I am not sure if I am remembering 1993 or 1996 in the current edition of the South Florida Blade, but I do remember having a hellaciously great time. Here's my take on DC march:
In "The Lion In Winter," Kate Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine says "I made Louis take me on Crusade. I dressed my women as Amazons and we rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn . . . but the troops were dazzled."
Our various gay marches and demonstrations and virally generated instant activism are the new Crusades, but there was a time, not too long ago, when the crusading urge meant going to Washington DC. Recently, the crowned and Arthurian Cleve Jones proclaimed a new crusade when he announced an October convening in DC to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
The reaction of the gay Knights of the Round Table (our prominent gay bloggers, political insiders, journalists and activists) was not quite what the king had hoped for. They question the impact of such an exertion at a time of limited resources. They wonder if local smaller efforts might not be more effective. They won't admit it, but many of them are loathe to support an event not of their own devising.
Like cardinals entering a conclave, none will admit to a desire to be crowned LGBT leader of America while quietly scuttling the work of the competition. They begin to whisper their suspicions that the strategies suggested by our venerable gay royalty are dated and tired and outmoded. Some, loyalists to the death, say that if we do not all rally behind the king and stand with him in DC, we will all suffer when this crusade flops due to poor attendance.
Let me tell you how marching on Washington in 1996 dazzled me. I remember the collective euphoria of the swarm--realizing that the city was in our possession, and the shock and awe of converting it to gay. I remember gliding up the subway escalator into a mobbed Dupont Circle where men like Olympic judges gave forth with applause for each entrance. I remember being perched in a small window of the upstairs level of the Eagle, sprinkling beer on the tightly packed shirtless assemblage on the deck below. I remember crying upon locating lost friends stitched into the Quilt covering the Mall. I remember the hilarity of the sauna of the YMCA wherein we all realized that we who were gay held sway. (The one straight fellow, cringing in the corner farthest from the door, anxiously weighed the merits of climbing over the intertwined revelers to escape rather than pass out from the heat.) I remember wondering if our friend Pablo, who had struggled to live long enough to make this trip, would be well enough to join the march. He was not, but he was happily surrounded by friends while watching the marchers pass below the window of his hotel room.
I do not remember any of the speeches or the names of the organizers or the size of the crowd. I do not know how we may or may not have changed the minds of straight America at home and watching us on television. I do not know how much political ground we gained by that show of force. I do know that I am terrifically glad I was there.
Thirteen years have passed since that march, and now, whenever I hear that gay chant "We're Here! We're queer! Get used to it!", I also hear Lisa Simpson's rejoinder "You do this every year! We are used to it!". Maybe the crusades have lost their dazzle. Maybe the newest generation of gays will go to Washington and not have the type of defining moment and memory I hold dear. Maybe no one watching will be impressed.
The third chapter of the biblical Book of Ecclesiates reminds us that everything has its season. War, peace, love and hate. But what are we to make of this awkward time in which we find ourselves? Do we book our flights, and make the grand old-school gesture one more time? Do we focus on digital activism at the expense of physical activism? Do we make mini-swarms locally and magnify them via the net? Will Facebooking rather than hotel booking our struggle for equality bring better results?
With one caution, I am willing to let the gay Knights among us decide this issue. If you trash this march on Washington, you had better be ready with an alternative that is not only more efficient but one that is equally enjoyable.