Sorry this didn’t happen sooner, but after such a busy day Parker needed some special TLC. Poor little guy was so tired he didn’t know what to do, so I just finished rocking him to sleep and found a minute to do the promised redux. Honestly, there isn’t much to report that hasn’t been said already. I didn’t get to take as many pictures as I planned, since I volunteered to get some footage for Logo, but I got a few.
It started raining before we even got up, and was still raining when we arrived near the elipse around 10:30 this morning. Cold and raining, actually. And I guess we were pretty easy to spot — two men with a kid between them, holding hands, wearing leis — because we were pounced on by two news crews before we could get halfway up the sidewalk.
We finally made it into the tents that were set up as holding areas until each group was scheduled to enter the main area. We were in group 16, which was mostly gay families. The group ahead of us was scheduled for 11:45am and there were some gay families in that group two. Both of our groups were waiting to be moved into our "pre-staging" tents, while the place literally crawled with photographers and reporters. If you were wearing leis, they were either interviewing your or taking your pictures. (Later in the day, I hear Jennifer Chrisler say during an interview that she heard the White House press corps had been ushered off the White House lawn before our families made their entrance. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped the media from finding us anyway.
There were a number of non-gay families in the waiting area with us, and I was asked later if I sensed any objections from them. Honestly, I didn’t. I think there were people who stared at first, but probably soon realized there wasn’t much to see except for a lot of parents either running after their kids or trying to keep them calm in the middle of a waiting area where it was cold and where there were flashbulbs going off constantly. After one last interview and photo-op Parker didn’t want his picture taken any more, so I talked with one reporter while Parker pushed his stroller around the tent. He worked for a radio station, and asked me if I’d seen or encountered the protestors outside. It was the first I’d heard of them.
As for the other parents, I’d agree with the hubby’s assessemnt. If there was any hostility on the part of the non-gay parents at the event, I didn’t sense it. As we were making our way from our final staging tent to the White House gates, I overheard one of the non-gay dads behind us talking to his wife and/or kids who had made an observation about the families wering the rainbow leis. I heard him say "I think it’s fine. It’s great. It just ads a littel extra color to the day." Did this guy just apparently reassure his wife and kids that it’s OK if gay parents and their kids roll easter eggs on the White House lawn? Maybe that it’s OK that gay couples have kids? Well, that was kinda the point of the whole exercise. So, from my perspective it was a success before we even made it to the White House lawn.
And on the White House lawn? Again, there really wasn’t much of a story. it wasn’t like were going there to protest, yell slogans, wave signs, etc. We went to roll some eggs with our kids, and that’s what we did. That’s what mystified me about the people who said "I don’t see why they have to do this at a kids’ event." "I don’t think they should politicize a family event." Um. We’re families with kids. And if Drudge hadn’t leaked news of the event on his site, probably no one would have known until just before or just after the event. The reality is that anything we do as gay families with any degree of visibility is politicized. So if they weren’t objecting to our presence or participation, then all that’s left to object to is our visibility. And, as I discovered in the line to enter the gates, just by being visible as families we can make a difference in how people think about our families.
So, we walked around, and even got Parker to do the eggroll, which took place in this tiny little pen-like area, where kids rolled hard-boiled eggs across the White House lawn for about for or five yards. Parker did it after he watched a couple of groups do it, and rolled the egg to me while one of the volunteers helped him with it. I got the whole thing on video, and then realized it wasn’t my camera. So afterwards, a woman asked me to take a picture of her family in front of the White House, and I asked her to snap one of us for the occasion.
I did see the protestors afterwards, about half a dozen of them, waving signs and yelling into a bullhorn. My guess is that only the fringe showed up because the rest of the right wing homophobes are at least savvy enough to realize it wouldn’t look good for them to be seen yelling at families with small kids. One sign read "Homo Sex is a Threat to National Security" and laughed, considering I was inside the White House fence.
We were on the White House Lawn for fourty-five minutes, when we decided it was time to go. We hailed a cab and headed for the Family Pride luncheon hosted Foundry Methodist, a church with a particularly welcoming message.
As we journey toward reconciliation with all, we proclaim this statement of welcome to all, including our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters: God loves you and we love you, we affirm you, and accept you, we treasure you. We welcome you.
Even with my previously stated ambivalence about christianity and organized religion in general, that was enough to assure me that our family was entering friendly territory. We walked in to a great spread of food, and more reprorters — this time from the gay press. The hubby chatted with the Blade, and I talked with the Advocate and Logo. Parker, who had been a bit overwhelmed by the crowd and activity at the White House, simply had a wonderful time runnign around, dancing to the music, and just basically being a kid.
Honestly, we were all probably breathing a sigh of relief. As important as it is to be visible as a family, it can also be stressful. Most of the time it’s a kind of low-grade stress; the kind that you get when you’re in line at the grocery store and see someone staring out of the corner of your eye, or a people looking in your direction and whispering to one another. Or maybe your kid is having the kind of public meltdown that every kid has at some point, and while probably every parents wonders if people are judging their parenting in that situation, if you’re gay you’re wondering if they’re judging you because your gay and worrying that your actions might reflect on gay parenting in general. Being visible at an event like this ratchets up that stress a bit, but you do it because you hope that doing so will mean that someday it won’t be necessary anymore.
So, it was great to be able to relax with the other families, in a space where we didn’t have to feel the kind of stress I mentioned above. I would actually feel my body and my breathing relax almost as soon as we walked in the door. We took off or home after an hour or so, tired but also happy that we decided to to do it.
Of course, as we walked out out of the church and headed towards the car, the rain stopped and the sun began to emerge from the clouds, and was shining by the time we got home, where we took one last picture of Parker in his suit.
Minutes later, he ripped it off, kicked off his shoes and was running around the family room, as usual. All in all, I thin it was a good day for us, and a good day for our families. Maybe it was even a good day for America too. I hope so, anyway.