I realize a lot of people are homophobic. I think it's ridiculous, of course. But I'm not naïve enough to think it doesn't exist, despite my relative luckiness to not encounter it personally on a regular basis. I understand that it is about ignorance and lack of exposure to people and cultures different from their own.
What I don't understand is what I experienced Sunday night (June 22). I went to the True Colors concert tour stop in Dallas. It's a fundraiser for the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) and although there were plenty of straight people there, more than 50% of the crowd, I'm pretty sure, was gay. It was like Pride with better music.
Carson Kressley was the MC. Wanda Sykes was the special guest. And the B-52's, Lily Haydn, Joan Jett, Andy Bell (from Erasure), and Cyndi Lauper all performed. It seemed pretty clear to me what the climate would be. People were in party mode, laughing and dancing and singing. You could be as out as you want to be there with no need for worry.
Or so I thought.
About a quarter of the way into the five hour show, what looked to me like a mother and father and their four children - one appeared to be seven or eight, the others ranging from fourteen to twenty-five - walked in and sat down in the row in front of us. They seemed out of their element and unhappy from the get go, their faces blank despite the revelry around them.
The parents wore typical style-less clothing circa the mid-eighties (and I don't think they were "theme" dressing because of the musical guests) and the kids looked like typical middle America - except for the fact that one of the boys was wearing a t-shirt from some right-wing, fundamentalist, you're-going-to-hell-if-you-don't-agree-with-me camp and the daughter (the other three children were boys) was wearing what looked to be a chastity, purity ball, my-virginity-belongs-to-my-daddy ring.
The kids sat in perfect stillness for the first few minutes and then it started. They whispered and giggled and texted to one another, pointing at various concert-goers. They took photos and video of same-sex couples dancing and being affectionate and then reviewed it, covering their mouths to stifle the gufaws. They mimicked the people dancing and generally misbehaved like small children at the opera or a five-star restaurant.
The parents danced goofily, completely oblivious to their children's behavior.
At first I was angry. I wanted to "tattle" on them to their mother for their inappropriate behavior or waggle my finger at them and say, "Shame on you. You are precisely the reason events like this are needed - to raise money for funding to educate lumps like you and legislature to protect people from your backward thinking."
But then I realized that I shouldn't be angry with them, I should pity them. There they were in a stadium full of people having a fabulous time and they were so frightened and felt so out of place that all they could think to do was make fun of people. I felt embarrassed for them.
It reminded me though of how imperative it is that we protect the newly gained right to gay marriage in California and how vital the upcoming election is. We can't get lazy. Those kids are going to grow up sooner than we think. Now they're just behaving foolishly. But how long before they begin acting dangerously instead?
Luckily, they came late and left early. I was relieved and happy to see them go. I pity them the bad karma they called up for themselves last night and I hope their parents wise up. I do wonder why their folks brought them to the event and whether hate was something they taught at home or something the kids came to all by themselves. Though I find the latter hard to believe.
As happy as I was to see them go though, it was a shame they weren't around to hear Cyndi Lauper talk about the importance of love and acceptance. I hope they got some of the message by osmosis. But I'm not holding my breath...
Follow Jenny Block on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Jenny_Block