11-Year-Old Hero Will Lead Gay Pride Parade

Guess who’s helping lead San Antonio’s gay pride parade this Saturday?

Will Phillips!

Will is the 11-year-old who’s been advocating civil rights for years — years! — refusing to stand for the Pledge because we don’t really have “liberty and justice for all” and speaking out in support of same-sex marriage.

Will has long been motivated by a desire to see people treated fairly, she said. While just in preschool, Will fumed when other school kids taunted one of his good friends, a child with severe speech delays. “He’d get so mad when people would make fun of his friend. He was like this little four-year-old vigilante who was out to solve this problem, wanting to argue about it. He always had that mindset.”

Last summer Will helped lead his first pride parade in Fayetteville, Ark., angering Christian conservative groups like the American Family Association, who called his participation in the parade tantamount to child abuse. In a message sent out to thousands of supporters at the time, the organization said, “He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults. For gay activists to trot out this child and make him the poster child for promoting unnatural sexual expression is a form of child abuse.”

But any abuse Will remembers came from the Christian set. “I remember people saying awful things. … I remember protestors, the ones that were there yelling, they were the ones being vulgar,” he said.

Will has a better understanding of social justice and the courage you need to fight for it than most politicians and the entire Religious Right. I can’t wait to see what he does as he gets older.

(Thanks to Rob for the link!)

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Kev Quondam, Kevque Futurum

    Seriously need to buy this kid a bike.

  • Gabriel

    Wow. He’s 11? And he’s been trying to make things better for other kids since he was 4? That’s awesome. We need more kids like him around!

  • Yoav

    Christians are complaining about children taking part in political events, are you f@?king kidding me?
    You go Will.

  • http://pinkydead.com David McNerney

    Making a minor a “poster child” for promoting any form of sexual expression is child abuse.

    And if a Gay Pride Parade promotes sexual expression (as opposed to simple love), then so does any parade, especially family oriented ones.

    In fact, more so with family oriented ones. You can’t have a family without sex. You can be gay though.

  • Claudia

    Yes, we all know how opposed Christian fundamentalists are to manipulating kids. I mean, they would never psychologically abuse children.

    Poor Will, thinking that everyone is deserving of dignity and equality. Pity he doesn’t have a righteous Christian treatment.

  • Drew M.

    Seriously need to buy this kid a bike.

    And a fez. Then he could lead that parade in fucking style!

  • R.B.

    To be honest, this kind of reminds me of those little child preachers, like Marjoe Gortner who started preaching at four years old. I’m completely skeptical that a four year old can understand Christianity enough to preach it, and can only assume that he is simply repeating what he’s been taught to say. It would be a little hypocritical of me to just accept the story of a child “preaching” social justice without considering the possibility that he’s merely obeying his parents by repeating what he’s been taught. Not that teaching children to value social justice is bad, but exploiting them for publicity isn’t the most ethical of practices…just my opinion based on my first impressions and limited knowledge of the situation.

  • Jess

    What an intelligent little man! Gives me hope!

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com Spanish Inquisitor

    …angering Christian conservative groups like the American Family Association, who called his participation in the parade tantamount to child abuse.

    Jeez, these people don’t really care how much money I spend on irony meters, do they?

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com Yet Another Atheist

    I could only hope that my son grows up to be as intelligent and brave as this boy. And R.B., sometimes kids are much more aware than we care to think.

  • Norris

    So, we’ve established that the atheist’s opposition to indoctrinating children is situational. If it’s an issue with which the atheist agrees, then indoctrinate those little children all day long.

    So much for rational consistency on the part of the enlightened crowd.

  • http://cyberlizard.com CyberLizard

    @R.B. – I’ve met this kid and am friends with his parents. He’s 11 years old, extremely intelligent and very compassionate. As are his parents. Of course they’ve influenced his outlook on life, but his “preaching” of social justice is purely this kid’s own. He’s been dragging them forward in a lot of cases.

    The quote about him as a 4 year old was just an example. And as a parent of an 8 and 5 year old, I can assure you that they can very acutely feel sympathy for those discriminated against at that age. My son has reacted very fiercely to people being treated unjustly at that age.

  • demetriusofpharos

    He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults.

    …And *sproing* goes the irony meter! Honestly, for the American Patriarchy Foundation to say something like that without a hint of satire just blows my mind.

