Crossing the Rainbow Bridge
In some ways, we were more inclusive of gays 150 years ago. It would seem a step back is the way forward.
By Mark Nardone
Though I’m familiar with incidents such as The Stonewall Riots and pioneering leaders such as Harvey Milk, I’m no student of the history of gay rights. Any young person who worked in a restaurant in the late ’70s-early ’80s came of age with open gayness as a fact of life, no study necessary.
I’m no scholar of presidential history, either, so I was surprised to learn the following on Presidents Day: Bachelor President James Buchanan was believed by many to be romantically linked with Senator William Rufus King. Except for some vitriol from Buchanan’s bitter rival, Andrew Jackson, it seems the situation was perfectly acceptable.
I discovered that fact (thank you, public broadcasting) the evening before I began to edit writer Nick DiUlio’s piece about Rehoboth Beach’s journey toward acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle (see page 52). It certainly changed the way I read the story.
It wasn’t so long ago that any attempt to expand a business on Baltimore Avenue was passionately opposed by the street’s few resident holdouts. They would claim that commerce would spoil their quality of life—a valid point—but many people felt certain that the unspoken reason was intolerance.
I was always inclined to believe that. Almost 20 years ago, a gentleman my age, sitting on his porch, shouted “Tinkerbell” as I walked by, presumably because he assumed a man wearing a nice shirt and tie on a summer day had to be gay. It was a minor thing as hate speech goes, but it was hate speech nonetheless.
If people could accept a gay president 150 years ago, where did the recent intolerance come from? Weren’t we moving backward?
Look now. The sort of unvarnished vituperation I heard not so long ago is far less common. Among resort towns, Baltimore Avenue has become one of the most vibrant streets on the East Coast. Who doesn’t enjoy eating a meal at Café Solé or taking in a show of, say, John Lennon art at the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center? Thank gay-friendly businesses and gay owners throughout the town.
I’m just skeptical enough to suspect that some degree of tolerance grew out of the resulting economic boom. Tolerance is tolerance, and that is great. Yet I still look forward to the day when all people are accepted simply for being who they are.
Some say gay rights is the civil rights issue of the day. I can’t help but see such issues as being about basic human rights, period. I have to believe that total acceptance is the best for all people, everywhere. Thanks, Rehoboth, for lighting the way.
Mark’s Day Book
- When snow forced the cancellation of Denni Ferrara’s An Evening in Versailles fundraising gala for the Leukemia Research Foundation in early February, I despaired of making the raindate (so to speak), but things worked out. It was a pleasure to see table mates Carmine Facciolo and his wife, Marissa, and to meet Dan Cantera. My thanks to old friends Robert and Connie Wittig for the invitation and always-exceptional company.
- Thanks as well Richard Gaw, part of the DT freelance family, and to Light Up the Queen Foundation director Bill Taylor for getting me to the Trombone Shorty show. And thanks to Hal Real for his vision of The World Café in Wilmington. Sometimes it’s hard to believe…
- Never let it be said that democracy isn’t a grassroots exercise. When local owners gathered to talk about doing business in Wilmington, half the Republican re-election slate showed up to listen (minor exaggeration): Colin Bonini, Tom Kovacs and Greg Lavelle, to name to a few. It was an interesting exchange. Thanks to Yasmin Bowman and Buddy West for the alert.
- I can’t believe it had taken so long to meet Kent County Tourism’s Barbara Rafte in person. I had to drop in after a visit with John Green at Delaware Bay Trading Company in Camden. Fantastic place.