Let’s go outside
In the Sunshine
I know you want to, but you can’t say yes
Let’s go outside
In the moonshine
Take me to the places that I love best
“Outside” by George Michael
There was a woman I met in the1990’s when I was a young lawyer just getting started. She was a little older than me and was a great mentor and friend to me in those years, professionally and personally. We both got engaged and married that decade, attended each other’s weddings, and went on to have children, sons and daughters, as well as dogs that we would walk together.
We drifted apart over the years but kept in touch. Then one day she called and struggled to find the words to tell me that she was gay. This devastated her marriage and had a profound effect on her relationship with her children. And even well afterwards, I don’t think she ever was able to bring herself to tell her parents, they never knew their true daughter.
A few years later, my 14-year-old son had a role in his high school’s performance of The Laramie Project, a powerful and moving play about the true story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old young gay man, the victim of a senseless hate crime murder in 1998. The play examined the different attitudes of the residents of a small Wyoming town and how they variously reacted and coped with this crime and trial, a mirror held up to our broader western society.
We invited my friend to come watch the play with us and she met my son and many of the parents and students in attendance afterwards. The play was incredibly emotional and warmly received. I think of that evening often and recall my friend saying something to my son along the lines of “I wish I could have been 14 years old like you in 2016 and not in 1976 like me.” (Author’s note: some of the details above have been changed for privacy.)
Histories like this, and powerful plays like The Laramie Project, movies like Moonlight, songs like Streets of Philadelphia, and series like It’s a Sin (and thousands of other books, songs, documentaries, and films) hammer home the overwhelming sadness of keeping personal truths secret for fear of public disapproval and attack.
During these summer months of Pride celebrations, it’s instructional to think back to Pride’s origins in the 1960’s as a political protest movement, an acronym for Personal Rights in Defence and Education and how today it promotes self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and visibility. Not shame or negative stigma, but pride. Pride for everyone.
We’ve got to hold one another
We’ve got to hold on real tight
You know we only have each other.
“Love is Love” by Starley