SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2007        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Priscilla Toro

Your Kind Should Die

    I thought I knew, but until Saturday October 8, 2006, I had no idea what it was like to be verbally gay bashed. I joined my partner, my friends, and my brother at the Gay Days Celebration in Disneyland. This event had a great turn-out and everyone seemed to get along well. Both the gay community and straight community were mingling with each other and people wanted to become educated about the issues raised by this event. There were many supporters who valued how brave we were, but there were also some who were disgusted and scared. I experienced mothers pulling their children close to them when we walked by as if we had some disease. Some families would not go on rides when the “gay people” were on them. People stared at us holding hands or giving hugs to one another. The gay families with children were being gawked at by straight families in disgust. I have never viewed such criticism in person and was unaware of how harsh people can be to others.    

    The emotions I felt when I watched the behavior happen to others was extremely different from the emotions I felt when it happened to me personally. What affected me most was when a family was standing on the sidewalk and the mother looked me in the face and said,
“You should die for this disgusting behavior!” This occurred when we were walking to a restaurant in the mid-afternoon. I was holding hands with my partner, my brother and friends were walking in front of us, and there were crowds of the gay and lesbian community on the sidewalk and crossing the street. We walked by a family with a mother wearing blue jeans, faded light blue shirt, scraggly dark hair, glasses, and bit overweight. A father wearing black collar shirt, tan shorts, short black hair with large receding hairline, and a little overweight. A little boy about 7 yrs old, wearing a navy and grey stripe shirt with blue denim shorts and brown hair cut short. They were staring at us coming down the street in our Mickey Mouse hats as we were goofing around, having fun. As we walked by, they yelled comments to my friends such as: “you’re going to hell,” and “you should be ashamed!” When I walked by next, I said, “excuse me?” That is when the woman responded to me with the comment that I deserved to die. I did not know what to say or do. For the first time, I had been told to my face that because I am myself and live according to my gay/lesbian identity and values, I should die.

    This pride celebration stems from when years ago, Disneyland used to have a private party one night of the year for gays and lesbians. When the event was cancelled in 1998, Gay Days Anaheim was created. It was based on the bigger event that occurs in Orlando, which attracts over 100,000 gays and lesbians from around the world each June. Like the Orlando event, Gay Days Anaheim is a "mix in," meaning gay people and straight people mingle together; the park is open to the general public. Red shirts are worn by the gay community to identify one another and show our numbers. The first Gay Days Anaheim in 1998 attracted about 2,500 people. In 2005, they had about 30,000. What was once a small one-day gathering has become a full weekend event with parties, gatherings, group photos, scavenger hunts, private meals, and more. It's a celebration in which we all get together as one and share the commonalities of family and friends with the rest of the non-gay communities. It is a way to show that we enjoy life, have families, and live life like any other human being. We try to show that there are many of us that are looking for equality and respect as well as to show that this is a true lifestyle. In other words, it's not just a phase, as some people feel it is.

    A community is mixed with people who feel both alienated and connected within their society. When I feel connected, there’s a feeling of closeness and relation to a certain person or place. I feel a sense of security and sureness of what and who is around me. However, when I extend myself to other communities, there is a constant reminder that I am not like everyone else. There is always someone who will look at me as unusual and make me feel alienated so that I can feel remorse for something I have absolutely no control over. For example, I am reminded by media, politics, and other families that I am different from the majority because of my sexuality.  I have always been exposed to the animosity of the mainstream majority on TV, radio, and internet, but a year ago for the first time in my life, I personally experienced the hatred and anger to my gay community and was criticized to my face.

    The words that came out of the mother’s mouth shows lack of education in regards to homosexuality. People who have a low self-esteem and are unhappy with themselves reflect on others with negativity. In other words, she may not have been happy with herself because of her appearance or other factors, therefore, expressing her anger on others. Her lack of understanding of the event and homosexuality in general was being expressed in front of her child. This demonstrates the parents teaching the child hatred towards human beings for something that is merely innocent. The words the mother stated should not have been expressed in front of the child because I'm sure it caused curiosity and questions for what he can’t even begin to understand. Children are a reflection of parents and now being created is another person being told it's ok to express that hatred without understanding what for. Once again that shows lack of education.

    There have been desperate measures attempted throughout our country to ban same-sex marriage and rights. For example on July 26, 2006, Washington state upheld a ban on gay marriage in which Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that the state’s marriage law was enacted to “promote procreation and to encourage stable families.”  On November 7, 2006, a total of eight states voted on amendments to ban same-sex marriage: Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin approved them, while Arizona defeated the amendment. I do understand it’s a slow process to have people understand and be educated on what homosexuals are really looking for in life. That’s why events such as Gay Days are created, so that we can demonstrate to the public that we are like any other human being in search for respect, understanding, and tolerance. I am happy to know that some states are becoming knowledgeable and accepting of the gay community. On October 25, 2006, in my home state of NJ, the Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that the state constitution guarantees same-sex couples all the legal benefits of a marriage. On December 14, 2006, the NJ Legislature enacted a bill to establish civil unions in that state. It was incredible to see that my home state came to accept the gay community and allowed us to be equal before the law.
Tolerance is needed and it is experienced when a person can have strong beliefs and can live within the reality of forgiveness. This involves having the willingness to accept those whose beliefs sincerely differ. People in the gay and lesbian community are tired of waiting for such complexities to be resolved. They have waited and hurt long enough. The basic issue is not about "them," but about everyone and that what is needed are tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and equality.

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