🏳️‍🌈 Confronting Hate With Speech and Silence

In everyday situations, I have no qualms whatsoever about calling out bigotry and LGBTQ bias. But I always ignore the guys holding signs and preaching hate through megaphones in public.

At least I did, until St. Pete Pride last weekend.

One of these sanctimonious hatemongers had set up shop along the long, slowly moving line to go through security at one of the Pride festival areas. The Complimentary Spouse and I, like thousands of other people, could not simply walk away. The guy knew he had a captive audience. It was like converting fish in a barrel.

This particular homophobe wore an all-black outfit and a brown hat to protect him from the sun. He brandished a Bible in one hand, clasped a portable speaker in the other, and spewed garbage at us through a headset microphone.

It was disgusting and annoying, but not enough to break my equanimity. But then I saw his bodycam. He was recording everyone at Pride, including everyone in line. His actions weren’t just irritating. They were invasive and intimidating.

So, I pulled out my phone and began recording him.

Dave records a bigot at Pride.
Smile for the camera, asshole.

Speaking the Truth

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I spoke up. Was it good judgment on my part? Probably not. Did anything he said surprise me? Of course not. Was it fun to use my delightfully sarcastic voice in front of an audience? Hell yeah!1

When I asked about the bodycam, he said he wore it for protection.2

“So what are you going to use this video for?” I said. “Is it for protecting you?”

“Yeah, it serves that purpose, too.”


“So the video is not going to be used for anything unless you feel attacked?”

“God loves you,” he replied.” He wants you to be saved.”

That didn’t answer the question. But, let’s face it, I was never going to get an honest reply, was I?

Here are a few more highlights from our scintillating discussion:

Does God make mistakes when he makes gay people?

God didn’t make gay people.

So God doesn’t want me to be happy, is that what you’re trying to say?

God wants you to be holy, sir.

God wants me to be horny?

Well, listen. I’m Jewish. Explain it without the Bible.

I know, you can still be Jewish.

You’re still all Bible, Bible, Bible.

Because the Bible’s the standard. I don’t want to give you my opinion. You don’t need to hear my opinion. What you need to hear is the word of God, the truth of the word of God. It’s not about what I think. It’s about what the Bible says, you know.

God made me gay, period, end of discussion. So why do you not accept it?

You see, you were born with a sinful nature.

So you’re saying I can change from gay to straight?

You need to hear the gospel and believe it. Then you can be able to change after you get saved.

When the line started moving, I thanked this kind man for his time. The exact words I used were, “I don’t have any more time for your bullshit.”

Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

What happened next was an epiphany — but certainly not one the guy with the Bible wanted. I discovered a more powerful way to respond to these types of people, and it didn’t require me to utter a word.

A few minutes after I stopped speaking, I saw a woman holding her clack fan in front of the man — not in front of his face, but his chest. She was blocking his bodycam. It was brilliant.

When she had to leave, I took her place, but I didn’t have a fan. So, with the help of someone else in line, I held up my massive Pride flag to block the bodycam.

Using a Pride flag to block a bigot's bodycam.
It’s hard to record the line now, isn’t it?

After a few days of reflection, I’m not proud of engaging this person at Pride. Someone like him doesn’t just want to be heard; he wants to know he’s being heard. Speaking up empowered and validated him.

Only after I shut my mouth did I discover a way to make an impact without saying a word, and it relates to the bodycam that triggered me in the first place. I see now that I should have just blocked it instead of questioning it. The Pride flag couldn’t stop him from talking, but it limited his ability to intimidate us or make us feel unsafe.

Will I still speak back to bigotry? Fuck yes. Heaven help the next person who starts talking shit about LGBTQ people within earshot.

But …

I’ve learned that there’s a better way to engage people who combine the worst aspects of proselytization and street performance. In those situations, unfurling a Pride flag will do more good than opening my mouth.

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”

  1. I know what you’re thinking: What the hell, Dave? Don’t you realize that little good comes from doing things like this? Well, keep reading. I knew it wasn’t a good idea at the time, and upon reflection, I’m kinda embarrassed that I spoke up. However — spoiler alert — I also learned a new way to deal with these folks. ↩︎
  2. Protection from whom? We were the ones who needed bag checks and metal detectors to safeguard our safety. ↩︎