  • Brian

    I met Will and Parents at Dragon*con last year. He is a very unusual kid, in the most wonderfully interesting way.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    There’s right, there’s wrong and then there’s this.
    I applaud the boy for his sense of justice and having the guts to do something about inequality. His parents must be very proud of him.
    Still, there’s the inevitable fallout from his participation in such events. The negative PR resulting from such behavior may do more harm to the cause than good.
    I’m in favor of slowly wearing an opponent down over time and I’m not sure if this fits in with that approach. Just because WE may be ready for this type of thing does not mean the rest of this idiotic, backwards country is.
    In the end, no single approach is going to win a war, but the wrong one can certainly lose it. Sometimes the moral thing to do isn’t always the correct thing to do.
    That being said, if he was my boy and asked for permission to march, I’d be hard-pressed to tell him “no”. I’d ask him to consider all of the possible ramifications of his actions, but in the end, I’d have to support him in what he felt was the right thing to do, even if I disagreed. The only way I’d interfere is if the child’s safety was in question.
    There are no easy answers.

  • http://honesttogodless.blogspot.com Matt Foss

    @Spanish Inquisitor:

    Jeez, these people don’t really care how much money I spend on irony meters, do they?

    Perhaps you should invest in the highest-capacity irony meter on the market. I don’t see these guys letting up anytime soon.

  • Mihangel apYrs

    ‘American Family Association … said, “He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults. For gay activists to trot out this child and make him the poster child for promoting unnatural sexual expression is a form of child abuse.’

    This from a cult that brainwashes their kids from birth..

    Sauce for the goose..

  • flatlander100

    I’m afraid I’m with RB above on this one. I’m uncomfortable with children becoming spokespersons for various “sides” on important public issues.

    And for all those whose irony meters have just pegged, seeing Xian wingnuts who like to put little kids up testifying to Christ’s divinity on the web complaining about this young man: you’re right. I agree. But then it ought to make you as uncomfortable to see children offering up testimony on the other side of these issues as well. Does me.

    So on this, I share RB’s discomfort.

  • Justin Miyundees

    It’s fine and respectable to dress a kid up like an angel or a devil for halloween but the second you dress them up as one of The Village People, the shit’s gonna hit the fan.

    I’m also afraid I don’t agree with this. It just puts the kid in too much danger. I support this with the same enthusiasm that I support “Right to Lifers” taking their kids to harass Planned Parenthood offices.

  • Justin Miyundees

    But at the same time, if my child says he wants to do this, I don’t believe I could refuse him the right to do it. I have a 12 year old, and I know kids do harbor strong feelings and if you’re right, as this kid is, you’re right.

    However, I’d be very careful that they were HIS positions and not mine. The preacher is right, kids shouldn’t be parrots – ain’t it funny they run parrot factories?

  • Thorny

    while it is great that we have people like this on our side, one of the criticisms we have of the religious is that they indoctrinate kids and have 4 year olds holding up anti gay banners and the such, now it is clear to us that this kid is doing this of his own accord it probably won’t appear that way to the religious and it will appear we are just as bad as them. So if he wants to do it then let him but i wouldn’t be surprised at a media/church backlash.

  • DJ

    I’m all for kids getting involved in the political arena, but from what I’ve seen of a typical gay pride parade, it’s no place for a child.

  • Star Stuff

    I think she was 7 or 8, Kid Unit 2.0 came home from school in tears. Someone called her best friend gay – which made that little girl cry. She said, “We hugged & hugged til the school bus came”. My daughter didn’t know what to think but she knew being called gay was an insult, even though neither of them truly knew what the term meant. So we sat down & I asked her if she knew and she sad she didn’t. I said “Well, it’s when a boy loves a boy or a girl loves a girl” (just to keep it simple). Do you think that’s a bad thing? “No” “Miss Deb & Miss Jackie are gay. Do you think they’re bad people?” “Oh NO! Years later, she helped form her school’s GBLT/PFLAG group – even though she’s straight. She takes her relationships VERY seriously, no matter what flavor you are.

  • Rich Wilson

    During the Prop 8 battle, the Pro 8 side put out a big ad (print for sure, and TV too I think)
    It featured a young girl who went to her teacher’s gay wedding. Of course like any field trip, she had parents’ permission, and her parents were SSM supporters. I’m pretty neither she nor her parents permission for her image to be used by the other side.

    I’m not sure how I’d define indoctrination. I know Will’s outrage is his own, but perhaps if he grew up in a different family, his outrage would be targeted at abortion. I think kids should be seen AND heard, IF they want to be. I’m more uncomfortable with kids not being respected.

