Sharing The Pride

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I grew up in the Marine Corps when homosexual slurs were commonplace. This was during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and anyone who challenged the use of such a slur automatically invited suspicion of being gay–a label that ended careers and worse.

I used to wonder about “Gay Pride.” What did it mean? Was it just an opportunity “Those People” took to dance proudly down the street sporting only a yellow codpiece (thanks Christopher Moore) and oversize plastic sunglasses? I suspected there was more to it than that–my knuckles have only recently stopped dragging behind me–but didn’t feel inclined to investigate further.

Until now.

It’s not the horrific acts in Orlando that changed my thoughts. It is not the fact that 49 people were murdered in a place where they felt happy, relaxed, and comfortable being themselves. As horrible as that is, the news is awash with events like that from around the world. My eyes and ears have become accustomed to skipping over them quickly–to do otherwise invites despair.

No, it wasn’t the murders that did it. It was the reaction of the community.

Instead of answering evil with rage and anger they responded with love: Love and support for each other, for the victims, and for the first responders and emergency workers who rushed toward the sounds of battle to help. They lined the streets to donate their blood, they located family members of the fallen and offered support, and they honored the vibrance and joy that the victims brought into their lives.

Where some politicians and loudmouths stepped all over themselves to jam political agendas into the gaping wounds of the fallen, those closest to the carnage abstained, choosing instead to ease, not inflame, tensions and fear. This is a hard-won skill brought about by years and years of experience–the gay community is no stranger to unsolicited violence against it–and it serves as a lesson for all of us.

My son came home from school yesterday and blasted his sister with a new “put-down” he’d learned: “Oh, man, your drawing is so GAY!” His timing couldn’t have been better–I’d been listening to relatives of the victims speaking eloquently through their tears on the radio–and I stopped in my tracks.

“What did you say?”

“You know, her drawing, it’s just so GAY.”

He wasn’t doing it to be anything other than an 8 year old harassing his younger sister. But it showed me that I’d outsourced a critical parenting step to his 2nd Grade classmates instead of handling it myself.

What followed was a conversation that rarely, if ever, happened in the world I grew up in. Over after-school snacks, I explained a bit about homosexuality and made certain my kids understood how hurtful tossing around words like “gay” in a pejorative sense could be. It was during the mental gymnastics I was doing to explain enough, but no too much, about sexuality in general that I realized that I, too, was proud of the Gay Community.

When I stopped to consider the resiliency of the men and women who’ve been attacked and marginalized their whole lives for simply being themselves, I saw in them human characteristics worthy of emulation.

To me, “Gay Pride” used to be a term that only applied to gay people. But after seeing the responses to the Orlando shooting, I share in that pride. The sheer strength of the human spirit on display in Florida should be celebrated and embraced. While I am not gay, I am proud to share in that spirit and carry a firm respect for those men and women who answer anger and rage with love.

In the years to come, after the anguish has subsided and the Pride Parades regain their gaiety, I wish my gay brothers and sisters all the best. March proudly down the street in your cowboy boots and sock, enjoy the freedom of a sundress over your hairy chest, or just stand on the side of the parade and clap. Whatever you do to celebrate, know that you and the actions of the Gay Community in the wake of this tragedy have earned the respect of this Marine Corps combat veteran.

Thank you for demonstrating some of the best parts of the human spirit.

#Orlando, #OrlandoUnited, #OrlandoShooting, #Respect

11 thoughts on “Sharing The Pride

  1. Tim P.

    Dan – I met your sister while living in MA and my husband and I became friends with she and Mike. This was truly a wonderful piece to read in the middle of this terrible, terrible time. It’s clear that compassion and love run in your family as that is all I’ve ever seen from Ali. Thank you for speaking up. It means a lot to our community.

    Reply
    1. sheehandb@gmail.com Post author

      Thank you, Tim, for your comment. Ali and Mike only surround themselves with good people, so I am pleased to make your acquaintance. My best wishes to you and your husband in this trying time.

      Reply
  2. Shelley

    Beautiful tribute Dan! I concur and you said it better than we could have. Thankful for your wisdom.

    Reply
    1. sheehandb@gmail.com Post author

      Thanks, Ken. I hope you and your family are well. Please say hello to the folks at PTI for me.

      Dan

      Reply
  3. Jonathan Sheehan

    A friend related this story to Mary and me a few years back. He and his boyfriend rented a 2nd-floor apartment above a wife-beating, drug-dealing lowlife — a truly awful neighbor. Eventually, the guy was jailed and evicted. The landlord, while fixing the apartment, asked our friend what sort of tenant he’d like to move in.

    “How about a retired nun who gardens?” our friend replied, an answer full of humor and tolerance.

    Since then I’ve often thought that the benchmark for an accepting, tolerant society would be this: If the upstairs tenant were a retired nun, she’d respond to the landlord’s question with, “How about a couple of nice boyfriends who garden?”

    Reply
  4. Kerry Ojeda

    Hi Dan,
    It’s Kerry Ojeda. I actually was looking up your email address today (Veteran’s Day) to send you and your wife a BIG thank you for serving our country. You brought so many of us in on your journey through your book and presentation. Even though it was just a mere snippet of your life in the military it portrayed all the emotions that a solider goes through on tour and when he/she returns home. Thank you for that gift.

    In regards to your post above, I read it aloud to my husband and we were both so touched by your insightful wisdom and acceptance of the beautiful Gay Community and their loved ones. You have inspired us to keep up our same views regarding this group of people and to help others foster the same attitude, especially in light of the very recent election results. I love how you said the words “the sheer strength of the human spirit”. This is what we Americans need now, more than ever, in order to encourage, accept, and love one another without judging. Sincerely,
    Kerry and Dan Ojeda

    Reply
    1. sheehandb@gmail.com Post author

      Hi Kerry,
      It is so nice to hear from you! Thank you very much for your kind comments. I hope retirement is treating you well and hope to see you around town soon.

      Warm Regards,
      Dan

      Reply

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