Easter with the LGBT community
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Last Christmas, my mother gave me a travel guide, wrapped in shiny green paper. Where was I off to? It was a Lonely Planet guide to the United States. An anthropologist who has spent her fair share of time observing the natives of other countries, my mother has never been more gob-smacked and intrigued than by those comrades closer to home -- our fellow Americans.
I wasted no time in using my new Lonely Planet guide to re-educate myself on the dating rituals, latest lingo, and tips for interacting with my Southern compatriots. A step removed, the advice seemed trite and humorous. But it was fascinating to have a distinct out-of-culture experience.
Most major cities, particularly those on the coasts, have a visible and open gay community that will be easy to connect with. In particular, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans are centers of vibrant gay life. The level of acceptance across the country varies greatly, and gay and lesbian travelers should avoid hand-holding and outward displays of affection until they know the lay of the land. In some places, there is absolutely no tolerance whatsoever, and in others tolerance and acceptance is predicated on gays and lesbians not 'flaunting' their sexual preference.
Yes, we Americans have a particular preoccupation with those who are comfortable with their sexuality. And the LGBT community has borne the brunt of intolerance. But more culturally jarring than seeing America through a travel guide was seeing it through a recent Knight-Ridder article covering the "Easter egg roll" at the White House this past weekend.
First, the opening sounds an odd ritual: "Thousands of children swarmed the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, pushing eggs across soggy grass with large spoons and hunting for hidden ones."
But here's the departure from humor, to the part that made me feel that I was reading about an entirely different, and anachronistic culture:
President Bush blew the opening whistle on a century-old tradition with a new wrinkle: Sprinkled among the supervising, photo-shooting, toddler-dragging parents this time were about 100 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples and their kids.
"We're helping people see that gay and lesbian couples go to the same things as any other families," said Jennifer Chrisler, the executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, which had urged its members to line up for tickets. For publicity's sake, and solidarity's, coalition families wore rainbow-hued leis.
"We're normal families," said Heather Davidson of Tacoma Park, Md., who attended with her partner, Rebecca Hawes, and their two kids. "We're so normal that it's easy for us to blend in."
Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an assistant editor at AlterNet.