National Equality March

I stepped onto my Los Angeles flight to Washington, D.C. with only the faintest idea of what would actually happen when I got there.  But an unusual feeling came over me when I realized this– for the first time, I felt like even though I had no immediate plan, or even a map to this strange city, that I would find my way.  The plane set down and I, having checked no bags, and wearing my trusty sneakers that have kept me comfortable through all my long days, found a cab to take me to my hotel.  The cab ride took me on a highway ride past the Washington Monument, and the Capitol Building.  The buildings carried such power, such a tremendous energy, that the cab ride felt like no less than going into the belly of the beast.

But everything was going to be okay.

After an hour of dancing and drinking at Cobalt, one of D.C.’s gay bars, I had had enough of Equality Disco and needed some sleep because I was gonna have an early start.  After a brief run, I arrived three hours early to the meeting place of the March.  The Starbucks right near the park was full to capacity with future protestors.

Here’s where I’m going to take my first objection to my community (actually, this is my objection to all modern Americans): this is EXACTLY the reason why I initially wanted to drive to D.C.  Protests have historically been get on a bus that says “D.C. or Bust” (one bus coming from Chicago reportedly did bust– ouch).  I wanted something a little grittier, something that was a little more of a sacrifice that didn’t result in me saying: “I have a MARCH to get to– Where the Eff are my BAAAAAAGS??”

But fly I did, and here I stood in line at the Starbucks, like all the other modern d-bags.  The floor was covered with overturned protest signs.  I felt cheap.  “Yeah, yeah, equality, freedom, all that– Hey, that better be SOY, God Damn It, or I’m coming back here after I demand a repeal of DOMA, and I’m gonna demand a repeal of your JOB!”  Eh…

So, after this brief bitter taste, I was left to fully enjoy the majesty of what was already forming in the park.  People of all colors and backgrounds: singles, families, gay kids.  So many GAY TWEENS, I couldn’t believe my eyes– some were there with their parents– I nearly fainted from pride.

Equal Marriage Now!

Around ten o’clock they all started corralling us into a group, and there were already hundreds, close to a thousand people there by then.  The energy was amazing!  Everyone was so up, and being quite frankly, really, really gay.  A big pride parachute was passed over the crowd!

Rainbow Parachute!

To avoid feeling like Travis Bickle, what with my sunglasses, video camera and loner status, I decided to start chatting up some people.  Below are two of the sassiest men ever…

Two of the sassiest men ever.

To occupy the two hours in between round-up time and the noon march, the restless crowd began a series of about fifteen different chants, which we were to quickly memorize and then call back at a moment’s notice.  This proved exciting, difficult, but primarily hilarious.  Some good’uns: “Obama, Obama, let Mama marry Mama” and “1-2-3-4 open up the closet door, 5-6-7-8 don’t assume your kids are straight.” And one of the not-so-good’uns: “Get up, get down, there’s a civil rights movement in this town.”  Too many goddamn syllables! The last part became half-mush, half-rushing to get the sentence out in time.  I became particularly emboldened by the simple fact that we were changing chants so much and at a moment’s notice, that everyone at point had to fall victim to the group chant/loner spill-over, popularized in The Simpsons by “Mono–D’OH!”
This happened ALL DAY LONG.  An hour in, when it came for your turn to fuck up, everyone had your back and saluted you.  Such a community!

Again, to avoid serial-killer status among the crowd, I really wanted marching buddies.  So I approached two sweet-looking people I noticed from my hotel.  I told them I was here by myself and asked if they wouldn’t mind me marching with them.
Marching BuddiesTheir names were James, the gay man, and Heather, the bisexual chickadee, and they were from Lincoln, Nebraska.  I was immediately won over by their generosity, and with their stories.  Both had just recently come out (James, six months ago, and Heather had just come out that morning to her friends and family).  They high-tailed it out all the way to D.C.  It must have cost them 500 bucks-a-piece to get their asses here to march.  I cannot begin to appreciate that enough.

So, I had my marching buddies in tow, and the streets opened up, and the March began!

