Pride: How Target and Two Sofa Salesmen Liberated my Inner Harvey Milk
Miami-born Hamilton is a writer, blogger, humorist and interior designer living and working in New York City, where he recently helped create “NYC Designing Men: It Gets Better.” He contributes to several popular design blogs, and his interior design projects have been featured on HGTV, HGTV.com, HouseBeautiful.com, TheKitchn, and ApartmentTherapy. Hamilton is also a branding and social marketing strategist, and attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where an excerpt from this piece ran in RISD XYZ. You can find him on Facebook.
Although I’m sure some of my smartass friends might say otherwise, I consider myself “moderately Gay.” I’m much more White square than pink triangle. Far less Jack, way more Will. I’ve not adopted the full Gay agenda (any more than most Republicans or Mormons have adopted the full ticket or gospel of their parties or faith, I suppose). I don’t subscribe to the Gay lifestyle, literally. I stopped reading The Advocate since it made me feel like I wasn’t Gay enough. I’m more The Onion, less The Blade. I’m not always positive what order “LGBT” is supposed to go in, and until very recently, I wasn’t sure what Proposition 8 was for or against. As far as I knew, it was in California — not in my immediate vicinity – and about same-sex marriage— not in my immediate future. And I confess: I’ve not attended a Pride parade in years.Our community is sometimes bipolar, and I’m not talking curious or bear. We send mixed messages on health and sexual freedom. The boys and girls don’t always play nice on the playground. Gay men often promote superficial, unattainable body image. Drug use and self-destruction play recurring roles in the drama. I haven’t found many among the drag queens, burly Bears or Chelsea boys with whom I could fully relate. I love ‘em all, I do; just never saw myself reflected in the mirror ball at their Circuit parties, a few reasons I thought the Pride parade had permanently passed me by.
So call me a Bad Gay, content on the sidelines while others raise the ruckus and the rainbow flag.
What created this sleepy-eyed monster of mediocrity?
Partly, I credit (blame?) my lucky life. I’ve mostly been insulated from bias living in big cities, with large Gay populations, in careers where being Gay was no real obstacle.
Then there’s age: too young for Stonewall, old enough where Anita Bryant’s orange juice still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I remember when AIDS was an unnamed killer extinguishing our brightest lights with an ugly brutality, but I’m of an age where anti-virals have made it (mostly) an issue of prevention and management, not death and loss. So this lynchpin for many has made me sad, yes, but rarely enraged to action.
All this ‘Mo middle ground pulled a security blanket of fog over me, blinding my perspective and filtering the harshness from the view.
But suddenly, the fog has lifted. Rainbow Bright, I’m a different kind of Gay! Planning boycotts, creating flyers, signing petitions, making “It Gets Better” videos… and having it all happen so quickly I can’t type fast enough to get the words out. Way Out.
I have become an Activist. I’m here, I’m Queer, get used to me. How the hell did that happen?
First, I realized I’d been taking a free ride to enjoy the freedoms I do. I’ve relied on those actively supporting Gay marriage so, should I find myself lucky enough to drop to one knee to propose to a man I love, it will not be an empty gesture. If I’m gonna dance at my own wedding, it’s time to pay the DJ.
I acknowledge I was supported when others were not. Mom risked her marriage when my father, discovering his only son was homosexual, threatened to yank my college tuition. My sister was so understanding that my big coming out moment was a comic non-event. It’s time I lend that acceptance to the THOUSANDS whose parents and siblings have pushed them out, out of shame, fear, and ignorance.
I have become an activist because of Target. Once thought to be a Gay-friendly giant among the big box behemoths, Target was among the first to take advantage of a ruling allowing companies unlimited donation to political cause, quickly creating a short money trail from CEO to radical “ministers” who think death is an acceptable solution to homosexuality. This company with the one-name cachet of Madonna and Cher turned its back on a community they courted for years. Betrayal stings most at the hand of friends.
Then there are sofa guys Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, poster boys for a new kind of business-based activism. They prove you can live a life out loud, with a moral integrity at the core of what religion issupposed to be about. And they do it while running a profitable business, and decidedly fabulous lives.
Mostly, I am compelled to act because as the majority becomes more accepting, the minority becomes more extreme. A father kills an infant for “acting like a girl.” Gay bashing creeps back into headlines. A “religious” family casts out their son when he exhibits the character and sense of trust it takes to come out. Two developmentally-challenged men are denied the right to swim in a public pool for being Gay. Lynch mob imagery reappears on protest signs, without raising a single national eyebrow. A Christian rock band advocating the death of Gays is welcomed into our schools, under the guise of religion, with the backing of our elected leaders. And no one who lobbied for or against the Pledge of Allegiance in our classrooms seems to give a damn.
To live up to the cliché, I borrow from Broadway: This IS the moment. THIS is the day. It’s time to let corporations know that if they’re entering the political funding arena, there are lions in the coliseum. It’s time to end the robbery of basic human rights by our own elected officials, time to end hate that sneaks in under the robes of religion. It’s time to act, sit up, speak out.
Out of anger, out of impatience, out of debt and gratitude to those before me, and to pay it proverbially forward to those yet to come out, I have become a reluctant participant, an Accidental Activist, if you will.
I may be late to the party, but I’m here to stay. I may even see you at the next Pride parade.
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