Parading through Panama City’s Casco Viejo in a Pride march past. Archive photo by Eric Jackson.
Doing what’s right
by Brandon Wolf – Equality Florida
Lemme tell you a story.
I was outed at 17. A mom learned that I had a boyfriend and alerted anyone who’d listen. She howled about my “corrupting influence” and insisted that my gayness was contagious.
Peers were pulled from my classes.
Others stopped showing up to practice.
People were barred from seeing me.
I was kicked out of church.
Shunned at home.
That year ended with parents protesting the school, demanding that rainbows come down — shrieking that kids like me posed a threat to their way of life.
I moved away and never came back.
A threat. Contagious. Dangerous.
I didn’t know it at the time, but those same insinuations had been used to dehumanize and justify discrimination against LGBTQ people forever.
They’re also the same insinuations fueling Don’t Say Gay legislation now.
Accusations of a sinister plot by LGBTQ people to indoctrinate and corrupt aren’t new — they’re the oldest trope in the book.
Bigots lobbed them while they tried to ban us from being teachers, serving our country, getting married, adopting children, and using the bathroom.
And those tired accusations are being wielded as weapons once again.
Anyone who dares wonder aloud how the Don’t Say Gay bill may impact LGBTQ people is accused of pedophilia by the office of Florida’s governor and drowned in a deluge of grotesque Twitter mentions.
Yet the Senator who filed it admitted his goal: to put a stop to the number of young people who feel comfortable enough to be themselves at a young age. To censor speech about LGBTQ people in an effort to force people to stay in the closet.
To erase us.
So let me say what I wish anyone had the courage to tell me when I was labeled a dangerous, 17 year old contagion: LGBTQ people are a normal, healthy part of society who deserve to be valued and seen.
That’s what we’re fighting for. And I won’t apologize for it.
Power hungry politicians and anti-LGBTQ activists will hurl tired bigotry drenched in a 2022 coat of paint.
And we’ll keep doing what’s right: defending the dignity of all families and fighting for a future where every kid feels seen and loved — exactly as they are.
Brandon Wolf is a survivor of the Pulse nightclub massacre, a June 12, 2016 attack by a religious fanatic on the patrons of a gay nightclub in Orlando, which that evening was hosting its Latin Night. There were 49 people murdered, another 53 physically wounded and nobody who was there that night walked away without emotional trauma. Wolf is press secretary for Equality Florida, a non-governmental human rights organization that advocates for the full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.
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