To me, last year’s Gay Pride Parade was the best one ever. It was well organized, colorful, high energy and great fun. It was easy for me to believe both estimates of 400,000, then 500,000 spectators. I’ve never seen so many people in one crowd in my life, especially so obviously diverse. It was a “feel good” day, and I couldn’t help but reflect on riding with a friend in the first Christopher Street West Parade on Hollywood Boulevard in 1970 and remember remarking over and over how far things had come since then. Later I rode in another parade on Hollywood Blvd on a motorcycle and under far less hostile circumstances than the one in 1970, and I also rode in the Gay Pride Parade on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1985 when I drove L.A County Supervisor Zev Yarslovsky on the back of my little MGB convertible.
Still the 2014 parade is the one that made me feel the most pride, made me feel the most energized and gave me the biggest surge of appreciation for the progress the movement has made since that first haphazardly thrown together parade on Hollywood Boulevard in 1970 where people had shouted obscenities at us from the sidelines.
While last year’s parade was exhilarating, and for me the whole celebration was close to picture perfect, I was very dismayed to see gay men carrying signs that read “We Are Here To Recruit You.” In fact they made me cringe, and I actually felt a mood shift as a result. They took me back to the 1970’s and reminded me of Anita Bryant’s hate-filled campaign against gay people and their fight for equal rights. Bryant said: “As a mother, I know homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children, therefore they must recruit our children to increase their numbers.” In 1992 writer Judith Reisman cited “a clear agenda for the recruitment of our children by gays and lesbians”. In public support of Oregon’s ballot Measure 9, Reisman said: “Homosexual recruitment is loud, it is clear, it is everywhere, and it must be stopped!” The Traditional Values Coalition said in a public statement in 2004: “There is ongoing concern among parents over the use of our tax dollars to fund homosexual recruitment programs in public schools.”
The word “recruit” has been used over and over by the far Right fundamentalists and other anti-gay extremists to try to convolute the message of gay equality as an underhanded plot to indoctrinate young children into the LGBT ranks because they think that the word “recruit” inspires and convinces parents to keep their children away from those who would be sure to lure them into a “perverse” lifestyle.
“Recruit” is one of the key words far Right extremists have used for decades to portray homosexuals as predators and child molesters. Boston University Chancellor John Silber, in 2002, ordered that a gay-straight alliance be disbanded. Silber accused the club of being a vehicle for “homosexual recruitment.” There are indeed many young people who do not remember these incidents, but the bolder of us who do found them very troubling and discouraging. But still we were even more determined to move forward with a more positive and enlightening message of equal rights and non discrimination that had absolutely nothing to do with the “recruitment” of children or anyone else.
Anyone who believes such “gays as recruiters of children” accusations have subsided during the last few years is not listening to the Right Wing fundamentalists or the pastors and other religious and political leaders who are still calling for the death of gays by whatever means necessary in order to stop the “recruiting” of our youth to the dark side of sexual perversion. The Sultan of Brunai is not the only one. Tennessee megachurch Pastor Bobby Gallaty recently said that “all gays much be put to death before they can recruit any more of our innocent youth to their deviant lifestyle,” and there are so many more recent examples of Gallaty’s militant ilk.
Gay men carrying “I Am Here To Recruit You” signs at Gay Pride parades is like giving ammunition to the enemy. I find it very inappropriate, in fact I found it personally offensive considering all the negative connotations of the word “recruit” and its implications against the truth of our fight for equal rights, which never in any way had anything to do with recruiting children to a gay or any other kind of lifestyle.
Signs such as these may serve the purpose of the military, but they have no place at an event celebrating the progress the LGBT community has made for the last four or five decades or so and the freedom they feel to publicly be themselves. This freedom does not include the recruitment of children, straight adults, or anyone else of any age or persuasion. Those too young to know our history must be educated, and those old enough to remember should have known better than to carry these signs. Last year’s parade was an awesome event that took the public expression of “gay pride” to new heights, and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it for the first time in a long time.
But I was not there to “recruit” anyone, and I doubt that anyone else was either. I sincerely hope there will be no such signs in our 2015 Gay Pride parade, or any gay celebration in the future, with such potentially self defeating language that can be used against us by those who are out to stop any further gains in gay rights and marriage equality through whatever means the can. And that is why I repeat that “I’m Here To Recruit You” is not a sign of or for our times.