Once a year, here in Durham NC, we host an amazing event called the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
It is held at the beautiful Carolina Theatre of Durham, a theatre that was built in 1926 and that has experienced so much, not just in the name of art and history but in the way of the civil right’s movements and community advancements.
A seemingly endless blur of faces, causes, triumphs and injustices, all playing out not just on it’s screens or stages but on its sidewalks and walkways as well.
This past August 23rd, Saturday, was one of its nicest events (in my opinion) it was Family Fun Day.
A day during the festival that takes the opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ families, and most importantly, our children.
We attended last year, there was a bounce house and clowns, faces were being painted and poodles out of balloons were created.
There were vendors that had chosen to put up a booth during that nice morning hoping to share with the families that were in attendance.
We got to make our own silly putty and fly paper airplanes.
It was a really cool and prideful morning to be gay dads in our hometown with our son.
This year I was out of town and my husband had to work so our family did not attend.
This year, there was a new presence at Family Fun Day.
It was not a new attraction for the children nor a new item the parents could buy.
It was not a new clown or food truck.
no, sadly the new attendees this year were the protesters.
I heard about this immediately upon my returning home.
How? By reading a post that an ally and friend had put up on her Face Book page, this post:
“L and I spent a long time today at the bounce house set up for Family Fun Day outside the Carolina Theatre. We were wearing our happy faces doing our best to ignore the loud group of hate spewing, plastic cross bearers. What were they so mad about? The Quilt Show? The free kid’s movie? The face painting? Oh, wait, the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. They went hoarse shouting at parents and kids. Shouting hell-fire and damnation at CHILDREN. Thing is, their words were not meant for the two of us. We have not had to receive that hate over and over. It was sad but did not sting. Move over White Privilege, hello Straight Privilege. Cheers to all the beautiful families who stayed and put on their happy faces.”
What important words, I’ll have to save the “White Privilege/Straight Privilege” comment for a different post.
I then started reaching out to more friends that had attended. I started reaching into my heart for how we would have handled that morning.
The protesters were mere feet from the bounce house and other children’s activities.
Would we have walked by them, through them, to spend a few hours at the event?
Another response to the event:
“We walked around them to enter. The police were right behind them the whole time letting them know they were being watch. The police did a great job staying present. The music got turned up louder and drowned out a lot of their screaming. We had a good time anyway, can’t let the haters get you down.”
So our boy will be turning three in October and I really need to know,
how young is too young to talk about hate?
My boy, like many children his age, is extremely sensitive to mood and to whether or not someone is happy or sad.
Daddy, why is that lady so sad? at a cartoon.
Pappa, are you happy? in a concerned tone when we’re upset.
He would have absolutely known that those people were not happy, that they were not sad, but that they were actually angry, AND I will go on to say that he would have asked, why are they angry at us?
I am not sure I am ready to answer that question, I’m really not.
I am a fighter, my husband and I are warriors in the world of equality and standing up for what we deserve, but when it comes to my child I fight only for one thing, his innocence.
I want nothing more than to protect him from even the slightest hint of evil.
I want his childhood to be as cliche as possible.
I want it to be rainbows and bunny rabbits and all things soft and lovable and safe.
That’s what I want.
I want to cover his eyes when things get scary and I want to cup his ears when the sounds become too frightful.
That’s what I want.
I want him to look out onto a world that sends him only love in-return.
That’s what I want.
Am I asking a lot?
I have to say that If I saw those protesters I would have most probably turned away.
Like we would have turned away from a storm, or an icy bridge, or a dangerous situation.
I would have turned on what my mom called my “street smarts” and escaped back into the idea of the world I want for him.
When the time comes, my boy will stand for what is right and we will explain what hate is to him, what that type of hate is.
Our life thus far and the examples we have set will guide him.
No, I am just not ready.
I don’t think I would have been one of those brave folks putting on a happy face, even if it had been happily painted on by a clown.