When Harvey Milk was murdered by Dan White in San Francisco so many years ago, the defense attorney said it was because Dan ate a lot of junk food and was really hopped up on sugar when he took his gun downtown and into the Mayor’s office where he shot and killed the Mayor of San Francisco, George Moscone, and Harvey Milk, an openly gay man recently elected to public office there.They called it the “Twinkie defense,” but, I don’t think sugar was the culprit. I mean, there are lots of things to blame on sugar, but murder is rarely one of them. Dan just couldn’t stand to see his city, the town where he grew up, changing into some place that he just couldn’t wrap his brain around. They were stealing his memories of how his home town was supposed to be. Nothing fit his pictures anymore. That’s why I think he did it. A belly full of Twinkies won’t make you murder two people in cold blood in the middle of the day. But hatred will. Rigidity will. Fear will.
Ellen Page, the young actress who starred in the movie, JUNO, came out as a lesbian because she got tired of living with the pain of hiding. I know that one. I will never hide again. Just before that, defensive lineman, Michael Sam, from the University of Missouri, announced to the world that he is a gay man. Uproar over that, and the problems facing the NFL with an openly gay man in its midst ensued; people wringing their hands over how “uncomfortable” those poor players might be in the locker room, knowing that there’s a queer in there with them. And I’m thinking REALLY? ARE YOU SURE?? Are you sure that NFL players won’t just say, “So?” and keep playing the game, grateful that Michael Sam is the powerful football player that he is.
I have often said that I wished, for one day each month, all the gay people in the world would suddenly turn bright purple so the world could see who we are and where we are. Chances are, we are at work with you, at school with you or live next door to you. We are your sisters, your brothers, your aunts, your uncles, your doctors, your nurses, your teachers, your boss, your friends and, sometimes, even your minister. There would be no more hiding.There we would be, flamed out in all our purple glory, for the world to see. Can you imagine how freeing that would be – not just for all the gay people, but for the world? There would be no choice about whether or not to COME OUT! (what Harvey Milk always said we all should do) because OUT is what we would be. So, what Ellen Page did, what Michael Sam did, was not only brave but healthy – for themselves, and for the rest of us, too. There is no shame in speaking your truth and claiming your place in this world; the shame comes from NOT doing that. That’s what I think. And, I don’t care how much people claim to love the Constitution, until ALL Americans are included in We, the People, with all of the equal rights and responsibilities guaranteed therein, we still have a long, long way to go “…to form a more perfect union…” Gay rights are civil rights, human rights, and rights that need to be granted, finally, in this 21st. century. Oh, and, guess what? To quote Rachel Maddow, “You don’t get to vote on my rights – that’s why they call them ‘rights'” Indeed. There are fewer things in the world more humiliating or maddening than to know that, every few years, a whole bunch of people get together and vote on my life. Trust me, if you were in my shoes, you wouldn’t like it, either.
In the movie,42, about Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player, there’s a scene where the crowd in Cincinnati is booing that Jackie’s even on the field playing for the Dodgers. PeeWee Reese, the Dodgers’ shortstop, trots over to first base and starts talking to Jackie. The crowd continues to boo and yell racial slurs. PeeWee tosses an arm over Jackie Robinson’s shoulders and keeps it there, then thanks Jackie, and the crowd goes nuts, shouting and booing. Jackie looks at PeeWee and asks, “Why are you thanking me?” And PeeWee Reese nods toward the stands. “I’ve got family here today,” he says, “They came all the way from Louisville. I need ’em to see this. I need ’em to know who I am.” And, so, they did. Such was the measure of that man.
We got to see the measure of another man last week, something I hope inspires more people to speak up, step forward, take a stand. Dale Hansen is a sportscaster for WFAA-TV in Dallas, the guy who gave the most eloquent commentary about this issue of equality just recently, then was invited to appear on the Ellen Degeneres Show to talk about it last week. You can see it on YouTube, if you’d like. He took a stand and he said what needed to be said. Sometimes, it takes all you have to speak the truth. Sometimes, the truth is all it takes: people of good will and compassion standing up for what’s right and fair. His commentary has gone viral, as it should have, and the worldwide response has been overwhelmingly positive, even though he’s caught some flak from certain groups, as you might imagine. In his interview with Ellen, he referred to himself a couple of times as “…an old, fat, white guy from Texas…” but that’s not how I see him at all. In my eyes, right now, he’s the cutest, sweetest guy on the planet. And, a man of courage, too. Some people think our day has come, but I think our knight has arrived, as well. Thanks, Dale. You made us proud.