In ten years of being an activist, I’ve gotten my fair share of press coverage, nothing national, but I’ve been in the local papers more than a few times and I’ve been on the local news a time or two. When I was away at college in Terre Haute at Indiana State University, it wasn’t really a big deal, but when I returned to my hometown after I graduated, I nearly caused a family panic.
It was back in March, there was a demonstration down in Indianapolis at the Statehouse, the Supreme Court was hearing the oral arguments in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases, so the community in Indy joined in solidarity across the nation to show our support for marriage equality.
I drove in with my boyfriend at the time, who was a bit nervous since he had never been a demonstration before. I assured him we would be fine, I’ve never had any trouble protesting in Indianapolis. We drove down to the protest site, signs in the back and some good activist music playing on the car stereo.
We got there, unloaded the signs and stood tall, we were amongst friends, several fellow cast members from our local Rocky Horror show were there, there was a couple guys from Terre Haute, and even a few of my old camp staff buddies had shown up to show their support and solidarity.
As the demonstration progressed, my boyfriend and I were tapped to hold this giant rainbow flag on the steps of the capitol building as the speeches rolled on. We stood up there with the others, holding the colors proudly as one speaker after another spoke on the bullhorn about the fight in the Supreme Court and what it meant for all of us.
Well the scheduled speakers finished up and the young lady running the demonstration looked around and said, “Does anybody else have a few words?”
The guys from the Rocky cast were looking at me, my old camp staff buddies had that little grin on their face, my boyfriend was smiling, and of course, my buddies from Terre Haute were egging me on a bit.
So I walked up and took the bullhorn, my blood pumping with that righteous anger familiar to all activists, I started rattling off about our birthrights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, the progress of the movement, how we were seeing the beginnings of the last struggle, all that sort of thing. I finished up by getting the crowd in a good chant and then stepped back to the flag.
The demonstration wrapped up, we packed up our signs, drove home and went our separate ways. It had been a good evening, pretty good turnout at the statehouse, good speeches from the schedule speakers, and it always feels good when old friends share the picket line with you.
I was at work the next day, ringing up sodas, lottery tickets, and gas when this lady comes up to the counter. She was one of our regular lottery customers and she looks at me and says, “Hey, I saw you on the news last night.”
I got confused for a minute, thinking maybe she mistook me for someone else, so I replied “Really? What was going on?”
She got excited and said, “It was some rally downtown. I told my husband, ‘I know that guy! That’s the guy from the gas station!’”
I handed her the usual lottery tickets and wished her the best of luck. I didn’t think much about being told I was on the news, I thought it was kind of funny that I had been out of action for nearly a year and the first demonstration I show up at, I end up on TV. Still, it didn’t seem all together unusual.
Then I got home from work.
My mother called me in a near panic, “You better thank God that your grandfather no longer watches the local news!” Apparently she had caught the piece on Channel 6 where they used my fiery improv speech as their introduction to the story.
“Son, I didn’t care when you did that sort of thing in Terre Haute, we don’t have family out there, but the last thing your eighty year old conservative grandfather needs to see is you draped in a rainbow flag and holding a bullhorn on the local news.”
She was right, it would have been a nasty shock; my mother has accepted my sexuality, even if she doesn’t always understand my hellfire activism. The other members of the family? Well most of them don’t know about my sexuality and as far as the hellfire activism, yeah they’re a bit in the dark about that too.
My grandfather didn’t see the news story, but I’m pretty sure my Uncle Bill did since he hasn’t really spoken to me since.