Only time will tell exactly what effect the National Equality March in DC will have. Will the crowds move from the streets of the Capitol back to their home states and districts? I hope so. Will it further the divide between the beltway gays and the grassroots or build much-needed bridges? I'm not holding my breath on that one.
One thing that I don't have to "wait and see" about is the personal effect the March had on me. That's what this blog is about- the personal, emotional response I had to this event. The impact was immediate, powerful, and, at times, overwhelming.
First- let me explain where I am coming from. I live in Florida, one of the most conservative, backwards states in the union. We have one of the most far-reaching anti-equality marriage amendments in the nation, no protections for LGBT people in employment or housing, and the only blanket ban on gays and lesbians adopting, among other odious anti-LGBT laws. Fighting for change in the state can too often seem like standing in a dark room alone and screaming at the wall. It's exhausting, discouraging, and sometimes seemingly impossible work. Knowing that in a "state-by-state" strategy world we'll be one of the last to make headway can be soul crushing. But we fight on- letting the small victories, like electing our own to local offices and passing protections where we can, keep our hope alive, alone as we feel at times.
That's what the March did for me- I saw our community, in all its diverse glory, together and energized. It gave me hope and recharged my batteries to keep fighting against the odds. It reconnected me, and so many others like me, to each other.
Standing in the crowds of people of every race, sexuality, age, gender identity and expression, was overwhelming. It was one of the first events I have been to that I felt really reflected what our community looks and feels like. It felt real and authentic.
Often we talk about how our representation in the media looks incredibly homogeneous- white, middle-aged, well-off men, that leave out images of huge swaths of our community. To me, the March attendees, the speakers, and those across the country following it online and on TV were such an amazing reflection of who we are- people from every walk of life and every background.
The feeling flowing through the groups of people was different as well. It wasn't the celebratory, party atmosphere of Pride events, but seemed a lot like the feelings of people just like me- tired and impatient but ready to keep working and wanting movement on the causes they care about.
I was also moved to see that the issues represented reached the entire spectrum- repealing DADT and DOMA, passing a fully-inclusive ENDA, marriage equality, immigration equality, healthcare, poverty, and everything in between. The signs, speakers, and chants all reflected issues that many times don't get the most media attention in connection with out community. It was refreshing.
But let's be honest- Was everything perfect? Of course not. Where there problems, divisions and infighting? Yes. Those are all things that deserve to be looked at and dissected so we can learn and grow as a movement. I'm of the mind that we need every avenue and strategy at our disposal- lobbying and protests, radical and conventional, state and federal. Pressure from all sides and directions is how any movement has gained rights.
But on a purely personal level- did the March move me, inspire me, and make me feel part of something larger? Absolutely. The effect on me was beyond words. And for that, it will always be one of the most memorable moments of my life.
I left the March and Rally feeling recharged, and more importantly, not alone in what can be a tough fight in a conservative area of the country. I felt like I was part of a community. Standing with tens of thousands of other people with similar goals was a statement - a strong, loud statement.
And for me, even with all the controversy about the March and debate about its effectiveness, that made it all worth it.
For more of my personal pictures from the March, feel free to visit my Flickr page or Facebook Album.