And OutFest volunteers festooned with official T-shirts protected them and encouraged attendees to keep on walking — essentially to ignore the onslaught of hurtful, damaging words being thrust at us through megaphones. Never mind that there were young people in attendance, or people who were attending their first Pride event after coming out of the closet or pioneers who have fought long enough not to have to deal with such nonsense on a day and in a place we’ve legally reserved and created to be safe.
I approached several of those who had booths near these low-lifes, and commiserated with them for having come to the festival to celebrate, but instead had to suffer through the day. And I engaged one young man who was handing out antigay flyers, pointing out that God’s love was everywhere but where he and his cohorts were staking out their territory. He seemed to agree with me, and almost appeared ready to put down his weapons and join in the festivities.
I’m all for free speech, but I’m also for safe space. And in my opinion, safe space trumps hate speech aimed at dismantling our safe space. If there really is no legal way to discourage them from crashing our party, then I recommend surrounding and isolating them — visually and audibly — with sets of closet doors held up by those same volunteers who just shrugged their shoulders with “what can we do?” passivity.
These zealots who scream Bible verses at you do not care about you, your health, your happiness or your families. They just want you to feel shame. Their mission is deadly. We cannot let them succeed.