Would MLK Love the Gays? Three Things That Happened Monday Night

Monday night was the MLK Day program in our town, here outside of Boston. Tex and I went on our own, as Seth and Owen were with Sarah* in Vermont, skiing and snowboarding. Last year, the boys were with us, and we ended up writing a letter to the minister at our UU church because not only was she out of town on MLK weekend, her fill-in gave a sermon on local food – no mention at all of civil rights, or MLK. We were all so shocked that we came home and wrote her a letter, which she subsequently read in church, promising that next MLK Day she would not fall prey to such an oversight again. Sure enough, she preached a rip-snorter last Sunday, and, as we told the boys, that was partly because we took the time to say something to her. It was our MLK Day action.

At any rate, Tex and I were feeling good, having come home from church on Sunday to do another MLK Day civil action by brainstorming about and researching ways to support the LGBT members of the congregation, something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. So when we walked into Town Hall Monday for the MLK Day program, we were fired up. Being confronted by a phalanx of boy scouts in uniform drew us up short, as you can perhaps imagine. That was number one.

Number two was that, as we were sitting waiting for things to begin, after having reluctantly parted with our corn muffins (the boy scouts took them off us because they were setting up the food tables), the mistress of ceremonies kept peering at Tex, trying to read her name tag. Tex finally went over to her to see what she wanted, then came back with a bemused expression on her face saying, “She thought I was ‘one of the young men’ they’re going to honor tonight.” Later, we learned that the young man in question is a high school boy who has done a lot of work researching players from the Negro Leagues, with the result that some of them were awarded long overdue pensions. Very inspiring and impressive work, but Tex is neither 16 nor male.

Number three: When the featured speaker was introduced, the man doing the introduction made a big deal about “a black president thanking a Latino man who had helped a white Jewish woman”, obviously believing that he’d covered all the civil rights bases. Gay! Gay! I felt like shouting out, and I actually did whisper it and then I told my neighbor that Daniel Hernandez is gay – news to her.

Oh, and I guess there’s a number four, because as far as we could tell, we were just about the only queers there – of course, you can’t be certain, but none of the queers from church were there (there was a pretty big contingent of people from church), nor any of our fellow queer parents, nor any of the queers we know from around town.

It was just deflating, is the thing. As Tex said, “You start to feel safe, you’re going to a civil rights celebration, and then you realize you’re not really included. It hurts.” It does hurt, and I am always astounded that connections being made between discriminations are still so far and few between.

Then we got to talking about Dr. King and would he have liked us. We have to assume yes, but we know it’s iffy. Here’s what makes me think yes, from his speech denouncing the Vietnam War which I heard on the radio on Sunday (“A Time to Break Silence”, April 4, 1967):

“Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.”

If he can make that connection – over the protests of a lot of people he called colleagues – then I can only hope he would have embraced the civil rights struggles of queers as well, since he very clearly saw the world in which we live. The flavor of our battles might be different and NO, gay is not the new black, but all downtrodden people can learn from each other’s hopes, dreams, and strategies, and together we are stronger and will go so much further.

I can’t wait to see what our family’s next MLK Day action will be; the boys will be with us and there is no telling what we might get up to. Oh, wait, I forgot: EVERY DAY IS MLK DAY!! In the spirit of passionate, intelligent resistance to bigotry of all kinds, may you – may all of us – stay true to ourselves, which is, in and of itself, a powerful force in the world. Amen!



*my ex, called by whatever name comes to mind as I write

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 12:40 PM  Leave a Comment