it's not just "fun" for everyone, but is cathartic. I have friends who faced unbelievable challenges for simply being themselves and having the courage to live their lives honestly. My beloved John told me that he was called a "fucking faggot" on Fifth Avenue in NYC (and not just by me!)

Last weekend, my BFF P.K. participated in Spartanburg, South Carolina's first ever gay pride march. Even more impressive, she organized it. I know how hard she'd worked on it for a good part of a year and I'm just so proud that I am smart enough to be friends with someone who not only talks a good game (like me), but who actually got something done.

Because for me, a gay pride parade is a gorgeous party. For someone else, it's a lifeline.

P.K. generously agreed to blog about it. Here it is:

On June 20, 2009, the town where I live (Spartanburg, SC) had its very first gay pride march. More than 100 protesters, mostly from area churches, lined the streets holding Bibles and signs. For a group of straight men (there were very few women and children among the protesters), they seemed unduly concerned with sodomy. Weird.

But the marchers were the real story. More than 500 gay, straight, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered, intersex, and maybe a couple of people lying somewhere else along the sexuality spectrum, lined up in 97-degree heat, awaiting the word that it was 11 a.m. and time to take our first steps into the streets of downtown Spartanburg. The joy on our faces and the energy that buzzed around us was in sharp contrast to the dour look of the protesters, many of whom were wearing dress shirts and ties. Looking later at the photographs, I thought they looked like they were all from 1962. (Marinka, however, thought they all looked like pedophiles. Yes, she’s even funny in other people’s columns.)

If you live in a place like New York or San Francisco or Key West, you probably can’t understand what this gay pride march meant to the people in my area. I can’t even say my “town,” because people came from all over the state, along with a few from other states. Heck, if you live in places a lot less gay than New York or San Francisco or Key West, you probably can’t comprehend what a momentous occasion this was. I live in a place where Christian undertones are everywhere. The largest club at my son’s high school is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. One of the first questions people ask newcomers is, “What church do you go to?” There’s prayer at school sporting events and before the local school board meetings. And lest there’s some confusion, these prayers are made in Jesus’ name, Amen.

A couple of days before the march, the local newspaper ran an online poll asking, “Do you object to the gay pride march scheduled for Spartanburg?” The result showed that 60.8% were against it, and 36.9% were in favor of it (2.3% were unsure). Even more interesting was that 834 votes were cast in the poll, by far the most number of votes received in one of their polls for as far back as the archives showed. Gays are a hot button in this area of South Carolina.

How did I -- a 50-year old happily married straight woman and mother of four straight (as far as I know) children -- wind up as the chair of the organizing committee of this historic event? It started as a joke. I’m a member of an ultra-liberal church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spartanburg, which is an absolute oasis of liberal religion in this All-Christ-All-The-Time area. Following a two-year program educating our congregation about GLBT issues, we were looking for ways to expand our ideals into the community at large. In November of 2008, four of us were sitting around a table in the Fellowship Hall early one Sunday morning, and during the meeting I said, “How about a gay pride parade?” We all laughed, because it was ridiculous, of course – a gay pride parade in Spartanburg? Yeah, right. A couple of minutes later, though, I said, “Why NOT a gay pride parade? Has it ever been done here?” (Duh, it hadn’t.) From there, the four of us agreed to investigate what was involved in getting a permit, and we started putting together a database of names of groups and individuals we thought might be interested in participating in such an event. As I said at the introduction to the Festival that followed the march, “Some people said it couldn’t be done. Some people said it shouldn’t be done. But we at Upstate Pride said it must be done, because like our theme for this year says, The Time for Pride is NOW.”

