Dear Flip: An open letter to Flip Benham on the occasion of his disrupting wedding ceremonies

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Dear Flip,

I don’t know if you remember me or not, but there was a time back in the 1990s when you were on a first name basis with my parents. If you don’t know me you should, my photo is on the cover of one of your Operation Save America brochures and the cover of Rusty Thomas’ book. I danced on stage to the song “Children Things We Throw Away” at Operation Rescue National events in Melbourne and Birmingham, and when you spoke in Bradenton, each time performing to standing ovation. I’ve spoken at ORN events and had people praise me afterward.

When I say that I was a child of Rescue and that I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, I mean it literally. The t-shirts are shoved in the back of a dresser drawer, artifacts that I’d never wear again but can’t bring myself to throw out.

I’m writing to say thank you.

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Thank you for creating an activist. When you’re shoved on to the front lines of the culture wars as a child, activism becomes second nature. I know how to fight because ORN/OSA taught me. I wouldn’t be the activist I am today without you.

Just as importantly, thank you for so mishandling the situation with the conflict my parents were in–you know the details–that you started our break from the movement. I may have never gotten away from the oppression of the religious right and become the fabulous queer I am today without what happened that Sunday afternoon in Melbourne. For that I truly thank you. God uses all kinds of people in unexpected ways to get a person where they need to be, and God used you screwing over my parents to put me on the path to freedom.

Flip, I see you in the news trying to disrupt weddings and while I feel for the couples whose happy day is disrupted by your anger and malice, I can’t help but smile a bit. You see, Flip, when I look at those pictures of you shouting in rage, I’m reminded of how you tried to turn the movement children into arrows in your holy war. Your voice still rings in my ears, “moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, little boys and little girls,” but instead of the multi-generational army you were building, it’s just you shouting at the wind, powerless to stop the march of justice and equality.

As for me, I learned that God is a loving and merciful God and not the satanic monster you preach that He is. But as I said, I learned the activist lesson well, and I’m still turning theology into biography in the streets. Today I’m doing it behind a rainbow banner because when I ask what Jesus would do the answer comes back loud and clear. Jesus would stand for the marginalized and the oppressed, just like he did in his day. Turning my theology into biography means that my name is forever in the Family Equality Council brief that’s been influencing judges in marriage equality rulings across the nation.

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The game is over, you lost, the world you tried to use kids like me to create is never going to materialize. We’re going to take the skills you gave us and build a better world for ourselves, and for our children and grandchildren as yet unborn.

Most sincerely, 

Kathryn E. Brightbill