  • Kerri

    While I am dead set against indoctrination of any kind, I get the feeling from the articles about this boy and from statements from his parents that he has come to these conclusions on his own. I also have a gifted son this same age who is incredibly insightful (when he chooses to be) so it is possible that the foundation they have given him has enabled him to build this opinion on his own. He is definitely one of a kind in this respect and he has inspired me tremendously. When volunteering in my son’s school, I stood and said the pledge with the kids, I would just not say the “under God” part (I’m quite the out atheist so no one thought much of it) but I will definitely give the entire pledge another think. It is a tiny bit reassuring to know that there ARE kids like Will out there, few and far between though they may be, and while I still have no hope for the future of this country, at least I know there will be someone fighting until the bitter end.

  • Bones

    Welcome to San Antonio,Will. I’m glad to have you here.

  • Liz

    It annoys me when people assume a child like this is just being fed lines by their parents. When I was a child I had very strong opinions as well. I became a vegetarian at 8, because I believed animals didn’t deserve to die just so we could eat. At 10, when I learned that Catholics ‘hated gay people’, I asked my mom about it and I found her excuse ‘being gay isn’t a sin, acting on it is’ to be stupid. At ten years old, I told my mom Catholicism was not for me. I do give my mom props for not telling me I was wrong, even though she still made me go to church in hopes that I would change my mind. Young and educated children are quite capable of forming an opinion. I even think that some ‘Christian children’ actually have reasons to believe what they say. On the other hand, you have Fred Phelps young grand-kids who are shouting “fag soldiers” and can’t even tell you why they’re saying it.

  • T-Rex

    “He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults. For gay activists to trot out this child and make him the poster child for promoting unnatural sexual expression is a form of child abuse.”

    Do these fundy nit wits even listen to what they’re saying? They obviously need to take a good long look in the mirror.

  • http://www.adamandwouter.co.uk/blog/ Adam Highway

    This is brilliant.

    And, even though I can see WHY there are concerns being raised, and I understand them …

    This is BRILLIANT!

    Here’s the future, and it’s not ALL f*cked up!

  • Mihangel apYrs

    Norris et al

    not being privy to the home life of this family I don’t know if there has been indoctrination, but it is the duty of parents to socialise their children.

    Discussions and instructions to treat people with dignity and respect are essential in a civilised world. Teaching children that the “other” isn’t evil or to be bullied or reviled is important in a shrinking world.

    Teaching children that god is the answer without proof isn’t teaching, it’s indocrination!

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    A comment on child indoctrination. My daughter has always claimed that I was a strong influence on her, but happily it wasn’t in all areas. She’s 22 now and an atheist since the age of 8. She didn’t get that from me, because I was a theist until 2005.
    Luckily, I encouraged my kids to think for themselves, even though I was rather poor at following my own advice. My daughter decided religion was bunk all on her own. She figured it out without my help or the help of anyone else. She had no internet, no library books, no atheist peers exerting influence on her young mind…just common sense. She’s just smarter than I am, that’s all.
    I think Will is intelligent and he is doing what he wants, not what he’s being told to do.
    Right or wrong, the kid’s got guts and I, for one respect that. He’s going to make a fantastic adult.

  • Concerned Supporter

    Really??? Come one now. I am 100% for equal rights and totally for gay marriage. I myself am not gay, but I have family members and friends that are. I respect there rights as individuals and there partners, but parading around an 11 year old boy is totally ridiculous. By the way…. what happens when he turns 15 or 16 and decides that he is bi… or that now he likes girls? Maybe he will, maybe he won’t, but come on now. Lets get someone a little bit more credible to represent the gay community. This is stupid.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @Concerned Supporter,
    You’re confusing supporting gay rights with being gay.
    To my knowledge the kid has not come out as gay.
    Also, do I need to be a woman to be a feminist or to be a supporter of women’s rights?
    I had a feminazi on another post on this blog try to tell me (in so many words) that I couldn’t adequately understand or even discuss sexism because I wasn’t a woman. Absurd.
    Nope, not buying your argument.

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    Even if he DID come out as gay- what of it? There are children who are being gender transitioned before puberty, because it is obvious that they are, indeed, transgender. Many gay people are aware of their sexuality well before they actually would desire a sexual relationship with anyone. I think we aren’t giving kids enough credit sometimes.

    I’m willing to believe this boy is doing this because HE feels strongly, just based on my own children. My now 18 year old daughter has had strong beliefs from a young age. This is a broad generalization, but highly intelligent, gifted children are more likely to come to conclusions about injustices and skepticism, instead of simply parroting beliefs. Curiosity and drive have a lot to do with it. The kid that scream out fundie talking points likely ARE just saying what they are told, because they never have had the opportunity or ability (meaning access, not intelligence) to come to educated conclusions.

