Lenard Mace – Activism

“It was the longest hour and a half of my life.”

I remember attending the first Pride parade, in great fear and trepidation of what might happen. But you can’t really classify it as a parade; it was more of a march.

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Interestingly, last spring I was invited [to speak at Valley Christian High School]. I was too chicken to go myself. So, I made Ann Marie [Floch] and Janice [Packwood] go with me. I’m telling you . . . You want to talk about conservative? I’m sure they probably disinfected the place after we left. We were invited to go to the senior class on the “pro side” of homosexuality. The following week they had someone coming in to talk who was a former gay person, who had gone through the [exorcism?] whole thing. [Laughs.]

We were there about an hour and a half. For me, it was the longest hour and a half of my life.  We walked in there knowing that the cards were set against us. While [the students] were very polite and respectful, it was very obvious that they had been cued about what to ask and what to say. They were very bright. I’m sure a lot of them [came up with their own questions], but I also think, just because of the nature of the school, I’m sure all their parents and teachers had prepped them before class.

The funny thing was, when we finished and got back in the car, we all said, “Did you see this person over here?” and “This person over here?” All during our presentation, they sat with their head down. They never asked a question, they never participated in the discussion. And I said, “Yeah. I believe we were there for those people—just so they can hear the positive side of who we are.” I said, “I don’t know about you, but my gaydar was going off real loud and clear.”

I even was kind of a smart mouth. I couldn’t help myself. [During the presentation] I said, “Well, statistics say one in ten [people are gay] and this is a class of 32. There are probably three of you sitting in this classroom.” My God! You could have heard a pin drop. [Laughs.] Whether or not that was the case, who knows? But we did at least see two [people who] we were quite sure were going through some struggles. I believe that’s why we were there, if nothing else: to give them some hope that once they get out of that institution . . .

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Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson and Katya M., 2007; held in the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.