By David W. McCormick
I marched in San Diego’s 2016 LGBT Pride Parade. Reluctantly, I should add.
The move and transition from New York City to San Diego was an “adjustment in waiting.” An example is the simplicity of crossing the street. For a New Yorker, a flashing “DO NOT WALK” light is when we begin walking, but do this in San Diego and potentially, a summons may await. Minor though it may be, it’s a pet peeve of mine.
Not knowing many people and acclimating to our new surroundings, it was my partner Jeffrey who suggested that I march. Actually, of all things to do, that was not at the top of my totem pole.
As a member of a Vietnam veteran’s group back East, I marched there. But in San Diego, it was different. The overwhelming military presence that exists here is Navy and Marines. I was Army. Admittedly, I felt a tad awkward marching in a group with little representation of my branch of service, but with a bit of coaching from Jeffrey, I decided to make the effort.
The morning of the parade I dug out my Vietnam veterans dress uniform; slid into my once-a-year spit-shined shoes; adjusted the various ribbons on my shirt; and checked myself out in the mirror and remembered, I looked okay. But after arriving at the parade staging area, I still had that “disconnected” feeling. Surrounded by so many Navy sailors and Marines was overwhelming, if not intimidating.
But then something happened to change my demeanor. I met Eric Fanning, then Secretary of the Army and the parade’s grand marshal. I was elated and committed the cardinal sin of all sins (in my book anyway); I asked Eric for a “selfie.” I was like a kid in a candy store. I was ready to march.
Then several months ago my partner and I caught the play “Perfect Arrangement,” performed with a stellar cast at the Horton Grand Theatre. For those who missed it, I’ll give you a Reader’s Digest version. It was about two gay and lesbian couples in the early 1950s — two of which worked for the government — who were disguised as married heterosexuals. It was during the McCarthy era, a time of a “witch-hunts,” where homosexuals were aggressively weeded out from government employment. It was discrimination at its best and a dark time in our history. The performance was an emotional one for me and also very personal. While in the Army, I had the experience of similar treatment.
On our walk back, I began to think about last year’s parade. After seeing the play, I came to realize, my participation was along the lines of “How did I look?” “Why was I there?” “Did I need to be there?” “Should I even march?”
The parade was all about me.
Since moving from New York to San Diego, it seemed I had developed a zone of complacency regarding the numerous current and ongoing issues of gay rights. After all, the movement over the past many years since Stonewall had made such great progress. Marriage in California and many other states had become legal. Acceptance of gays in general is at an all-time high. Even the former Secretary of the Army, Eric Fanning, is openly gay.
But then I began to think about some of the recent and more serious incidents and the current political atmosphere: Kentucky’s Kim Davis’ denial of a marriage license to a gay couple; the killings in Orlando; the suicide of Tyler Clementi; the denial of work, a seat in a restaurant, or a trade not wanting to do business with you.
Discrimination of any kind is just outright wrong. Discrimination also, unfortunately, does not go away, nor will it likely ever be completely eliminated. But it can be lessened with continuing education and by standing up, putting yourself out there and speaking out on the issues at hand. You can also lessen discrimination by being relentless in continuing to show a strong, prominent and unified presence … and by participating in marches.
This year, I will be marching in the San Diego’s LGBT Pride parade, but with a totally different outlook: It won’t be all about me. Because it’s only when everything is all about you that you shouldn’t be marching at all.
—Native New Yorker David W. McCormick is now a San Diego resident and real estate agent with Keller Williams. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.