After Thwarted Kidnapping Plans, Whitmer Calls for Unity

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]

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Viewpoint: Protecting, encouraging gay youth

By |2018-01-15T20:10:59-05:00May 20th, 2010|Opinions|

by Phil Volk

On May 8 at the University of Michigan’s North Campus, LGBT people had a counter-protest to Rev. Fred Phelps’ anti-gay protest against “The Laramie Project.”
Many of our LGBT leadership questioned why we should have a counter-protest. They said to me that it would get people mad at us, that it won’t do any good and that we should wait until all the leadership agrees. I wish all of them would read Martin Luther King’s book “Why We Can’t Wait.” The LGBT people are ready to move – with or without the present gay leadership. The leadership should be in front, not holding our people back.
Rev. Phelps did not show up. Then we saw the beauty and importance of this event. The police said we had between 250 and 300 people – both LGBT and allied – coming from as far as Ohio and Kalamazoo. One third were from churches that organized their congregations to carpool to the event, and members of Democratic groups from across the state and individuals who care. And the youth, our blessed youth, we guessed that 15 percent of the crowd was high school students, another 40 percent was college students. The whole rally was a diverse group of people – income, race, age – it was a wonderful cross-section of America. It showed how important this really was.
For two hours, we had a few speeches, many songs being sung and a true feeling of community and gay pride.
The young ones saw so much support and love, while feeling safe and cared for being openly gay. Many of the teens were allies supporting their friends. Bless our alliance.

I worry so much about our young gays. We all understand the hell they’re going through: prejudice, harassment, beatings, suicides, worry of being murdered. At this rally they could be open, be themselves, all while being supported and loved. Some felt gay pride for the first time.
LGBT people and friends were just having fun, and the whole crowd bonded in a love-fest of humanity. It sounds over the top, but there was a spiritual feeling of togetherness.
This is why we rally and march and picket: to come together in gay pride, to be side by side learning that there is more to being a community than the bars, or the endless meetings. We’re saying out loud in public to the whole world “We are gay, proud and we will not take oppression anymore – we want our rights now!”
In this open letter I want to say something about the young LGBT leadership I saw at the rally. I bleed for our LGBT people because of all the prejudice and hate. Our LGBT youth should not have to feel that hate so soon in their lives, while the middle-aged are fighting year after year against pressure from a society that wants them to go away, and our LGBT elderly who are alone and feel abandoned. I bleed for all of them.
I love our people. I want to hug every one of them, watch over them and protect them from harm. I looked out at the faces at the rally and I wanted to hug, hold and protect each one from the crazies of this world. I feel like a grandfather, proud of them and of their love for each other.
This was an important rally.
Sometimes it’s hard for some to understand my extreme reaction to our people’s enemies and our so-called friends. But it is the passion for our people and an old grandpa’s need to protect his children from pain and to get them their full rights as citizens so they can live happy, loving lives. I will not stand by being nice when our people are being used from within our community and alliances, and I will not stand by when the anti-gays attack. I am the LGBT people’s pitbull and I am proud of it.
I was worried about who we would hand the torch to. I have been fighting, being the pitbull for 40 years in support of LGBT rights. These battles have taken their toll.
I plan to retire from political activism in two years at the end of my term of the Democratic LGBT Caucus. I said I was worried who to pass the torch to, but the young leadership who put on the rally and were part of this rally gives me great hope for our future LGBT leadership. We have great young leadership, and the torch will be put in great hands.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.