So, apparently the Tardis made an appearance in Durham this morning as there were fundamentalist protesters at the film festival, fresh out of 1996. (KJ recollected that was the last NC Pride at which she recalled seeing an organized protest.) Mostly they were of the quiet and dour disposition but one was really bothersomely loud, shouting a sermon from out on the sidewalk by the street. Early in the afternoon a counter-protest arrived and consisted mainly of a woman in an extremely elaborate outfit consisting of pink feathery things and a headdress. I described her to KJ as “double drag,” as she was a woman dressed like a man dressed like a woman. She was loud(er) and enthusiastic and could sing and was very engaging and drew immediate applause and crowd interaction.

Whoever you are, lady in the pink feathers, you rule.

There were several things that occurred to me during the course of the spectacle of that dim shadow of past protests:

1) I have not grown up. I commented to Pants Wilder that on my way out the protesters had better be gone or I was going to have to tell them to go fuck themselves. Happily, they left pretty shortly after they were thoroughly and wonderfully upstaged by the counter-protest. It did remind me of those feelings that used to bubble up when I would volunteer to work as a “peacekeeper” during NC Pride and some tiny, shadow self deep down in my gut would cross its fingers and hope for the chance to beat up a redneck. Not that I would actually do it, I mean, jeez, I’m not an idiot or a bully, but that desire is still there to see the shoe on the other foot for once. (Also, I’m pretty sure my boyfriend would rightly dump me.)

2) My, how times have changed. There were three cops there when the protesters were there and they made me feel… protected. That was gratifying.

3) There were kids – well, 19- or 20-year-olds, college-aged – at this festival who have probably never been to a gay event that was picketed by religious fundamentalists. That hadn’t really occurred to me until I saw a half-dozen Abercrombied young men standing in an arc doing The Masculine Pose – weight on left hip, one foot forward, hands in pockets, sunglasses down – and gaping at the protesters. They have probably never had a bunch of people holding big signs expressing a strong desire to obsess at them about their afterlives and trying to convince them not to do something. They have never seen an organized protest against their own existence. As weird as it is, I am really, really glad those kids had that experience because it doesn’t happen much anymore but it’s a strong reminder of why things like the film festival need to happen in the first place.

4) Somewhat surprisingly, protesters – even young, prematurely soured ones with constipated expressions – will pose for thin-lipped photos with bald old queens and Subaru lesbians. Gods love ’em, I watched a couple of suburbanite dykes make bunny ears behind one’s head, arms around shoulders, and it brought a tear to my eye.

It was a funny experience that way. Of the five protesters, only one was loud and he was quickly shut down by a double-drag queen. One was having a conversation with someone attending the festival but it was just that: a conversation, a quiet, apparently respectful exchange of views. Two were young, visibly uncomfortable being there and posing for photos with one arm around a queen and the other holding their apparently unironic condemnatory pickets. That one loud guy was having to do, to be frank, a piece of work to keep the hate going.

In the end, I think I’m really glad they were there. We all had a lot of fun, some of it at their expense and some not, and some of us had valuable experiences of what it used to be like pretty much anytime the queer community tried to make a space for itself for a day. So, uh, yeah, protesters. Thanks for coming out. Zing!