In Rainbows: Gay Rights March 10-11-09

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In Rainbows: Gay Rights March 10-11-09

It was a PERFECT day, weather-wise.  It’s important that you know that first and foremost.  There is nothing worse than taking to the streets in wet shoes.  It’s a little known fact that the Civil Rights movement was as successful as it was because we were going through an El Nino at the time. True story. Look it up.

The March organizers estimated 250,000.  Fox news estimated Harvey Fierstein and Kristen Chenowith.westboro_gay_march

We were gathered in a square near the Farragut North metro stop (or "Faggot North" as it was naturally redubbed for the occasion). We were milling about, waiting for Noon when we saw the charming folks from the Westboro Baptist Church on a corner with their usual hateful signs and slogans. But, unlike most people/groups who encounter these Neanderthals, the gays started asking if they could have their pictures taken with them. The crazies just yell craziness at them ("you will eat your babies!" to which someone responded, "oh, so you're in favor of gay adoption, then?"). Then everyone started to stand in front of them, smiling and not taking them seriously at all, completely robbing them of their ability to hate. Then they did something I never thought I’d see the Fred Phelpses do: THEY RAN AWAY. They didn't leave. They didn't storm off. THEY RAN AWAY.  It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life. Until...

11:58 and we're getting ready to march. This thing actually started on time (must have been the lesbians in charge of timing). We are in a sea of humanity. Signs everywhere. People banging drums and blowing whistles. A lot of straight couples with their kids, which was heartening. Then, in the clear, brilliant blue sky above us, at about three minutes past noon, a rainbow appeared in the sky above us, faintly at first, then growing, brightening to a vibrant penumbra.  I wept for joy. Now, granted, I also wept for joy at Pam and Jim’s wedding.  And at certain bowel movements.  But still, you get my point.

lopez_white_houseThe march officially began and we headed to Lafayette Park and then on to the White House, chanting “Obama! Obama! Let mamma marry mamma!” a chant of which I approved not only for its clever use of one of the few agenda-appropriate words that rhymes with “Obama,” (pajama?) but also because it put the lezzies front and center, rather than the boys, which was a nice change of pace for events such as these.  My friends and I peeled off from the march for a bit to take pictures in front of the White House and then my friend Brooke and I couldn’t resist the urge to channel our inner hippies and yell, “Hey, hey, LBJ! How many kids did you kill today?!?”

So, on went the march up Pennsylvania Avenue, a sea of people sashaying southeast toward the Capitol.  This is where we noticed something that made us even happier than the rainbow and the cowardly liars: youth.  Kids, teenagers, college students. They were everywhere, most of them gay but many straight. And they were vocal and energetic. They never stopped chanting. They never slowed down. They pushed us through with the energy of youth that was humbling and inspiring.  I’ve often felt that mine was the in-between generation, too young to have been directly affected by AIDS and too old to come of age simply expecting our civil rights to be inherent.  It was a beautiful thing. This is the generation that’s going to get things done. I have high hopes for them.

We arrived at the Capitol and surged toward the stage.  The lawn slopes gently down away from the Capitol toward the mall and we were right at the front.  From that vantage point, we could see the tens of thousands of people arriving, filling in the lawn, filling in the mall. It was an incredibly inspiring sight.  The gay men’s chorus of DC (I refrained from making my usual joke of calling them the “Gay Men’s Health Chorus”) started to sing as we gathered.  Their performance ended with all of us singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which, to my utter surprise, only barely nudged a toe over the line into camp.  It was too heartfelt for camp.  Two minutes into the rally and we were already blubbering wrecks.

Then the rally began in earnest.  A parade of notables, not-so-notables, politicians, activists, celebrities (LADY GAGA, I love you!!!) and, okay, Harvey Fierstein and Kristin Chenowith.  The speeches were impassioned, loving, angry, hopeful, condemning, uplifting, fire-breathing, chorus-singing and wholly, wholly honest.  There was little patience with the current President, little love for the former one (Clinton, not Bush).  There is, I’ve learned, very little difference between a hostile administration and an indifferent one. At least with the hostile one, you know where you stand.

It was a beautiful day.  And as we left the lawn after three hours of a rally that was still not over, I was heartened by the sight of all those kids who were still there, not ready for it to be over.  All the grownups had gotten tired, our backs starting to ache, our tongues in need of a rewarding taste of alcohol.  But the kids stayed.  They might still be out there.  I saw the future on Sunday and it looks very promising. To paraphrase Kushner, the messengers have finally arrived in the form of college students and high school seniors. Now, hopefully, the great work can finally begin.

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