Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gay for a Day

“There’s absolutely no reason to do this,” I told her, “because while you’re busy sipping champagne in idyllic French towns, I’ve been doing my civic duty! I walked a mile down the main drag of Condado holding a small sign of the archbishop of San Juan, Roberto González Nieves.”

“And what has the archbishop done now?” asked Lady distantly.

“I never got the full story,” I told her, since the article I read was either badly written or I was hungry and disinclined to concentrate. But it was more of the same stuff: the “family” values people stirring things up as usual. So there I was, watching the gay pride parade, and then Pablo came by, holding one end of a big sign. Well, when Pablo comes by, he always has a little plan for you, so there I was, with a group of people holding up signs of legislators and fellow riders who had voted for whatever it was. Anyway, they all had “culpable” written in red ink over the face. Oh, and blood stains splattered across the top of the placard. It was a definitely ‘80’s moment. You know, Act Up….”

“Well, well, the price one pays for having the courage of one’s convictions. I’m sure the archbishop was deeply hurt…..”

“Actually, I didn’t have the archbishop,” I admitted. “Though I lobbied hard for him. I even offered 10 bucks to the organizer, but he wouldn’t give him away. Everybody wanted to carry the archbishop…..”

“Well, there’s that great fashion sense,” said Lady. “Really, it’s about the only thing of good taste left in the church. The music? Awful! The art? Horrible! But they still know how to dress!”

“Their redeeming quality,” I told her. “Anyway, the parade was great, though the heat was daunting. We knew it would be, and had worn our swimming suits, since the parade ended at the park next to the beach. But by that time, my back was starting to hurt. So we went home….”

“Pity, that…”

“Well, at least I got to see Pablo,” I told her. “He’s sort of my elder brother. And he definitely gets around: he was flying right over Orlando when the killings were going on. Got in at three that morning from New York….”

“Anyway, Pablo had told me that the largest Evangelical church in Orlando had opened its doors to the LGBT community. Imagine it: Iglesia el Calvario, whose name is off-putting, to say the least. But with a little congregation of 4,000 or so, it can’t be dismissed….”


“Well, yeah, although when I did the search, it turned out that the pastor had moved to New York just before September 11. And he had moved to Orlando just a few months ago. Something the FBI might want to check out….”

“There are no coincidences,” said Lady, which makes sense, since she also believes in the law of attraction….

“Anyway, it was fun to get out, and fun to be in a crowd of several thousand. Actually, it was the biggest pride parade in Puerto Rican history….”

It was not, however, all frivolity. How could it be, when 23 of the victims in the Orlando attack were Puerto Rican? So Pablo and I were talking about that, and I told him about the one body that the family—or at least the father—hadn’t wanted to claim. According to one source, it was “touch and go” getting the family to pick up the body.

So we were talking fathers, Pablo and I, since Pablo is planning a book about his father. Why? Because after years in the ministry, he’s finally stopped wearing his collar. So now he’s pissed at religion, for the moment, and people are telling him to write a book. But, as he put it, “I don’t want to write just another ‘gay pastor’ book…”

“My father came out of the sugarcane tradition,” said Pablo, and though I hadn’t heard the term, I knew just what he meant. How did I know? Well, the detail that before Pablo’s father married Pablo’s mother, the couple had only spent fifteen minutes alone with one another. In short, had Pablo been one of the Orlando victims, his father was just as likely to refuse to claim the body.

“My father wasn’t there when I was born,” said Pablo. “He was in Korea. And I wasn’t there when he died.”

“By choice?” I asked.

“Think so,” he said. “The last time I saw him, he was functioning like a two-year old. He was clutching me, and crying, and I wanted to comfort him and I couldn’t. I didn’t know what to do….”

Right—pastors don’t always have the answers…..

“We only get so far down the road,” I tell him, “and sadly, some of us never quite get home, or wherever it is we’re going….”

So we parted, when Pablo stopped to talk to a woman wearing hijab, and carrying a sign announcing herself as “Sociedad Islámica.

“OK, I definitely think we should march with that woman,” I told Raf, and we were still pondering that when Pablo came by, and put us to work.

“She’s an excellent woman,” said Pablo, and I told him that I had privately named her “Daniela,” since she was definitely thrown in with the lions. Anyway, she made the front page of the newspaper, today, and good for her.

So today I read that the pope thinks the church should ask forgiveness of the gay community. And I wonder, if I were in any position to grant it, would I? Would I say to the pope, “hey, it’s OK. I understand about those millennia in which you condemned us to hell, punished us on the stake, urged the local authorities to harass us! No problem, those 40% of homeless youth who are LGBT, when the rate of LGBT in the general population is about 7%. Not a problem, all the alcoholism, suicide, depression, let’s see…am I missing anything?”

I once told Pablo that I preferred the old pope, Pope Benedict, to this current one. After all, do you want your enemy to be the liberals’ poster child?


But if the pope ever wanted to come and walk down the streets of San Juan—perhaps hand in hand with the lady from Sociedad Islámica—or even send the archbishop in his place, well…

…it would only be as start!