Won’t Someone Think of the Children? :: MassResistance ’Exposes’ Gay Day at Six Flags

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday October 21, 2010

A day of family fun at Six Flags New England amusement park has been held up by an anti-gay Massachusetts organization as evidence that gays have an unsavory "obsession" with children.

The 2010 edition of the annual event took place on Sept. 19. The event was billed as "a family friendly event for the GLBT community as well as family, friends, and supporters." Text at the event's website promised, "Out In The Park is a day of Thrills, Music, Entertainment, and Friends!"

The Six Flags "Gay Day" was targeted by fringe-right group MassResistance days in advance. The group posted an item at the MassResistance website on Sept. 17 that declared, "there's something about children's activities, such as amusement parks (and public schools, parades, etc.) that attracts the homosexual movement in an obsessive and disturbing way."

The group's own obsession with gay individuals and their families has been a characteristic of MassResistance since its founding in the wake of marriage equality, which Massachusetts made legal six years ago. In that time, six other states have followed suit, though ballot initiatives in two of those states--Maine and California--have rescinded marriage rights for gay and lesbian families, many of whom have children.

MassResistance has been criticized for its employees taking photos of schoolchildren, particularly at GLBT youth events. In 2008, a MassResistance employee was placed under arrest for taking pictures of children, following complaints by parents. That same year, MassResistance was added to the list of "Active U.S. Hate Groups" maintained by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group has also actively opposed legislation aimed at countering bullying in schools.

The fact that children were present at the "Out in the Park" event--"Gay Days" is a separate annual event that takes place at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and at Disney World in Orlando, Florida--drove MassResistance to an even higher level of hysteria. Despite the fact that the event was touted as being for "friends, family and supporters," and that "All [were] welcome to attend," MassResistance insinuated in an Oct. 17 follow-up posting that the event was not suitable for children. The anti-gay group played up the very fact that gay parents brought their children along, suggesting that unsavory motives were at work and posting a snippet from a Bay Windows column that remarked on "the presence of so many children who seemed so happy to be surrounded by so many LGBT adults who not only seemed quite adept at having fun themselves in large numbers (without a police officer or drunken fistfight in sight), but who also seemed so ready to shower on kids the kind of attention that makes kids feel special in ways that kids need to feel as much as possible."

The column--"Reality Check," written by Bay Windows contributing editor Jeff Epperly--contrasted the safe, happy day of family fun shared at Six Flags by gays and their children to the predations of the Catholic Church's clerics, noting fresh revelations in the ongoing global scandal and positing that, "It is they--the fundamentalist ministers, youth pastors, and priests--who need to be kept away from the children. Can there really be any doubt about this any longer?"

The Bay Windows column celebrated the family-friendly event's wholesome atmosphere. "Everywhere you looked there was some LGBT adult interacting with children in the most harmless and loving ways you can imagine: taking them on rides, buying them treats, taking a real and completely innocent interest in them and whether they were having enough fun," Epperly wrote.

But the fact that GLBT and supportive straight adults had included their children in the amusement park's day for the GLBT community was used as evidence of the dark "obsession" of which MassResistance had accused the gay community from the outset. The anti-gay group claimed that activities provided for GLBT youths were part of a "fanatical push to get into the public schools" by gay adults.

"Disturbing" Stuff... or Not

The Oct. 17 posting referred to several photos taken at the previous year's Six Flags event as "disturbing." The photos showed groups of event participants smiling for the camera. In two shots, men dressed as women were shown; in other snaps, smiling friends of the same gender were shown. All images showed participants who were fully dressed.

Not so for some of the images that chat participants at FreeRepublic.com provided along with their comments. The right-wing site, which often posts news about GLBT news and events, and through which users can sign up for "gay agenda pings" notifying them of fresh GLBT-related postings, featured a photo of several Gay Pride Parade revelers in scanty attire. No photos of the family-friendly Six Flags event were posted at Free Republic, but the comments posted at the site regarding the event painted a vivid picture of how the participants imagined "Out in the Park."

"So [homosexuality] is a matter of choice and must be 'groomed,' " wrote one. Another quoted from the Bay Windows article: "Everywhere you looked there was some LGBT adult interacting with children in the most harmless and loving ways you can imagine: taking them on rides, buying them treats, taking a real and completely innocent interest in them and whether they were having enough fun." Added the chat participant, "They apparently omitted the last sentence about 'and grooming them to become debauched just like us.' "

The notion of gays "grooming" children persisted throughout the conversational thread. "It is grooming. Absolutely," wrote one, while another posted, "Sane parents will keep their children far, far away."

"No it is NOT about kids feeling comfortable with fags. It is about fags trolling for young boys," declared another. "Why don't they just admit it?" Wrote another chat participant, "If they don't troll for recruits, they become extinct." Still another wrote in with, "There was a time when it was considered criminal for perverts to offer little children candy and 'rides'."

The family-friendly nature of the occasion forgotten, the thread went on. "Kids don't need to be 'comfortable' with sexual practices of any kind, gay or otherwise," wrote one participant. "They don't need to be 'comfortable' with people that are into bondage, foot worship, latex, leather, candlewax... or any number of other sexual fetishes.

"That's all homosexuality really is: it's just another fetish," continued the posting. "Enough already. Give it a rest. Those of us that don't share that particular interest, prediliction [sic] or not, are just tired of hearing about it."

Wrote another, "Anyone who claims there is no 'gay' agenda, or that they are not after children, should have their neck grabbed and their face rubbed in this article."

Another wrote in with, "The left/marxist/human vermin media have no problem with this, but when there is an accusation made toward a priest then all hell busts loose. Why the double standard?"

Left unremarked was the bulk of Epperly's column. Epperly wistfully contrasted this year's "Out in the Park" event to his own childhood experiences. "I wish my parents would have taken me to such an event when I was a child," Epperly wrote. "It would have been so affirming to be around that many adults and kids having a wonderful time and paying positive attention to me."

Nor was Epperly speaking only of gay children. Straight kids, too, enjoy GLBT spectacles, Epperly said. "In fact, I can talk to heterosexual younger people at the university where I work and we are reaching the point in our history where it's not difficult to find some of them who had parents who took them to Pride parades or Carnival in Provincetown," Epperly noted. "Every single one of them reports it as being one of their favorite events to attend as a child. They seem genuinely puzzled and amused when I ask if anything they saw at these events scarred or frightened them."

Those on the anti-gay fringe see the issue differently. "It's heartbreaking and terrifying," Mass Resistance's Oct. 17 posting declared. "Good people need to stand up to it." The posting, while decrying the fact that "Out in the Park" was closed to the general public, made the seemingly contradictory claim that the private, ticketed event was an attack on the larger community. "In many ways, it's an arrogant, in-your-face message to the rest of us: 'We don't care what you think,' " the posting said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.