I even happened to take my friend Drew’s sunglasses with me (he left them at my apartment– thanks, Drew! You’ll get them back!).  Drew, your sunglasses marched for Equality!
Drew's Sunglasses
A lot of the free picket signs if you didn’t bring any were handed out by the Socialist Worker website, so observe this potentially damaging picture of me!
Potentially damaging pic of me
We marched through the beautiful architecture of the city.  We marched past the White House, where a small uproar began…
White House
And then it continued past the National Treasury, whose role in all of this was lost on the crowd.
National Treasury

*shakes fist at National Treasury* Oh, the others may not know, but I will always remember your efforts to put my people down, National Treasury!!

With every single corner we turned, more supporters waited on the sidelines and flowed into us.  The amoeba grew larger by the second.  James, Heather and I wove our way expertly to the front of the line every time.  There was a ruthlessness in the air that was infectious.  We all had a destination in our hearts, if not in our minds– we must reach the Capitol.  We must reach the Capitol.  An unseen hand drove us there.

Then, we turned the final corner.  It laid there in front of us, miles down the road, but there it stood.  Capitol Hill.  Where all of our fates will one day be decided.  It was massive even from this distance.  The image of it frightened me.  Like I said before, it had a life to it, unlike any other building I’ve seen.

Still, the March never slowed for a second.  I couldn’t stop my feet even if I wanted to, now.  There was a massive crowd behind me, though I didn’t look back, and there was no stopping until we reached the Hill.

We past the statues at the foot of the hill…we climbed the path…got to the grass…and then, finally, there we all were.
Barricade

I was at the front of the barricade, muthafuckas.  I am proud of that.  James, Heather and I stood as close as we possibly could.  If the Martians from “Mars Attacks!” had been there to speak, we would have been the first to die.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of DC sang, and then the speakers began…2:00 to 6:00.  Four hours flew by like nothing at all.  50-some speakers, each with 10 minutes of the most blood-chilling, soul-shaking speeches I’ve ever heard in my whole Goddamn life.  We heard from Lady Gaga (as I’m sure you know by now), Cynthia Nixon from “Sex and the City,” beat poets, Lt. Dan Choi, young people, Latinos, Asians, trans folk, ex-senators, Dustin Lance Black and Cleve Jones.  But the most vibrant speech of all was by the event’s initial caller, recovering Congressman David Mixner.

Please forgive the shakiness and obstructed view– I hope the power of his voice and words comes through.

And among all these people, Judy Shepherd spoke.  The very sound of her name by that point in the event reduced me to tears.  James and I turned to each other instinctively at that point and had an understanding: “This is going to suck.”  After Judy devastated us with just her mere presence and a few simple words, the event went on.

And on and on and on.  Frankly, it was a little long.
Gay Power

My favorite speaker of the day had to be Julian Bond (my camera was out of battery at this point).  Julian Bond is the aged head of the NAACP. And he’s straight.  And one of our biggest supporters.  He spoke so elegantly about the role of African-Americans in our struggle.  “We [blacks] should be honored that a group such as this is looking to our struggle for inspiration.  That they mimic our tactics and find inspiration in our music should be a badge of honor.  We are not the only ones who have suffered in this world.”

Mr. Bond concluded his statements with words that I will now live by forever: “Good things don’t come to those who wait.  Good things come to those who agitate.”

When Cleve Jones spoke, he gave me and many others the best moment of the day.  “I wish you could see what I see from here.”

He then asked us to turn around and look at who had come.  At this point, I realized I had not yet looked behind me.  This is what I saw…
200K Strong

It was the most beautiful moment of my life thus far.  That’s 200,000 people.  200,000 people come from all over the country to be here today.  “Mr. President and members of Congress, if you fight for us, we will be the wind at your backs,” a speaker said.  Never in my life did I imagine my community would have this much power– this much strength– this many numbers.

“They said you wouldn’t come,” was something I heard many people say all day.  We did.  I did.  James and Heather did.

I have much more to say about this day, but many of them are pithy Adam Sass-like jokes and personal opinions.  Moment-ruiners, if you will.

I will leave these for my follow up blog tomorrow.  I just want you to leave you looking at that picture again.
200K Strong

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Written by Adam Sass

Adam Sass

ADAM SASS is a journalist and copy editor for Mediaplanet, which prints in USA Today. His short story appeared in the anthology STARLING SCI-FI: NEW TALES OF THE BEYOND and was nominated for Best Science Fiction Story by Writer’s Digest. He lives in New York City with his husband and two dachshunds.

Keep up with Adam’s pop culture blogging at GeeksOut.org and on his (over)active Twitter: @TheAdamSass.