One story from the event explains exactly why The Time for Pride is NOW: As people were lining up in the church parking lot for the march, a 17-year old high school student was dropped off by her father. She was alone and seemed nervous, so I started talking to her and introduced her to my two daughters. She said that she doesn’t have any friends at school and that her family doesn’t understand her. She participated in the march and then stayed for the festival, which featured live entertainment, speakers, food vendors, retail vendors, and non-profit booths. Towards the end of the festival, as she was getting ready to call her dad and ask him to come pick her up, she told me that spending the day at the march and festival was the first day she remembered being happy in her whole life. That’s why Spartanburg needed this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful. WONDERFUL! Your friend is amazing, absolutely amazing for putting this together in her town and giving the gay community a voice and a chance.

June 26, 2009 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger MommyTime said...

And just think of all the other seventeen year olds who might open their eyes and be a teensy bit nicer to this girl as a result. And the fact that she knows that someone -- actually a lot of someones -- who would go to the trouble to organize such a day DOES get her. You have done a huge and wonderful thing. No wonder Marinka is proud to know you.

June 26, 2009 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Molly said...

This is sheer awesomness. Living in NYC I didn't expect to encounter homophobia. But I have seen it. It is EVERYWHERE.

And for a place where it is less accepted, events like this are virtually a lifeline for kids who are struggling. You probably saved more than a few lives today!

June 26, 2009 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Christy said...

Wow! That is so amazing - the world needs more people like your friend. I'm so proud for her, and her community, and for that 17 year old girl. How sad though that that was her first happy day in memory. And so sad that her parents didn't march with her. Breaks my heart hearing that...

June 26, 2009 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Beautiful story, and yes, this is exactly why this is needed NOW.

June 26, 2009 at 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Maravonda said...

I am so proud of you, PK! I have never understood why so many who claim they "know Jesus" think they have an exclusive line to Him...

June 26, 2009 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Erin G said...

I have a great (gay) friend in sparkle city, and he said the event went off pretty well. good job PK!

since when are equal rights "special" rights? I don't understand that sign.

June 26, 2009 at 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a nice story and I am happy that the event was successful. I am saddened, however, that the organizer of an event designed to promote tolerance and acceptance is so obvioulsy anti-tolerant or accepting of those whose beliefs differ from her own. Being hostile and degrading the "All-Jesus-All-the Time" folks for their beliefs does nothing to make the case for respect and acceptance. It makes you a hypocrite and weakens your argument.

June 26, 2009 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Everyday Goddess said...

I love this! A gift like that from the heart is such a powerful statement!

June 26, 2009 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger blognut said...

Awesome story!

June 26, 2009 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Coffee with Cathy said...

Thank you so much for sharing this -- we don't get much Gay-Pride anything here in Alabama. It's good to see tolerance and love and acceptance take a stand.

June 26, 2009 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous P.K. said...

Thank you, Marinka, for publishing my comments, and thanks for the supportive comments from all you MarinkaFanFirsts!

And to "Anonymous," you don't know me very well (of course, I don't know you at all because Anonymous is such a common name, especially on the internet), so I'll give you a few reasons why you're off-base with your assessment of me as a hypocrite in this regard. Here's my family: My husband is Jewish (non-practicing), my older son is Catholic (as is his father), my older daughter is an atheist, and my younger daughter just wants everybody to get along. I'm a Unitarian Universalist, and I'm constantly MapQuesting my spiritual path. My younger son, a high school student, is a Baptist. A South Carolina Baptist. I drive him to church, I sign the permission slips that allow him to go on church missions, and I love him totally and unconditionally. All I ask is that he respect my faith (and the faith of others) the way that I repsect his.

The use of the term "All Jesus All the Time" *was* flippant, I'll give you that, but I don't believe it was disrespectful or hypocritical. Around here, where Christians rule supreme, confident and sometimes smug in their majority, there isn't much room in the mainstream for other beliefs. I want that to change.

June 26, 2009 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Madge said...

i love this. i live in the south in a smallish city and the people with the ties and bibles scare me.

