Just a month ago I made the biggest decision of my life. I packed up my bags, kissed my family and friends goodbye and I moved here, to Fresno, from Gawler, South Australia. Three weeks ago, it was the best thing I’d ever done, woohoo. Two weeks ago, I was wondering what in the world I was thinking, because I was so… damn… lonely. And bored. One week ago, I sucked it up and decided that since there wasn’t a line of friends on my doorstep ala Mary Poppins and the nannies every morning, I should probably go out and try and make my own fun. Thus, my time as a volunteer writer for Gayfresno.com was born.
When Gayfresno.com suggested that I cover the Grizzlies Celebrate Marriage Night, I agreed pretty quickly. I was going to the game anyway, so what’s the harm in checking it out and writing a little piece about it? Right? It wasn’t until I was walking up to the gates that it kinda clicked. I was a lesbian walking into what I figured would amount to a pro-8 Celebration Night. It made me suddenly feel like I had a target painted onto my back.
A honking great rainbow one.
I walked into Chukchansi Park feeling pretty nervous, and, if I have to admit it, kinda alone. The friend I was with, while she is a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community and our rights, is straight as an arrow and didn’t really understand why I was so fidgety. But still, I scanned my ticket, hiked up my skirts and walked in. We were greeted as we walked in by people from the ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ passing out fans that promised Grizzlies fans a free ice-cream if they took the fan into Foster’s after the game.
I declined, being neither a great ice-cream fan nor a ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ fan. I expected to have the fan pressed into my hands anyway, or to have the point argued with me. I was ready to defend my beliefs to this man who was offering me free ice-cream if I switched my plan to heterosexuality. But it never came. I simply got a smile and ‘Alright then, you enjoy the game!’
So, being raised polite by my mother and father (Hi mum and dad!), I thanked him and moved on past. Then I saw the stalls. I nearly cringed, expecting to have to walk past half a diamond’s worth of ‘Marriage Education’, ‘Being True To Your Marriage’ and ‘Re-learning Your Husband/Wife’. But again I was surprised. The ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ had one stall. The rest were being run by gadgets companies, the Milan Institute, Wholefoods, Fresno State, Walgreens, and other places that, from what I could see, had nothing to do with the ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’.
Admittedly, the ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ were passing out free t-shirts. But then… so were the gadget guys next to them. And the gadget guys had free slinkies. And the Milan Institute was giving out free massages. And Walgreens was giving out free goodie bags. So, I’m not sure, ultimately, if the majority of people who picked up the free t-shirts were there because they agreed with the sentiment behind them…
Or if they were just in it for the free stuff.
The last few Grizzlies games I’ve been to have involved a ‘kiss-cam’. It’s kinda cute and occasionally hilarious. Seeing the elderly couples who have obviously been together since the dawn of time lean over and kiss each other’s cheek. Seeing players from the long-suffering opposition lean over and plant one on their equally long-suffering team mates. This one didn’t. Whether that was deliberate or not, I don’t know. I would’ve thought that Celebrate Marriage Night would’ve been the ideal time for a ‘kiss-cam’. But no.
Another thing that surprised me was the lack of advertising the ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ got throughout the evening. I was there from when the gates opened til after the fireworks. And I counted a total of three mentions of the ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ on the jumbo-tron. One when the commentator went through the groups celebrating at Chukchansi that evening, same as is done every game. And two TV-like advertisements after the game but before the fireworks. And although these adverts were on the jumbo-tron and I disagreed with them on principle, they weren’t obnoxious. They weren’t hate-filled.
They just… were.
I expected to be able to submit this to Gayfresno.com as a scathing report on the bias of the Celebrate Marriage Night and how anti-gay it was. Maybe even make a fuss by telling the ‘Healthy Marriage Coalition’ that I support Gay Marriage, and report back on their horrific comments or even (my parents would kill me) being thrown out of the stadium for it. But that never happened. When I was asked if I wanted a free t-shirt, I declined, stating that I didn’t think I should wear it because I was a supporter of Gay Marriage. The woman behind the stall looked a bit surprised, but nodded, and offered me a fan ‘because even if you don’t agree, you still get free ice-cream out of it’.
I took that fan. When you can look someone in the eye and say ‘I disagree with this core belief of yours’ and they still want to be nice and give you something for nothing? That is, what I believe, true Christian charity.
Surprising myself, I had fun at the Grizzlies Celebrate Marriage Night. The Grizzlies lost to the Aces, and Buster Posey only made an appearance to warm up the pitchers, but it was still a good night. The fireworks were great and I was with my friend. I got to steal fries out of her basket, talk to the little boy in front of us who wanted nothing more than to catch a foul ball and was willing to run all over the park to do it, and listen to the guy in the next section over try and convince the people in the VIP boxes that he deserved ‘free beer’ every time the Grizzlies got a hit. I had a great time.