Miss Billie Proffitt
WeHo Pride, 2016
“I walked out my building’s front door and stood in the crowd as I had so many times before. I looked at the performers on floats and felt the same pride flowing from their beings as I have so many times– that of standing for the goodness and the light in broad spectrum daylight, for all the world to see; even as a spectator the beautiful, vibrating energy envelops me. No matter how much of my everyday life involves gay couples, gay lifestyles, gay conversations… Every parade, every time – I cry.
Strangely (and yet perfectly), my apartment buildings in both Sydney and West Hollywood, are located on the intersection where each of their respective Pride Parades begin… I have attended these in numerous cities, but still goose bumps roll down my body in waves like it’s the first time the instant I take in something else. The energy is enchanting; it’s like pure love has taken a physical form for the day and flows stronger and further with every touch, every breath, every sound, every sight.
Just when I think we’ve thought of everything I stop and realize that what is to come in humanity is greater than any and every piece of known history. Moments like these – celebrations like these – movements like these are constantly shaping the world for the better in our march of progress. We are making history with every step, every hug, every snap followed by, ‘You look beautiful, Gorgeous!’
There is sorcery in this space – this bubble of fearless acceptance, that can’t entirely be explained in words – it is the same feeling I have had in the most spiritual places in the world.”
This opening paragraph is in my book; it begins to explain my belief in Pride – because taking ownership over & therefore spreading this kind of empathy will surely bleed into every other element of one’s perceptions & judgments across their life. I didn’t think it was possible for Pride to be more important to me, until I woke up on my sofa this past Sunday in LA. “Morning, Honey,” Sam said, “I hope you slept well because we have some bad news…”
Chris has been my Mom’s best friend for over 40 years – as a matter of fact, she was the first person he came out to in the 1970’s. She swore his truth to secrecy until he was ready for the next step, which luckily for me, arrived before I was born when he had the courage to come out openly with his sexuality – a tall order being 1 of 5 children in a staunchly Catholic family.
When I was 3, he brought Sam to meet us, & neither of them has ever restricted their love or support of me since. With as much as my parents have always traveled, they have been there for both the mundane & the milestones of my life: clapping for me, hugging me, feeding me, laughing with me, singing karaoke with me (& christ, if you’ve heard my voice you’d understand how embarrassing it is to acknowledge knowing me, let along being on stage with me…) they dressed my Dad when I was Homecoming Princess & they stood next to my gurney when the nurses cut my clothes off in a Mexican hospital – they do all the things that one does for loved ones, for family. I was immensely blessed in my rearing not to know any separations or any caveats of love – but the truth is everyone should be; for my upbringing to be an anomaly, means our society’s standards are far too low.
Often I am asked if I am (& sometimes just expected to be) a lesbian for my vehement support of LGBT subject matter, which I find appropriate; if anything, it proves my point all the better – the point that it doesn’t matter. Watching all the children both marching in & cheering on the parade, I am so grateful that they have similar opportunities to the neural networks built in me, but even better, & even more.
Every chance I get to engage with these happy little puppies, I take it… To tell them how wonderful they look in their rainbow ensemble, how happy I am that they are here with us, how special it is to see them give their flag to another person who doesn’t have one, or speak their positive chant, or share their powerful sign, or the empathy they show as they hug their friend. They don’t know they will grow up in a better world than we did, one of acceptance & greater alliance, & thank god for that, so that they don’t even know bigotry or segregated judgments were ever options in tomorrow’s society.
Orlando & Pulse were the words of the day, we couldn’t get out there fast enough to join the others – & allow me to clarify, by others I mean the nearly half a million other supporters. Details were mostly unknown at that point, but Sam’s sister called to check on us when a man was arrested on his way to the West Hollywood parade with terrorist paraphernalia.
We were interviewed by newscasters & news writers alike – despite everything the resounding feelings of our event were of defiance & courage. “We can’t stay home crying in the dark, fearing for ourselves & our ways of life because of this – instead we must lean into the curve of what’s been put before us; instead we have to stand together even taller & even stronger than we did before,” I told one of them.
They say the measure of a man
Is what he does when he’s in trouble
When you face the fires of hell
Will you stand or will you stumble
It ain’t the easiest way of life
To push a demon in the night
Can’t be scared to pick a fight
You got’ta do right
All I can think about in the aftermath is the same questions so many other genuine Americans have asked themselves around these mass-murders – what can I do? What power do I hold myself to eradicate these ignorant, insecure, fundamental belief system actions? This is my country! These are “my fellow Americans” – my people, my greater extended family, I don’t want to see them suffer anymore at the hands of anyone else, or themselves. It all comes down to unmet needs…
Unmet needs. It sounds like such a wanky set of therapy words, doesn’t it? Yep, & I believe in it entirely.
I can’t help but get political when I think about what I can do because I know that I have a vote – I have a say in what world I create around me, just as every one of us does… And those votes can only be counted in our actions; the physical action of getting out to mark a dot on a ballot, yes, but more importantly, in each action we take in every moment of our day. Barack Obama said, “We have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be – to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
I found Stephen Colbert’s words the other night on The Late Show to be incredibly empowering, right on point actually – respectful, informative & uplifting:
“Despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. Now these people in Orlando were apparently targeted because of who they love - & there have been outpourings of love through the country & around the world. Love in response to hate– love does not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. So love your country – love your family – love the families & the victims & the people of Orlando. But let’s remember that love is a verb. And to love means to do something.”
Song lyrics from Walk Tall, by Kristian Bush.