To My Beloved Savannah After VP Pence’s St. Patrick’s Day Visit

To All the Rainbow Warriors who SHOWED UP, Inside the Secure Zone and Out, In Any Way That You Showed Up:

The highest of fives, the biggest of hugs, the wettest of kisses. You make my heart sing. I am so proud to stand with you. We showed our beloved community and the world at large that Savannah does not welcome homophobia and misogyny. That’s not who we are. We are what Savannah looks like.

To Those in Support:

There is real risk in walking through tens of thousands of increasingly drunk people, some of whom are seething with anger. One of our number, who was presenting as visibly queer, got punched in the face by an angry drunk, and then was comforted by another gay man who said: “We’ve all been there. It’s happened to me too.” I strongly believe that there would be less risk if there were more of us. I also completely understand not feeling capable of facing that risk. If you didn’t come out because you just couldn’t, all love to you. If you didn’t come out because it was inconvenient, please do better next time. We need you.

To Mayor DeLoach

You disgust me.

1) You presented VP Pence with a “Make St. Pat’s Great Again” hat, echoing President Trump’s MAGA slogan. Do you actually not understand what that sounds like to people for whom going backwards in American history means returning to Jim Crow, to slavery, to the closet, to sodomy laws, to legal marital rape? You are the mayor of a majority African-American city. Get a clue.

2) You were so worried about being embarrassed that you were willing to discard the First Amendment of the Constitution. Almost two days passed between when you announced your “no signs” rule and when you called it a “misunderstanding,” half an hour after we filed a civil rights lawsuit. It was not a misunderstanding. You just didn’t think anyone in Savannah would actually fight it and you cared more about saving face than about the rights of the citizens you’re supposed to represent.

3) You riled up the crowd at the parade and made a volatile situation more dangerous. We were standing behind the VIPs in their handshake pen chanting “This is What Savannah Looks Like,” and the Vice President, to his credit, was doing a spectacular job of ignoring us and focusing on shaking hands with his supporters. But you were clearly embarrassed, so you decided to lead the VIPs in a “USA” chant in an effort to drown us out, thus creating a direct confrontation between us and other paradegoers where none had existed before. This was profoundly irresponsible and was followed, a few minutes later, by a gay bashing and then two more assaults. I know you didn’t intend this, but by acting like a bro instead of the mayor of the entire city, you made a risky situation worse. You are an amateur and an embarrassment. We will remember.

To the Folks Who Are Wondering Why We “Made the Parade Political”

The easy answer is that the parade became political the moment that the Vice President decided to use it as a photo-op for his political career, but that’s not really true. It was already political, because every year members of the LGBTQ community ask the parade committee if they can march in it too, along with every other group of Savannahians, and every year they get told no. It’s political because the parade committee says that Confederate flags are OK but Pride flags are not. The committee itself makes political decisions about who is welcome. The politics are baked into the cake.

But still, you’re wondering, why make a stink out of it? Why ruin a fun family day with controversy? Why aren’t we honored that such a powerful and important man is joining our celebration? The answer is that it hurts to watch someone who has spoken about you with hate be welcomed into your home with cheers by people who you hoped were your friends. If we let that go, if we didn’t stand up for ourselves and each other, then we’d be sending the message that Savannah is not truly a hostess city for everyone. I know it’s rude. I get that. But at the end of the day, people who are already vulnerable need our love and support more than the second most powerful man in the world does. He’s here for a few hours and then he’s gone, but we’re each other’s community and we have to take care of each other.