Swish Voices July 13, 2012

Pride and Tragedy – It’s Time for All to Get Involved

Bobby Argabrite

For days I wanted to write about the different things I experienced over Pride weekend here in NYC, and I may still write something separate about all I got to take part in, but for now my mind is on one thing and one thing only.  That thing is equality and acceptance.

Every time I read a story about Mollie Judith Olgin and Christine Chapa, a teen lesbian couple who were both shot and left for dead this past weekend in Portland, Texas, my heart breaks.  This past weekend I was spinning around NYC having an amazing time.  Without a care in the world, I was celebrating life.  I spent the weekend dancing with my friends on a boat cruising around Manhattan, dancing the night away in the East Village, marching in the NYC Pride Parade with Swish, and standing on a rooftop in midtown looking out across the city at the Empire State Building, which was illuminated in rainbow colors celebrating the LGBT community.  During each of these activities I was surrounded by people who truly cared about me, whether I had known them for years or just hours.

All the while these two girls living in a much different part of the United States were living a horror that I can’t even imagine.  That horror was then followed by their families having to live with the horrific aftermath.  My heart and soul goes out to their families and friends.

I’m lucky to be living in New York City.  It’s not the most perfect place in the world, but I take for granted the acceptance and tolerance the LGBT community can and does receive here.  The ignorance and hate that caused someone to take such horrific actions on this beautiful young couple is exactly why I Swish.

What do I mean by, “Why I Swish”?  Swish is a gay-straight alliance that brings together all communities in an effort to support the LGBT rights movement.  This group brings gay and straight men and women to one thought process, that all men and women are created equally and that it takes all of us working together to further that thought process and battle ignorance.

Swish’s mission statement states, “Changing laws is critical, but so is changing hearts and minds.” That statement says it all.  And the tragic events that took place on Friday, June 22nd, 2012 in a park way out in Portland, Texas  shows us that it is more important than ever for people of all sexual orientations, genders, races, religions or what-have-you to pull together to fight for LGBT rights, to fight discrimination and fight ignorance.

I find it ironic that this tragedy happened to these girls this past Friday.  While they were experiencing a horror beyond belief, I was on this boat with a group of my friends; while a lot of the people were dancing to the music that was pumping all around us, I was standing stunned by the Empire State Building and the colors shining at the top of it.  The main thought that swished through my head was that I have come a long way in my life.

Discrimination isn’t something I had to experience head-on, definitely not to the extent these girls had to, but I was an out gay boy living in Virginia.  It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t by any means horrific.  In actuality I was blessed with a family that did everything in their power to understand me and to accept me for who I am.  The community in Northern Virginia was also very accepting.  I still remember my step-father’s words to me when I was standing in the living room crying one afternoon.  I felt unaccepted, empty and alone.  He just sat back on the couch calm and collected and said, “I don’t care if you are gay.  You’re my son and I will love you no matter what.”

I Swish so I can be part of a group that helps other parents, family members, friends, neighbors and community members understand and accept the people in their lives who are part of the LGBT community.  I dream of a day that all LGBT youth (and adults) receive support like I did from my family.  We are all people and we all deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and compassion.  Whether or not you are religious, it is my belief that we were all created equally.

I read an article today on RH Reality Check that made a great point: people need to respond to this tragedy and let the world know this is not okay, but the article didn’t offer suggestions as to how people can get involved.  Supporting and joining organizations like Swish is a perfect way to take a stand for equal rights for the LGBT community.  Let everyone stand tall and share their true colors.  Whether you are gay, straight, bi-sexual, lesbian, transgender or anything else I urge you to take a stand for equality.  True equality means we all are standing together.

Follow Bobby on his blog at bobbytbd.com.