One Man's Avalanche
There's an old adage that I'm just making up: the sound of an avalanche is the sound of one man clapping. Well way back in October, in a world of memories I barely remember, that clap began. And boy, has it been gathering speed. For those of you unaware, google Will Phillips. I mean, hell, the kid has his own wikipedia page. In such a simple act as not standing for the pledge, because, face it—we aren't a land of liberty and justice for all—he tapped into a vein that just about everyone has some opinion on. He's quickly become a spokeskid for the LGBTQ movement, traveling around the country with his two wonderfully supportive parents, Jay and Laura.
Being a board member of the organization closest in proximity to Will (the NWA Center for Equality), I've had the fortune of getting to work with the "Phillips Phamily"—planning protests, organizing fundraisers, even being on the Center's kickball team together—and having that cooperation turn into a friendship. Anyone who knows the Phillips will tell you that Will isn't some anomalous, rebellious child. He's the child of two of the most wonderful and supportive allies I've ever met.
This past Sunday, an article was published on the front page of the NWA Times, talking about All OUT June, the Center's month of activities. We were, naturally, elated at the publicity and exposure. Our elation, however, was soon tempered; not only was the article somewhat dismissive of our community (rather than saying "LGBTQ," the article merely used "Gay;" while seemingly innocuous, the verbiage swiftly alienates a whole swath of our wonderfully diverse community and denies them of the identity they've worked their whole life for) but it raised several misconceptions about the event.
For, you see, All OUT June received $4,000 in funding from Fayetteville's Advertising and Promotions committee, for the exact purpose of that commission—advertising and promotions. The commission is overseen by several community members who are all part of the hospitality industry—restauranteurs and hoteliers—and awards grants from taxes levied on their own industry. To the best of my knowledge, the grants are awarded to organizations and events in the hope that they will use said money to draw people to events within the city, which will, in turn, bring in more than what was awarded.
But that's kind of a complex matter to explain, especially to sensationalized crowds who see that "THE MAYOR IS FUNDING SODOMY;" a charge more or less levied every day since that article came out. Being one of the most stereotypical and publicly visible embodiments of Pride, the nay-saying community has turned to the Pride Parade to be held this Saturday, June 26th, at 10 AM, and have sensationalized it by claiming the city is throwing the parade for us. First off, this is a complete fabrication. The Parade is organized by NWA Pride, an organization separate (though no less important) from the NWA Center for Equality. They received no money.
Furthermore, the money we received from the city was not voted upon by the Mayor nor the City Council, and was not intended to promote any agendum—gay or otherwise. Its purpose is to bring money and business to the city. Today, however, the American Family Association has started an email bomb to the Mayor and City Council, with, I believe, the word "GOD" all in caps and something about vengeance. The Mayor, however, has indicated he still supports the parade, and will still issue us a proclamation. (For more information on how to contact the City Council and thank them for their support, see this post on the Center's blog)
Of course, this all comes around full-circle. We couldn't forget Will Phillips. He did the grand tour; now he's doing our tour: he's the Grand Marshal of the Parade. Begin the onslaught of claims of horrid parents brainwashing their children. And this is, of course, evidence of that most insidious of gay plots—to recruit children. But among all of the hatred spewed at Jay and Laura, none of them seem to acknowledge that, perhaps, Will made this choice on his own and is standing by it. Because they don't believe that a ten-year-old can have thoughts of his own.
Every morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do is check my email, on my iPhone. Because that's the world that we live in. Usually, I have three or four, but this week it's been 12 or more each weekend, updating me of the latest streams of vitriol and hate directed not only at the LGBTQ community of Northwest Arkansas, but at Will Phillips and his family. And why at them? For the audacity of supporting the rights of others.
It's been kind of stressful, and there have been a few moments that brought me to the edge of tears. But I've only received the secondary brunt of it. And I've received it because I have to: I'm gay; this is my battle. Jay and Laura, though, have no stock in this: they're being called horrible parents, daily, by people who do nothing but shout hate. Why? Because they stand up for us, and for their son. Because they stand up for what is right, even though it doesn't have to affect them.
This whole week has just been going crazy. Lots of mudslinging. Thankfully, they're mostly all groups far away, and we've got tremendous local support. This year's Parade promises to be bigger than ever, and it's all because people are willing to stand up. We're getting stronger, and they're getting scared.
Let's use this trouble to become stronger as a community; they're afraid of us, so let's be a lot to be afraid of.