Brandon Holt is a young man on a mission. Whether that mission is impossible or not remains to be seen. After all, he’s trying to bring Tennessee government to its senses — a truly Herculean task. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he and his fellow student-activists eventually manage to muck out our state legislature’s smelly chambers, just as Hercules once cleansed the stinky stalls of King Augeas. According to legend, the Olympic games were founded to celebrate the victory of Hercules over the rotten-egg rulers of his day.
Holt recently graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School and is now bound for Princeton University. During his senior year, he helped organize seven protests against the now-infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which along with other bizarre bits of bigoted buffoonery (euphemistically called “legislation”) have made Tennessee the butt of many a late-night comedian’s ridicule.
Holt recently helped organize an eighth protest — this one against HB600, which Gov. Bill Haslam signed into law on May 23. It overruled a Metro ordinance that would have required vendors doing business with the city to have nondiscrimination employment policies covering sexual orientation and gender identity.
As reported by WSMV Channel 4 News, Holt and other students recently delivered a petition to Haslam asking him to “repeal the repeal” of Nashville’s nondiscrimination ordinance. According to Holt, he thought Haslam “was even more supportive because we are youth that are taking a stand for what we believe in.”
Holt has also been quoted nationwide by news organizations such as NBC News and msnbc.com, which reported him saying: “This is the civil rights movement of our time, and if we don't take advantage of our opportunity to stand up for what we believe in, then we have lost that opportunity. And this is something that we all feel so strongly about.”
Holt hit the ground running: “My first protest was something that I organized. I found that it wasn’t as daunting or as hard as I thought it would be.”
And he remains undaunted — despite his protests having failed to move Tennessee’s stone-age legislature: “Even though I guess we lost the fight, we kind of won because we set the stage for other young people to take part in government.”
Holt served as a congressional page and that service led him to become politically active: “At page school, I learned that the most important thing a citizen can do is participate actively in government.”
He later worked as an intern for Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who said of Holt and his gay rights movement: “It reminds me of the Freedom Riders in the ’60s. We haven’t had that kind of spunk and gumption displayed by a young person in Nashville in a long time, maybe half a century.”
On a more humorous note, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill has sparked a “light bulb idea” by former Star Trek actor George Takei, who proposes the following: “Any time you need to say the word ‘gay,’ you can simply say ‘Takei.’” He offered examples in a YouTube video: “You could safely proclaim you support Takei marriage. If you’re in a more festive mood, you can march in a Takei Pride Parade. Even homophobic slurs don't seem as hurtful if you say, ‘That’s sooo Takei.’”
Here’s a proposal of my own: “Discrimination is tacky, so buy a Bob Mackie, wear threads bright and fey, then pretend to be gay, till all bigots admit: “We were full of bull*&%?!”