Ready to Roll...Again

posted on Thu, Apr 9 2009 11:01 am by Family Equality Council

We're delighted to feature this guest post by Cathy Renna, Managing Partner at Renna Communications, a public relations firm based in Washington, DC, with an emphasis on meeting the strategic communications needs of LGBT and progressive clients. Renna Communications coordinated the incredible media coverage of LGBT families' participation in the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll, organized by Family Equality Council. Renna Communications will coordinate media coverage of the event again this year. Cathy, Leah (her wife) and Rosemary (their daughter) will attend the Egg Roll--this time under much more auspicious circumstances! (Cross-posted at Bilerico.com)

It has certainly been quite a week for the LGBT community. Vermont. Iowa. Washington, DC. Actually two things in the nation's capital. One, D.C.'s City Council had a preliminary - but unanimous - vote to respect the laws of other states and countries and recognize same-sex couples that legally married.
But I have to say my three and a half year old was much more excited about preparations for next week's White House Easter Egg Roll. It seems that this historic event is now a queer family tradition - and this time we've been invited!

You might remember the bruhaha in 2006 when the Family Equality Council organized a large group of LGBT families to attend the venerable (and fun) event. The world's eyes were definitely upon us and despite predictions by Bill O'Reilly and others, the sky did not fall. The Easter bunny did not spontaneously combust on the South Lawn, either. In fact, it went just as we predicted. Our families had a blast, we all got our picture with the White House in the background and after about an hour, our kids were all at the low end of a sugar high and it was time to get that gift bag and head home.

Yes, it was quite fun to snatch the photo-op out of the Bushs' hands in '06, but this past week it felt much nicer and frankly, more American, to know that the Obama administration asked us to reach out to LGBT families and also provided a small number of tickets to some LGBT groups. As my wife said in an AP story about the egg roll:
"Under Bush, it felt a bit like we were crashing our own party. But this year it feels like we're equally honored guests," Leah McElrath Renna, 44, said. "It's more celebratory."

Rosemary is particularly excited to see the Easter bunny again and already has planned her outfit: A yellow polka-dotted dress and a new straw hat with a pink band.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the joy on my daughter's face when she sees the Easter bunny," she said. "And seeing the White House in the background and knowing that America and the future that she lives in will be a more perfect place than it is now."

She could not have said it better. Are things perfect? No. But closer than we have been before and we seem to be moving ever forward.

For me, the real meaning of attending in 2006 will be on my mind when we go this year. We put a face on our families that no one - not the residents of the White House at that time, nor the right wing extremists who said we were "using our children as political pawns"- could deny or take away from us. Talk about irony, given how they use our families and children like punching bags when it suits their needs.

Two moments stick out for me at the Egg Rolls that I have been to - one, a single African American Mom asking me to take a picture of her and her son with the White House in the background, then smiling and asking if she could do the same for us. "It's nice to get a picture with the whole family in it," she said.

Then, in 2007 an older gentleman with White House staff ID came up to my partner and whispered "I am glad you all keep coming back." Her response? "We're here, we're queer and we are still rolling eggs." So much for critics who say all the effort put into attending the Egg Roll is superficial and assimilationist. This is as radical as anything I did with Queer Nation. With more chocolate.

Let's face it, if we have seen anything from the victories - and defeats - on marriage equality and other issues, it is that we must tell our stories and demonstrate not that we are "like everyone else" but that we have more in common than most people think. We face similar challenges and unique ones. And that we deserve equal treatment.

Having our families (in all their diversity and various structures) attend this event is just one way to confront the tremendous homophobia and ignorance our families face. But it is is an important one, far less abstract than many of the messages we hear coming from our side of the debate.

It will be interesting to see how it feels to once again feel welcome on the White House grounds. I might get lost in the moment - like when we scrambled to meet Elmo (the real Elmo, Mommy!!) or in that quiet sense of awe at knowing you are standing on the South Lawn by intentional invitation and thought. I bet it will also be more fun.
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