Remarks to the 27th Annual Famously Hot South Carolina Pride
Our nation’s great poet once proclaimed: “I sing the body electric!”
I am confident that my fellow-bearded Walt Whitman would join me today in exclaiming, “We sing the body rainbow!”
The baton of hate and bigotry can easily be passed from one generation to the next. Here is the tale of how I dropped that baton, with the help of others, to become an unabashed Ally.
When I was a teenager, my father sat me down on the couch one day and strongly discouraged my sprouting desire to attend college. No, “strongly discouraged” isn’t quite right—“forbade” is more apt.
He said that studying philosophy was wrong because men like Plato and Aristotle were just a bunch of “bundles of sticks.” Only, he didn’t say “bundles of sticks.” He used a far more vulgar term, with which I will not defile this stage.
As the LGBTQ community and its Allies know full well, hate and bigotry wallow in the muck and mire of ignorance.
In the aftermath of the Orlando Nightclub Massacre, I stood with Sheriff Leon Lott at The Capital Club at a candlelight vigil. I shared to those gathered that I had tossed back one or two happy hour pints over time. Those given to hate and bigotry would be very disappointed—though enlightened—to learn just how normal are the lives of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender neighbors.
Their workday lives are no less vigorous than my own, their domestic existence no less replete with bills and various woes. They too subscribe to Netflix and enjoy a good ballgame. They too just want to get to the end of the day, enjoy a few laughs with friends, spend quality time with their children, then place head to pillow and do it all again the next day.
Only, they want to do it with the same degree of equality as I enjoy.
Back to those nasty Greeks.
Not long after my father forbade me from going to college, I stumbled upon a quote in the back of a teen magazine:
It is the mark of an educated person to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle. That ancient docent of reason had covertly penetrated the fundamentalist defenses of my childhood home, and provided me with a lifetime critical thinking battle plan—upon a glossy page, no less.
Thus began my pathway to becoming an Ally.
I met my first gay friend, Chris, in college. Homosexuality—to “be gay”—was grounds for expulsion at the two undergraduate institutions I attended. Tragically, the Chicago Tribune just reported that my alma mater, Wheaton College, “took the top spot on the Princeton Review list of LGBTQ-Unfriendly schools, as it did in 2010 and 2012.”
(As an aside, I have been an outspoken Ally for OneWheaton for a number of years! 1W, your work has only just begun!)
Chris detailed his life, and his very valid fears, in an anonymous public diary that was kept in our college prayer chapel. Chris took a chance and “came out” to me. Ultimately, Chris and I became roommates.
Over time, the scales of hate and bigotry fell from my eyes. Before same-sex marriage became the law of the land, I was asked to officiate a same-sex ceremonial union in Alabama. That’s when I became a true believer in same-sex marriage, and proceeded to publish a series of articles for a national publication that was read by hundreds of thousands of people.
Today, I stand before you, the Democratic Party & Green Party fusion candidate for South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. Blue and Green—two essential colors of the celebrated LGBTQ rainbow.
I imagine that many members of the LGBTQ community will be casting votes for candidates such as myself on November 8.
Sadly, our state’s public broadcasting channel, South Carolina ETV, does not find candidates like me “competitive.” SC ETV said as much this week, in its explanation for not hosting my debate with “Status Quo” Joe Wilson.
Yet again, the LGBTQ Community finds itself being slurred, along with the entirety of the Democratic Party Community.
Might make you think twice about that upcoming pledge drive. Don’t worry—our campaign welcomes your contributions.
I don’t know about you, but SC ETV’s insulting decision might just drive us to the polls on November 8 in order to usher in a new wave of reasonable, Civilization-building Elected Officials.
Elected Officials who can direct agencies such as SC ETV to do the right thing.
Elected Officials in the U.S. Congress, who can vote “YES” on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Equality Act.
Congresspersons who can redirect Ryan White HIV/AIDS funding to the South—especially to minority communities in the rural South, which are, tragically, the new face of HIV/AIDS.
Hear me, Southern Voters. Your conservative federal Elected Officials have zero intention of redirecting essential HIV/AIDS funding to our region—despite the fact that the South now accounts for as many as 50% of new HIV/AIDS cases.
Also, don’t be too cocksure about marriage equality. Should a certain would-be dictator take charge of Supreme Court nominations, ask yourself how a Justice Sarah Palin might destroy previous rulings of justice and liberty.
A quarter-century ago, I was forbidden from attending college and told that members of the LGBTQ community were headed to hell in a handbasket.
Two weeks ago, I was told that I was the first politician to speak at the reception for South Carolina Black Pride. Last weekend, I spoke twice at a rock concert festival, Hoechella. The event was proudly pro-LGBTQ and raised awareness about South Carolina’s flatly unacceptable, barbaric rape crisis. Today, I celebrate with Famously Hot South Carolina Pride.
I am an unabashed Ally of the LGBTQ community. Funny, as I look around, I can’t see “Status Quo” Joe Wilson anywhere. It would appear the Human Rights Campaign was spot-on when it awarded “Status Quo” Joe a Zero Percent (0%) rating.
I have been told repeatedly by voters and so-called political experts throughout this campaign that to stand boldly with your community will cost me votes. So be it.
There is no season for Human Rights. Human Rights are Human Rights.
I parade with you. I stand with you. I sing the body rainbow—not just today. For the rest of my life. And I will also VOTE rainbow in the United States Congress.
I conclude, as I began, with words from that great poet, Walt Whitman:
I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough…
Thank you for the privilege to address your august, colorful—and famously hot—community.
“There’s a Better Way!”
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