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Theoretically, a vacation is time to recharge, to reflect, to generally recuperate from accumulated weariness. In reality, the world keeps spinning and we remain connected to it.
My impression of the beginning of my recent time away was not so much palm trees and cerulean seas, but the death of Jeff Coudriet, which I learned of via an e-mail from Alex Padro, my ANC commissioner. The last time I saw him was in autumn, walking along P Street with his brother. I knew he’d been ill, but he really was looking so much better than the previous time I ran into him. My optimism turned to sadness, which I consoled looking out onto that same Caribbean that I know Jeff had himself enjoyed.
Then Hosni Mubarak stepped down. With CNN in every cabin, it was hard to miss. From afar, I could even keep up with GOProud’s CPAC presence with Royal Caribbean’s WiFi – $35 for 60 minutes. At that price, I certainly didn’t keep too close an eye on things, though.
Even the ship we were on made the news, with a scandalous drug bust in St. Thomas. From Pam Ann to Aiden James, you could taste the onboard entertainment’s gratitude to have some fresh fodder to work into their acts.
With all this going on – the good, the bad, the ugly – what was more remarkable was what was not happening. Onboard the Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, filled to capacity for Atlantis Events’ 20-year anniversary gay cruise, five arrests seemed small potatoes. Really, it was just about 5,500 gay men on vacation and a crew of about 2,000 grateful that we filled the ship’s bars, in that every cocktail came with an automatic 15 percent gratuity. You might expect at least a few crew members to cast disparaging glances, but no. Hailing from India, Peru, Romania and a slew of other countries, the crew’s attitude was nonchalance.
Coming back to D.C. and reading a bit more about CPAC, it seems the genuine oddities were not the throngs of gays who likely left a trail of glitter wherever that boat went, but people like conservative columnist Star Parker writing of GOProud, ”’Gay’ is liberal, not conservative, regardless of what their stand may be on government spending or taxes.” Or the peculiar Eugene Delgaudio’s pitch for funding for his group, Public Advocate of the United States, awaiting me in my work e-mail box: ”Like Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan before me, I stand here in Washington where only a handful of Congressmen and Senators take their stand against the liberal pro-homosexual monopoly control of Congress and the White House.” Say what?
Maybe it’s good to be reminded that these views exist, as evidence of them is becoming ever rarer. They are the past. Instead, it feels that while I was away, the world went through a stage of social growth. GOProud showed that gays can be just as right-wing as anybody, while I saw a table of gay men in the ship’s dining room toast the Egyptian people and Mubarak’s downfall, not terrified of the Muslim Brotherhood creating a second Iran, but happy to see a downtrodden people stand up for themselves. Gays can certainly relate.
There are still legal and legislative battles to fight, a future always in need of being created. But for the first time in my life, I feel that we’re entering the last lap in the race for gay equality – which should allow for greater focus on securing transgender equality. I hope we’re all ready to sprint.