A local and very prominent anti-gay rights activist lost her son a while ago. Many in the gay community knew how at the time, but the official police report only came out last week. It even took up a portion of the news, but I'd rather keep this nameless and not link to a story. Plainly, he overdosed on a mixture of heroin and a couple other drugs. Those are the dry facts of an event, an unmitigated tragedy.
I’ve been wondering if there’s anything to say about this and how or if one should. I held off to see how it would settle. Anything I can write will balance precariously near misusing someone’s tragedy to try to mitigate another’s and I don’t want that. Nevertheless, it’s too clear that there is something to say here. There are a lot of emotions and conflicting feelings, and maybe a moral for all parents.
I was on a panel with this lady at one point. I was very much a novice at politics, but she is a professional. The whole time I talked she took notes. When it was her turn she was brutal, to my perspective, calling our love for our children selfish and debasing our family. She made all sorts of dire predictions for our handicapped children, in their non-ideal home, based on research that was either unpublishable in any reputable journal or focused on children in single-parents homes.
One of the things she claimed was that our children were likely to become sexually promiscuous and drug addicts. The daughter of one of our lesbian friends in the audience began to cry at her assault. I’ll not forget the look on that girl's face when she finally got up in tears and tried to defend herself and her family from this lady. But this anti-gay rights activist was unmoved; she just kept that serene look on her face, so seemingly self-assured that what she was doing was right, giving us and our families her “tough love.” It’s difficult for me to understand how, but she felt good keeping us away from the rights she enjoyed in her family; she was fine taking our tax dollars under such circumstances and you could see it on her face. It all made me angry.
One charge she leveled against us was how horrible it was that our children may get teased in school, apparently never making the connection that whether that happens or not is in her hands, and in the hands of parents like herself. She also complained that we were using our children for politics, by merely speaking up in public! We were instead supposed to keep hidden and quiet and let the insults and lies about our families go unchallenged. That was the lesson we should, I guess, teach our children in her mind (though she was in the press all the time). How couldn’t she understand, as a parent herself, that we had to speak up? We were never even involved in politics until we became parents and then it became very important, but, to her mind, gays are such people that she couldn’t comprehend that it wasn’t dastardly political hopes spurring gays into having children.
Why? I suspect it's because she had, in her mind, dehumanized our families through the lense of her religious beliefs. But many in the gay community, myself included, have made the a similar mistake in response.
Okay, clearly, I think she has a warped outlook, and maybe working off old steam from that day at this point is wrong. I don’t know. I can’t help, though, but feel something profound is in this waiting to be unearthed for both this lady and the gay community for which she has long been the bogyman. I can so clearly see the distressed face of that 14-year-old girl of our lesbian friends, a great girl (class president at her school at the time). I can clearly hear her sob “I am not a drug addict,” and speak of her love for her family bravely in the face of such opposition. I can also so clearly see this lady’s serene face at the time, and hear her confident pronouncements about her idea of “ideal families.”
But now I know, at that very moment, she already knew her son was, sadly, an addict; that serenity and look of “I know what’s best for you and your children, and what God wants” was merely a thin veneer. In fact, now the whole memory has been turned upside down. It's one of those plot twists that can reach back and change even the past, what you thought you saw. That memory of her serene, self-assured face once triggered anger; in a blink of new information it's become a portrait of indescribable human sadness, one I’m terrified to ever know.
There must be a lesson in this tragedy for both sides. For my side, I hope the gay community pauses before we take her harsh attitude and allow it to anger us again; we should look deeper at what might be beyond the political persona. Sure, we must counter her attacks, but the demonizing should end. Eventually we'll have to find some common ground, and, while we wait, it will do us all some good to focus on the people behind those veneers. I personally don’t imagine her slings and arrows will ever sting like they once did, even if she starts it all up again; there is a place now where what we share in our humanity is too apparent, disarming. It's unfortunate that tragedy brought it to mind.
I wish that I could personally give my condolences without the baggage of history and politics trailing behind them, but I’m pretty sure that’s too much to hope for. This will have to do.