Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 5, Bigots, Conch Fritters, and Key Lime Pie

Growing up gay in Utah, I’m no stranger to hostility from strangers. People there have called me names, spread generalizations and lies about my “lifestyle”, threatened my life, and worked hard up on our capital hill to make living in our home state difficult for my family and to be sure we would have fewer rights than they enjoy. I’m also no stranger for such hostility to be done with a frustrating and self-aggrandizing veneer of religious “love,” in the comfortable belief that they are acting on behalf of God. Heck, I’m pretty used to it, maybe so much so that I’ve come to see it as less malevolent than I should.

My point is we woke up in Key West today. We weren’t supposed to. We were supposed to wake up in Bermuda. But we aren’t in Bermuda because a host of churches were planning to meet our families at the port with protest.

We weren’t on the first rfamily cruise, but on that cruise they visited Nassau, in the Bahamas, and were met with this sort of treatment. It was the typical anti-gay protest by the accounts of those who were there: yelling, calling us names, and holding up grammatically questionable signs with insults purportedly from God. All this was done for a bunch of families just wanting to relax and visit their island and maybe buy a coupe t-shirts. I guess about ten times the number of churches that had done so in Nassau had threatened our cruise in Bermuda, and so the owners of rfamily decided to divert us to Key West.

Now, we’ve been to about 10 ports on rfamily cruises, and each one has been very welcoming. Heck, in Juno, not only were we not met by protesters, we were met by a surprisingly large group of friendly supporters. In fact, all through our Alaska trip the gay flags were waving in town, and the same, of course, goes for the North East. But we were about to hit a hostile port today and instead changed course.

I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t like the idea that we ran, that we didn’t just go where we were scheduled to go, because of such people. Nothing for the better was changed for the people of Bermuda, gay and straight, by our caving into their bully. It made the news and despite their government's appreciated effort to bring us to their island, Bermuda is now unfairly anti-gay in many minds. Furthermore, our children were not given the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson in dealing with such. I don’t want to teach them to change their plans to avoid upsetting people who have no moral business being upset about their family.

On the other hand, these people are obsessed enough to protest families on vacation, and it’s our children. I’m used to it, but they are not, and I reflexively want to spare them from seeing that hostility, and from feeling how it felt when I first experienced it. Now we live where everyone in our lives is great. Our boys have no idea about the controversy in the minds of strangers. But to get off our ship and to see all those angry faces yelling slurs at us and the families of their friends… That’s a scenario the protective side of parenting wants to avoid, even though I know it would be a good learning opportunity and possibly a chance to avoid more pain in the long run. I just don’t know; it’s short term relief and long term regret that about equal out. Thankfully, the choice was far from mine and so I can just complain either way :-).

Anyway, today we split up. Given a choice, and after our descriptions, Alan was set on going kayaking and Brian was set against it. We actually like to split them up about once a week anyway; we’ve found, though they play well together and get along, they also like the one on one time. So Rob and Alan went off to paddle through the mandrake groves of the keys. They saw turtles, sharks, and many other bits of sea life. It was right down Alan’s alley.

Brian went with me and the grandparents, on the more tame Key West experience.

A local GLBT group was handing out those sun glasses to our kids for free as we got off the ship. Nice of them, huh?

Brian endured a tour of the city well, by sleeping through it (he has little interest in the architectural influences on Hemingway's home, I guess). But after that we visited the aquarium where we saw all the stuff Alan and Rob did, but in a more tame environment. He loved it. We also visited the wreaking museum, which was surprisingly interesting to him as well.

After that we met up for a lunch consisting of conch fritters and the most delicious key lime pie I’ve ever had. It was another wonderful day, and being diverted from Bermuda was easily forgotten, until writing this ;-).

Oh, and when we got back to the ship, Rob and Alan got matching tattoos. They're tough that way, for the kayaking I guess ;-).

Alan, got to pick the tat... a dinosaur, of course.


Kengo Biddles said...

How flustering! I know I go through much the same ideas and questions that you did, Scot, when faced with such hostile people.

What can I say, people are stupid. *sigh*

Elbow said...

My heart aches at the thought of people being so full of doubt and fear. You're family is so beautiful and so precious that I can't believe anyone wouldn't jump at the chance to honor you, your partner and your children.
I love you guys. I'm so blessed to know you and to have you as an example of how I want my life to look like.

Scot said...

What can I say, people are stupid. *sigh*

I’ve got a long spiel ready, but I wonder if there really is much more to tell them than just that.

Though, from my Utah family heritage, we’d say they’re “ignorant”, or “ignernt” :-).

And thank you again for the supportive words Elbow. You’re too kind. And no worries; we can take such hostile folks in stride. Though, it is kind of shocking to learn your vacation plans can become the stuff of protest. I mean, I just wanted to visit a fort, or buy some shorts or an onion or whatever it is that goes on for tourists in Bermuda.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a parent and don't have the sole responsibility for teaching children life's lessons. That being said, I'm an uncle that is in love with his nieces and nephews and hopes to have children someday and I just have to give my somewhat humble opinion.

Although children are resilient I think that taking the brunt of such hate should be shouldered by adults. Being a sensitive child, that would have devastated me and really made learning a valuable lesson impossible. Not all children are that sensitive, but is it really worth the damage to those that are? Children need to learn that not everyone is going to like them and some will even hate them, but it seems unfair to put them in harms way just to prove that we won't be bullied. My parents shielded me more than some of my siblings, and eventhough I'm in my 30's and my skin is quite thick they still treat me with much tenderness. There can still be teaching opportunities for children that can handle the chaos by explaining the situation to them and the reasons why that stop was avoided, this not only makes them aware of the hate that they would have encountered but shows them that we must also protect those around us. As far as the way it impacts the protestors, let the adult cruises dock there and fight the battles for now.

Scot said...

I can’t much disagree with you, Anonymous. I do though have a slightly different perspective.

“Although children are resilient I think that taking the brunt of such hate should be shouldered by adults.”

This is what should happen. My problem is that this is not what is possible. It will come. The children of mixed-race parents were (and are) visited by the prejudice against their parents; the kids of Jews were not spared. In some places, even the children of Mormons are treated with bigotry for their parents, and yet they still keep on with their life, as they should. I’ve no reason to think our kids would be treated any different, and such people are apt to eventually hurt them in some way right along with the rest. As every parent sadly knows, it’s plainly impossible to shoulder the brunt every time, no matter how much you’d want to. But there is a balance to be calculated here, between the short and long run. The harsh words are avoided, for now, but, if every time we, or any parent experiencing such, encountered resistance we backed down, we would certainly teach our kids something that will harm them in the long run.

Furthermore, the trouble I worry about most, by far, is not an organized protest which we could first measure, and by which we could walk in a crowd at a distance, and explain to our children on the spot. The really dangerous chaos is the hostility that may hit us out of the blue. For this reason I must say I do hope we meet it first in a manner we would have if the cruise stayed on course, prepared, and before they meet it by surprise and without us there.

But, again, that’s not to say I’m upset we changed course. I do see your point and was relieved to save that lesson for another day. It simply is something to prepare for, for that other day.

And as for the impact on the protester’s, who cares? :-) It’s not been my experience that such folks are impactable. The impact on the people of Bermuda who’ve been unfairly painted as hostile in the media is a bit unfair though; they’ve got kids to feed too.