June 26, 2009 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Erin G said...

for what it's worth - my friend who lives there said that the protesters were actually peaceful and loving (NOT violent or hateful), which is what they should be if they're weilding bibles in protest.

the whole thing was what it SHOULD be - a demonstration for equality, with both sides allowed to express their opinions without fear of prosecution. If it really went down the way that everyone says it did, then THIS kind of thing is EXACTLY THE RIGHT WAY to do a protest, so I reiterate - well done, PK.

June 26, 2009 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Wow. Beautiful, amazing, inspiring, goosebump many more adjectives that I can't think of because I'm trying not to cry like a baby at my desk.

I think that Jesus would be proud of you. His message was of love and tolerance and not violence and segregation.

June 26, 2009 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Pop and Ice said...

Congratulations P.K! We really need to start pushing inclusion rather than exclusion regarding sexual preference as we need to protect students and adults being persecuted for what is nobody else's business! I truly do not understand why Christians feel they have the right to meddle in politics. Separation of church and state people!

June 26, 2009 at 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Andrea's Sweet Life said...

What an AMAZING event, and what an AMAZING person to take it on! That is what life is all about - helping others to feel at home in their own skin.

Bless you, in Jesus' name, Amen.

: )

June 26, 2009 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Sodomy is not a family value? Well that just does it for me. I'm going to picket around my bed tonight with a sign that says Fellatio Is Not a Family Value! Because there's ALWAYS the threat of including the family in on that.

June 26, 2009 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

You are wonderful. Really.

Mostly you're all about the snarkety snark snark, but today you've done HPV/anal cancer on Twitter and gay pride here. I love it when you get all lefty commie pinko heart on your sleeve.


June 26, 2009 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger p-huong said...

Great story. No doubt, thanks for sharing. Hope this really opens up other people's eyes.

June 26, 2009 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it when normal, regular people stand up for the underdog (and I'm not talking cartoons). Kudos to you P.K.!

The last time I was learning about Jesus, he liked hanging with a rough crowd.
His message? Something about love your neighbor.
I think if he was alive today, he'd be organizing and marching in these parades too.

June 26, 2009 at 4:42 PM  
Anonymous peajaye said...

the guy with the sodomy sign is cute. i love the way he's gripping the handle. you didn't happen to get his number, did you?

June 26, 2009 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Vodka Mom said...

This really is what life is all about.

being a good person. with a good heart. and giving....

June 26, 2009 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Ann Imig said...

I feel overwhelmed by her bravery...everyone's bravery who participated.

June 26, 2009 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger A Woman Of No Importance said...

Fan-fabulous! Well done PK and friends. Never give up, please - You make the world a better and a more tolerant place. Sorry all this sounds cliched, but you are wonderful! Mwah! Big air-kisses all round x

June 27, 2009 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger TMCPhoto said...

It is so sad that in this day and age the all Jesus all the time group feel so scared and insecure in their beliefs that they have to use messages of hate to shore up their faith.

I am thankful to live in a city where there is a strong gay community. I have friends who are gay and lesbian, one of them a young girl. watching her tackle her fear of being ostracized to come out made me so proud. I can't imagind how difficult it would be in a town that is both small in size and in points of view.

Congratulations on your first Gay Pride Celebration, may there be many more to come!

June 27, 2009 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger anymommy said...

Incredible, I loved reading about the day and I am in awe of P.K. Brave people all over the place.

Also, P.K., that was one of the most eloquent and thoughtful responses to a negative comment I've ever read. You should start a blog ;-)

June 27, 2009 at 4:50 PM  
Blogger 2 Brits, 2 Yanks, 2 Dogs said...

All I can say is I am thankful I live in a town where there is tolerance. Sometimes, I still can't believe we are in 2009, with the way people treat others.

Now if we can just get the California gay marriage sorted out. PK - want to work on the Californians?

June 28, 2009 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger bernthis said...

Wow, amazing. What courage. Your friend is an amazing person.

June 30, 2009 at 4:08 PM  

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