|Columnist Pollo Del Mar addresses a crowd of protesters at a Nov. 7 sit-in at 18th & Castro Streets.
Notorious Glamazon About Town
Sometimes the universe has plans for us we could never imagine. Just ask any of the more than 60 people who left their homes, offices, family and friends Friday afternoon for a 5:30 p.m. rally against Californiaâ€™s Prop. 8 only to find themselves still protesting the Constitutional ban on gay marriage at 7 a.m. Saturday morning in the intersection of 18th & Castro Streets. Certainly it was nothing I planned.
The day before, I nearly ignored a flood of text, Facebook and MySpace messages urging me to rally in the Civic Center for a march to Dolores Park. An exhausting week leading to Halloween left me wanting nothing more than the quiet four-day escape I planned. Yet by 5 pm Friday, my Election Day mixed emotions had become outrage, forcing me into action. I could not in good conscience sit this one out while everyone else fought my battle.
It should be said right away that none of my actions that night were planned in advance. Arriving late in drag, only because that is how I am best known to my community, I joined the procession as we headed into The Castro. Upon arriving at Dolores Park to find nobody had been lined up to speak, and only a dance party scheduled (completely inappropriate to our message), the people around me were further infuriated. Many who arrived at the park first appealed to the two teens who organized the event to find a speaker to address the needs and frustration of the crowd.
Some have suggested I was not the most appropriate individual to do so, and I canâ€™t say I disagree. Having been only at the fringe of politics prior to the vote, like many, I overlooked the threat posed by Prop. 8 leading into Election Day. Had there been other, immediate options, I would gladly have yielded the microphone. As I said, sometimes things happen which we cannot understand â€“ and within seconds, my life changed.
After encouraging the massive crowd Sup. Bevan Dufty estimates to be 25,000 strong â€“ and grossly misrepresented by The Chronicleâ€™s not only untrue but downright irresponsible report of first â€śhundredsâ€ť then 1,000 â€“ to return to San Francisco City Hall, I again stood before thousands of charged protesters. Believing whole-heartedly that our greatest hope lies in coming out wherever we go â€“ allowing people to see exactly who fear-based legislation such as Prop. 8 harms â€“ I urged the crowd to take our struggle and their personal stories back into their homes, communities, schools and workplaces.
â€śPeople cannot protect you if they donâ€™t know who you are,â€ť I announced to uproarious response from those historic steps. It was not until much later, as SFPD blocked all four corners leading into The Castro to protect us from traffic, that I realized what a hypocrite I was to make that plea. I had asked thousands, including young teens still living at home with their parents, to make a sacrifice I was unwilling to make myself.
You see, for 35 years I have hidden who I am from my father. Not unlike many I know within the LGBT community, he and I have always had a strained relationship. For years I used this as an excuse not to come out. After all, I reasoned, why should I explain my life to someone I can barely call even a peripheral influence?
In more recent years, we have grown closer. I call often, and despite discussing little more than American Idol and his efforts to remodel the house he inherited after my grandfatherâ€™s passing, it has been the first semblance of a normal father-son relationship I have ever known. For four years, even though the thought has entered my mind every single time we spoke, fear of losing that newfound closeness has kept me silent.
However, sitting there surrounded by dozens fighting for our equality, I realized I could no longer live this lie. I promised those around me that, if they stayed with me until 5 am â€“ 8 am in my fatherâ€™s home state of Florida â€“ I would call and share my life with him for the first time. Those final minutes before were long, but my new friends were amazing support. And at exactly 5 am, I left to make good on my promise.
Whereas in the past I could not find the words, that morning it was amazingly easy. While I certainly did not share that I was dressed at that moment as She-Ra â€“ I wanted to be honest with, not kill him! â€” I did tell him I am a gay man participating in a movement seeking equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation. His response, though not enthusiastic, was comforting and accepting. We talked for over a half hour before I told him good-bye and returned to share my experience with the anxious crowd, who cheered wildly as I did a celebratory dance as The Pussycat Dollssâ€™ â€śDonâ€™t Chaâ€ť played on a portable radio.
When the sun came up that morning, it was the dawn of a new day in my personal history. I had no idea when I left my home the night before that the strength, love and courage shown by that extraordinary group of humans â€“ all fighting for a cause they believe in and, for the most part, were willing to be arrested for if necessary â€“ would inspire such a difference in my life.
As I said, sometimes the Universe has things planned we might never expect.
Find Pollo Del Mar on MySpace and Facebook. She can be reached by e-mail: Pollo_DelMar@yahoo.comq