DEI Committee

Diversity Equality Inclusion - June 11, 2021

Why We March, Even When We Can’t

by Carol Lewis
(Revised from an article in the Vienna Patch.com in 2011.)

The annual Capital Pride Parade and Festival is the most visible celebration of the LGBT+ community in our area. Events are taking place in D.C. this year, though many of us might feel more comfortable participating virtually due to continuing considerations around the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we march in person or not, we can always find ways to celebrate our Pride and show our support for those in the LGBT+ community.

As the mother of a young gay man, a co-facilitator of a PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) support group and organizer of the first PFLAG LGBTQ youth support group in Northern Virginia, I see this week’s Friday Thoughts as an opportunity to open a window onto what the Pride Parade means to our LGBT+ community.

For me, marching with the PFLAG contingent in several Pride Parades over the years has been transformative. It was heartwarming because people in the streets cheered PFLAG marchers as if we were rock stars. At the same time, it was heartbreaking because young people rushed to hug us, give us high-fives and tell us “I wish you were my mom.” And all the while, everyone was yelling “Thank you, PFLAG, thank you!”

Why such a warm welcome for people who have done nothing more than love and support the LGBT+ people in our lives? We wish it weren’t so exceptional – acceptance of our LGBT+ children should be the norm. Although acceptance is growing, we’re not there yet, particularly for transgender people.
In PFLAG and youth meetings, we hear from parents who are worried about their children’s safety, welfare and future. And from our youth, we hear about their daily struggles with bullying, isolation and discrimination. We hear about parents who have kicked their gay children out of the house – even one who threatened to disown her child for having gay friends. Teens tell us of being bombarded by hateful homophobic and transphobic rhetoric of politicians and religious leaders in the news and in their own churches. They hear that they are less than, not normal, immoral, sinful. They are told it is ok to be gay, as long as they don’t show it – don’t date someone of the same sex, don’t dance with your boyfriend/girlfriend, don’t act so gay.

People sometimes say, “Hate the sin and not the sinner”. This sends the message that you’re ok, but who and how you love is not. Our children are the same people they were before they told us they were gay. If we treat them differently once they tell us, they didn’t change; our perceptions of them changed.
For transgender youth, the journey is even more difficult, with some states passing discriminatory laws against them. Ignorance abounds about what it means to be transgender. The transgender teens I know are my heroes: they go out every day into a world that tells them they can’t be who they are. They are shut out of daily life as others know it by something so basic as not being allowed to use public restrooms.

And so we march, figuratively if not literally. We march to support the children whose families don’t support them. We march to give them hope that one day their parents will march too. We march to honor those who grew up when the world was not so accepting. We march so that someday we won’t have to march. And when we can’t march, we work to change hearts and minds, to lessen the isolation of our gay and transgender children, to help them to feel safe and accepted. We talk to straight children about acceptance and encourage them to be allies. We are aware of the LGBT+ people among us who deserve our recognition and respect.

This June, I invite our Goodwin House family to show our love for our LGBT+ family and friends. Send a text, an email or a letter, make a call, do something to remind them they are accepted and appreciated. Many of us have lost so much to this horrible coronavirus. That is why it’s even more important this year to take the time to love a little extra, even if it’s from a distance.

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About the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee: We are a group of staff and residents who together serve a mission to educate, embrace and empower a workplace of diversity, equality and inclusion. Our vision is to seek open and honest communication and collaboration that will inform and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and sexual orientation of all members of our staff without bias.
Questions or comments? Please contact us dei@goodwinhouse.org.

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