Tea Time

Commentary: Stonewall Baby

The express is about to hit the road. That’s the Tea Party Express, departing Sacramento, Calif., on Aug. 28, concluding in D.C. on Saturday, Sept. 12, with the Taxpayer March on Washington. But while it seems they’re coming, I’m having a difficult time figuring out exactly what the “express” represents.

My first impression was that if this was something FOX’s Glenn Beck was promoting, I’d better be leery. First, the whole “9/12″ theme implores us to rekindle the feelings of patriotism we all felt Sept. 12, 2001. The unquestioning, visceral kind that came from witnessing what will likely be the greatest horror of my life? No thank you.

Further, the National Center for Transgender Equality reminds me that in 2006, while still at CNN, Beck referred to a teenage transgender girl hoping to wear a dress to her prom as “freak boy.” The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has him more recently claiming the Iowa marriage-equality decision would essentially put thought police in homophobic churches.

The vice chair of the “express” is Deborah Johns of the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. According to that group’s literature, among their aims is championing “respect for the strength of the family as the core of a strong America.” I’m going to bet that doesn’t include my family. I’ve called twice, but have yet to find anyone to ask. But if they’re fighting for marriage equality, I’ll pledge $50.

Then there’s the primary organizer of the Capitol Hill march: Freedom Works, chaired by Dick Armey. You may not remember when then-Rep. Armey (R-Texas) called gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) “Barney Fag.” That was 1995, and Armey said it was a slip of the tongue. The St. Petersburg Times in 2000 reported his indisputably intentional laugh at Frank’s expense: “If there was a ‘dick army,’ Barney Frank would want to join up.” Hilarious.

A “gold co-sponsor” of the march is ResistNet.com, created by Grassfire.org, “Home of the Patriotic Resistance.” To date, Grassfire has collected more than 750,000 signatures on its “save marriage” petition. No question here — they’re not trying to save marriage for me, but from me. The Club for Growth is a “bronze co-sponsor.” Their president is a former GOP representative from Indiana, Chris Chocola. While in the House, Count Chocola (I couldn’t resist) co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, earning a consistent zero score from the Human Rights Campaign.

These are the pieces that tell me these are not my people, that in their version of America I’m a burden, not an asset. But there are some libertarian-leaning groups in the mix, too. Bureau Crash is onboard, with a “manifesto” that reads, in part: “We believe that individuals are sovereign and own their own bodies. We believe that every person has a right to make decisions about his or her own life, as long as those decisions do not directly harm other people.” I could get behind that sentiment.

But even after looking at all these people, all this literature, all the promotion, I’m still at a loss as to the point of the Tea Party Express or the Taxpayer March on Washington. In the march’s FAQ page, one question posed is “Who can attend the March on Washington?” The answer is “Anyone that believes in limited government, and wants to see lower taxes, less government and more freedom.”

Do I believe in limited government? Sure. I also believe in limits on corporations. I can’t imagine anything being improved by being unlimited. Do I want less government? In some areas, I’ll grant that there’s probably room for a cut here or there. As a kid, I recall a Reagan-era, federal bigwig passing through my dad’s posting, Tunis, on his way to Fez to meet the king of Morocco. But his small jet wasn’t impressive enough so he had the Air Force equivalent of a Boeing 707 flown down from Italy to ferry him to Fez. That meant I — and about a hundred other embassy staff with a free day — went to Morocco on the federal dime. Thanks, Ronnie! Wasteful indeed. Lower taxes? That’s a tricky question. If my taxes are being used appropriately and efficiently, I’m cool with where things stand. I’m certainly not happy about paying to invade Iraq.

Then comes freedom. That’s a pretty common theme with the supporters of the Tea Party Express and the march. I would ask them, as long as you’re rallying for freedom, please consider rallying for my freedom to marry. It would also be completely appropriate for you to rally in favor of all the gays and lesbians serving in the armed forces to do so openly, rather than accepting their sacrifices on all our behalves while denying them your gratitude. I’d also like the freedom to parent — including adoption — anywhere in this free country.

I can’t imagine any of the speakers on Sept. 12 will be moving the crowds with impassioned speeches for freedom for GLBT Americans. I don’t hold that against them. If they don’t believe in my first-class citizenship, that’s just part of the debate.

What galls me, though, is this crowd’s apparent belief that they have a monopoly on patriotism; that if your personal narrative isn’t lived to the tune of John Ashcroft’s horrific “Let the Eagle Soar,” then you’re just faking it. But I’d put my patriotism up against any tea-bagger’s, because every time one of them says, “God, family, country — in that order,” I know that America trumps the other two for me.

I’m gay. I don’t belong to any faith. I love my family, but not unconditionally. I even support the public health care option. And I’m an American. If you’re coming here to “take back America,” your time would be better spent learning to share it. 

Will O’Bryan, Metro Weekly’s managing editor, was born as the Stonewall Riots ended, making him a Stonewall Baby, he insists.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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