As I said in my previous post, I went to Washington D.C. this weekend with my friend Lori to march for GLBT equality. And it was amazing.
Going in, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know how many people would be there or how they would be reacting. I didn’t know what the police would be like or how such a march would be coordinated. Would it be chaotic? A riot? Would I have to fight to stay on my feet and avoid being trampled to death? How easy would it be to stay with my group of four (myself and three others)?
I was pleasantly surprised when my group got downtown. I saw facets and sights I hadn’t really seen, or in some cases considered, before this weekend. I saw groups of people on the Metro carrying colorful signs (and some were colorful in the literary sense of the word; but I’ll leave them to your imagination). ;-) Lesbians leaning on their partners’ shoulders, gay men with their arms around one another. On the Metro! In the streets! It seemed so simple and felt like it should have always been that way.
However, it’s not always that way. People are afraid to be who they are, for fear of persecution, but today was our day, the day for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, and GLBT supporters to come out in droves and give one another the courage to be who we all are. The courage to fight for rights we have so long wanted but never been able to have. And for some of us, the courage to fight for rights we don’t necessarily need for ourselves but know others deserve, rights that have long been denied (and for no good reason).
When the march got underway, I found most of the answers to my questions rather quickly. It was anything but a riot. It was a little chaotic because there were so many people, but that was the only reason. Police were cooperating. They were there to help us, protect us, and it felt wonderful to have that support. While we had been crowded pretty close together before the march started, once we were walking, we could spread out nicely. There was no real danger of being trampled, thankfully. Christmas shoppers could learn a thing or two from this group of queers and queer supporters. :-)
When we finally got to the Capitol building, two young men spoke; I think both of them were teenagers, still in high school or maybe just out of high school. One was straight, and the other was gay. Both young men spoke with an eloquence I could never dream of having, especially at such a young age. Even now, I envy them. I envy their courage to speak to hundreds of thousands of people—but more importantly, I envy their courage to speak up on something as important and dividing as GLBT issues. I couldn’t have done it at their respective ages. I’m still not sure I could today.
We also listened to speeches by the organizers of the event, a particularly powerful one by the head organizer. Cynthia Nixon, an award-winning actress perhaps best known for her role as Miranda on Sex and the City, even showed up to march and gave a rousing oratory on fighting for equality and on her own struggle to marry her partner of almost five years. Judy Shepard, mother of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard, spoke to us as she has spoken to many GLBT/supporters over the years. Lady Gaga marched (and may have performed, but if she did, I wasn’t there by that point). Kristin Chenoweth tweeted that she marched as well; I would have loved to have seen her and congratulated her on her well deserved Emmy.
After I left the rally, I checked Twitter on my iPhone because I hadn’t been able to get an Internet connection during the rally. Preliminary guesses put the crowd at 100,000 to 150,000, most likely more. When I saw this, I remembered a moment about thirty minutes into the rally when someone announced that we were still seven blocks deep, even with all the people that had already arrived on the Capitol mall. Seven blocks deep, thirty minutes into the rally! Insane.
Thinking back on the day, I am not in the least surprised that the openness continued throughout the day; even on Metro ride back, people were holding each other. Safety in numbers, perhaps, and there were plenty of those to go around today. But I wonder…tomorrow, will D.C. show any signs of GLBT life? Will there be a man holding his partner in public? A woman? Will GLBT America go back into the closet tomorrow, or will it stay out and continue the fight? Perhaps one of the most memorable and poignant moments from today comes to mind now: to get into the rally, many of us had to climb, literally, over a stone wall.
If that isn’t symbolic, I don’t know what is. The National Equality March was a new kind of Stonewall, a protest for a newer generation; and I hope the feeling lasts months, if not years. Or forever.
GLBT America (and the world) deserves it.
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