  • http://none Holly

    He has not come out as gay. He has a girlfriend, actually. I live in the same town as them and walked in the parade with them last weekend in Fayetteville, AR. If you listen to his interviews you can see that he is incredibly well-spoken for a 11-year-old and intelligent. He doesn’t seem like the type of person that does something he doesn’t want to. This is something he truly believes in. Who cares what age he is, if he made the decision to become an activist himself.

  • Jay Phillips

    I am Will’s father and I genuinely appreciate the concern. He’s IRREPRESSIBLE in his pursuit of what HE feels is right. His courage terrifies me at time & one of our regular debates is about if invisible fire can hurt you. (as is the case in a crowded movie theater.)

    Wills’s advise to me says much. When he was BARELY 10 & decided he wasn’t going to say the pledge in protest, I cautioned him to pick his battles & said that “sometimes it’s easier to go with the flow.”. He told me, “Yes it is but then nothing ever changes.”

    Then as now, his ideas & drive compells us to action even if his ideals are inherited from us.

    Thanks again for the concern & the critical appraisal.

  • Demonhype

    @Jay Phillips:

    My parents still tell me to just “go with the flow”, in defiance of everything else they taught me to be, and while I always felt as your son does, that “then nothing ever changes” I only wish I’d had the guts to stand on it at his age–I was much more of a coward when I was younger. He’s right–if no one ever takes that stand, the status quo remains solid. I hope he stays irrepressible like that–and we’ll all stand together with him! :) A kid with that much courage and conviction at that age has got to do some great things someday!

    I’m not sure how I’d define indoctrination. I know Will’s outrage is his own, but perhaps if he grew up in a different family, his outrage would be targeted at abortion.

    Speaking from my own experience, I was taught to hate abortion when I was a kid in Catholic school, and it was entirely based on mangled half-truths when it wasn’t based on outright lies. I was so horrified at those horrible women who would have their poor helpless babies mangled just so they wouldn’t be bothered! When I grew up and found out the truth I changed my mind because my hatred of abortion had been carefully nurtured by carefully-laid lies about a procedure I only half-understood as a child–and I don’t doubt those kids fighting abortion are in the same boat. I had to be indoctrinated to hold such opinions in general. On the other hand, as someone above said, most children don’t usually need much prodding to understand basic fairness.

  • Claudia

    There is no bright line between “upbringing” and “indoctrination”. Certainly, when you see a very young person stand up for a given cause, there are better than even odds that his or her parents agree with them and have raised them in an environment that was welcoming of those views. However this does not equal indoctrination. From what I’ve been able to gather, Will’s education about gay people was much like mine; there were gay people in my life, be it teachers neighbors or family friends. I was taught that equality was an important value and never told that there were exceptions for “certain people”. Hence it quite naturally came as a shock when I found out that gay people didn’t enjoy equal rights and some people thought they were wrong for just existing. No one sat me down and told me “The treatment of gay people is an outrage.” but of course my people-friendly upbringing led me to come to that conclusion.

    I do think we have to be vigilant, particularly concerning younger children, to ensure their views are their own and they are not puppets of their parents. Even when we vigorously agree with what’s being said, we have to value freedom of thought before those things. However in those conversations we also need to accept that there are gradations from “influence” to “indoctrination” and that it’s not always going to be possible for outsiders to distinguish them

  • http://lovejoyfeminism.blogspot.com Libby Anne

    From the article: “He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults. For gay activists to trot out this child and make him the poster child for promoting unnatural sexual expression is a form of child abuse.”

    Seriously, WHAT? Do you have any idea how many times *I* was trotted out to anti-abortion parades and events, to pro-gun events, to anti-same-sex marriage rallies, as a child? My parents pushed me forward to talk to reporters, to be in pictures, etc, talking about what a wonderful testimony I had as a child speaking these truths. How the hell is that okay and this isn’t? Conservatives speak out of both sides of their mouths.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    DJ,

    I’m all for kids getting involved in the political arena, but from what I’ve seen of a typical gay pride parade, it’s no place for a child.

    How many gay pride parades have you been to? There are hundreds of children and families that march in pride parades all across the country. I don’t know about San Antonio, but in San Francisco, the vast majority of the parade is just as tame as the Fourth of July.

  • [Anonymous]

    I’m a Christian (and LGBT), but I still think this kid is awesome for standing up for others :,D Now just imagine what he could accomplish when he’s older, too… Go Will!

  • i dont buy this shit

    he is clearly being manipulated by adults and had a liberal agenda forced fed to him at a young age also people should not take him seriously cause you know he is fucking 11 


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