I’m always struck at how some people fall into activism. February was the centennial of Rosa Parks’ birth. If you don’t know who Parks was, well, her single non-violent act against racism made her known as the mother of the Civil Rights movement. And everyone reading this owes her a debt of gratitude.
When we lived in Monterey, Calif., Kelly and I had the opportunity to hear Parks speak. She was amazing – humble, quiet, unassuming – yet her soft, reassuring voice kept the people crammed into an auditorium filled beyond capacity as quiet as church mice, hanging on her every word.
During the Q&A someone asked her if she had planned to take a stand that day back in 1955 when she refused to surrender her bus seat to a white man. Parks shyly chuckled and said, “No, dear. My feet just hurt.”
Her aching feet, of course, helped to launch the revolution that brought down America’s shameful version of institutionalized apartheid.
I’m no Rosa Parks. But my feet hurt.
Recently the Boy Scouts of America announced they were considering allowing individual chapters to accept openly gay scouts and leaders. As many of you may remember, my October 2010 column, “On My Honor,” dealt with me being a gay man and having a son in Scouts.
At the time I had been asked to be an assistant leader for the Cubs Scouts, the youngest group of boys. In response, I came out. Although the leader told me she couldn’t care less if I was gay, I declined the opportunity, citing the Boy Scouts’ ban.
The day the BSA announced it was considering altering its policy, my phone rang. It was KSL looking for a gay guy who wanted to be a Boy Scout leader. The reporter had received my number from his colleague, who is also a friend of mine. She also happens to be the woman, who three years earlier asked me to be an assistant leader.
Hesitantly, I agreed to go on the radio. Then they asked if I’d go on camera. Now because of my career in public relations and corporate communications, I’ve been interviewed hundreds of times. And going in front of a camera usually doesn’t faze me. But this time I’d be telling the whole world – or at least everyone watching Channel 5 that night – that I’m gay.
This interview was going to be different for another reason too: It would involve my family. My being a “gay activist” is one thing, but they wanted b-roll of Kelly and me interacting with the boys. They wanted Gus to go on camera and offer his opinion — I don’t think he even knew the BSA has this ban.
We’ve always been very clear that we never want our boys to be seen as our “accessories.” We don’t ever want them to be viewed as props to advance gay rights. They’re the ones that would have to deal with reactions from classmates and friends stemming from this story – a story that has a lot more to do with their dads than with them.
In the end, Kelly and I decided it was worth having our kids be temporary activists. We figured that seeing our family might help those who support this ban and other forms of discrimination see gay people in a different light. We made it very clear: being interviewed was entirely Gus’s decision. And he did great.
Did I want us to be seen as Utah’s poster family on this subject? Not at all. Let’s just say my feet hurt.