What started out as volunteering at an information table for the Houston Atheists morphed into a nascent observation of the LGBT crowd on Saturday at the Houston Gay Pride Parade grounds adjacent to Montrose St., the main route of the parade. As much as I wanted to otherwise, the constraints of time and distance from Angleton, TX (70 miles) necessitated spending only four hours at this celebration and long before the actual parade at 7:00 pm.
As I neared the the Montrose District there were signs of festivities as young, uninhibited men walked about; toned, shirtless and wearing speedos. Parking the vehicle several blocks away, I walked into the main venue where dozens of tables were set up including that of the Houston Atheists. I introduced myself to Julie and in a few minutes to Mellie and Jimmy, the latter being the table organizer and a proud Gaytheist. I settled in, parroting Julies’ spiel to the curious about the Houston Atheists being the largest community in the country and a social organization for atheists and freethinkers who could enjoy the company of like-minded folks without the stigma of being labeled everything from immoral to Satanists by forgiving believers. From here I could people watch, taking in the diversity of the LGBT community for the first time in my life. My encounters with gay Americans I could count on one hand. They were always somewhere I wasn’t and my somewhere was usually in an intolerant community which adhered to the stagnant malaise of religious edict. As an atheist and an outsider I felt a common struggle with the LBGT community. Only now is society accepting them as legitimate Americans, free to love and marry whomever they wanted in a growing number of states and also free to defend my country in the military. I couldn’t help but wonder if Atheists now are the recipients of the last great prejudice in this country. After all, Houston has a lesbian mayor. Would the denizens of Houston be so inclined to elect an atheist for mayor?
After an hour and a half of handing out information I ventured out, observing the crowd and every shape and size of people therein no matter straight or gay. Despite the boldness of attire or lack thereof the same cultural rules applied – those with great bodies displayed more skin and those, shall I say less toned chose to wear more apparel. Yes, there were the stereotypical flamer but other men you would not give a second look walking down the street. In what was considered bold for me, I sought out gay men and lesbians who were sitting in the shade to ask their views on the current state of acceptance in this country. All were cordial and polite and the replies centered basically on the same opinion that the country is moving towards acceptance of the LGBT community, albeit slowly, as equal Americans and in the near future same-sex marriage will be legal in all states.
Some of the vendors hawked merchandise, some solicited petitions to give the poor more rights but one I happened upon was as paradoxical as you could encounter – The Log Cabin Republicans. According to their website the LCR are conservative, moderate and libertarian Republicans, including LGBT Americans and our straight allies. They are united by the belief that inclusion wins and that the GOP is stronger when it does not alienate LGBT people or their friends and family through antigay rhetoric and policies. The men at the table were smartly dressed, well groomed and very much with an appearance counter to their brethren walking about. I resisted the urge to debate Roger, gay and black and truly a minority within a minority within the Republican Party. Instead I asked how he reconciled his core beliefs with that of the anti-gay national platform of the Republican Party. He echoed nearly verbatim from the LCR web page; a mishmash of statements that would make the reader believe they were in a perpetual state of Stockholm Syndrome. Roger cited his concern for national security and the failed fiscal policies of President Obama. You would get a repeated reply from any republican but I couldn’t wrap my mind around why this organization existed at all. Shifting the ideology of the Republican Party to accept gays and lesbians as equal citizens was noble enough but why affiliate with a party determined to keep them as second class citizens? Later I explored the LCR web page further; looking at an interactive map of the states which gave information on LGBT public officials or as they were called: “Out” LGBT Public Officials. According to the map Texas has 27 but none in the U.S. congress. Looking over other Red States I saw the following:
OK UT KS MS AL MT AZ LA WV
US Congress: 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
State Legislature 1 0 0 0 1 3 5 0 0
State Executive 1 4 1 0 1 0 3 1 1
Other 1 2 1 1 0 3 6 2 2
Missing from the map is which LGBT public official is a Democrat, Republican or other party affiliation. I’m willing to bet there are no republican LGBT public officials. Granted, the affiliation of Democratic LGBT public officials may be paltry but there is not a concerted effort by the Democratic Party to purge all LGBT candidates from its ranks.
What I saw today was a microcosm of our future society - inclusion of same sex men and women as equal loving partners. Despite the money and power of haters wanting to turn society's clock back , there is no turning back. Time is on the side of the LGBT community.