Will a Gay March on Washington work?

8 06 2009

Cleve Jones confirmed yesterday a rumor that’s been bubbling for a few weeks:  that there will be a national gay march on Washington on October 11 (see Boston Globe story).

I love Cleve Jones and was honored to meet him a few times in my past political life,  but I wonder if a glbt march on Washington–excuse me, a GLBT March on Washington–is the right thing for these times.

Marches began because they were the best vehicle to get folks’ attention–for a prolonged time.  But in an age of iPhones and Blackberries, Facebook and Twitter, YouTube and tiVO, is that still true?  IS flying down to March on Washington the equivalent to using a rotary phone to chat with someone (a Princess rotary phone, to be sure)?

Which do you think is more effective:  A half-day March or millions upon millions of emails (or, better yet, Tweets) flooding Capital Hill and the White House for a sustained period of time?

Put another way, will Obama–who, I assume, is the Target-in-Chief look up from his Blackberry long enough to notice?  Will this decidedly NON-1960’s president pay any attention to this most 1960’s tactic?

What about the media?  Sure. It’ll make for great tv–for 15 seconds.  And then, like most parties, it’ll be remembered fondly by those who were there and quickly forgotten by those who weren’t.  To paraphrase LBJ, are gay marches like peeing in a dark suit?  They make you feel all warm inside, but no one really notices?  I’m not sure whether Cleve is a fan of golden showers or not, but Is THAT what he has in mind?

And what about our community?  Is a March really where we should be focusing our time AND money?

Face it:  more than a political statement, marches–at least GLBT Marches–are an excuse to party (and stoke the considerable egos of those who call themselves gay leaders).

I am am sure this morning that HRC, the Victory Fund, GLAAD, the DNC,  AIDS Action, et al have their fund raising arms in motion—trying to secure the hottest spot to have the hottest party.  And they’re dialing for dollars, calling sponsors to ask for big, big, big bucks to put their logos in front of a gaggle of gay boys who are high as a kite.

Imagine if those dollars went to actual lobbying?  To AIDS research (I know, I know–crazy.  Who wants to find a cure for AIDS when you’ve made such a nice career out of it?!?!!).

And imagine if all those glbt’ers took the party hardy dollars they plan on spending in DC and gave it to a small non-profit that actually gets work done.  Can’t think of one>?  Start with GLAD (the legal force behind gay marriage in MA and the current DOMA federal case).

Actually, GLAD’s a great case statement for what our community SHOULD be doing now.  Mary Bonauto and her team had the balls to push for gay marriage when the only–and I mean ONLY–glbt organization that thought it was a good idea was Freedom to Marry Coalition, led by the always amazing Josh Friedes. (I know from whence I speak.  I was in the room for many conversations when gay “leaders” slammed their fists on the table and/or literally walked out of the room because they thought the idea was insane).

GLAD and MassEquality (the dressed up version of FTMC) never threw big parties (until they actually had a win to celebrate).  They didn’t do big, fancy ads, or whore out for big sponsorship dollars.  They just did the work of building a sound legal argument, finding great plaintiffs, and relentlessly pushing their message where it mattered most:  Beacon Hill.

And it worked.

Now, look at Prop 8 in CA.  Are those “bigoted” Mormons, blacks and Latinos to blame?  To an extent.   But a big share of the blame rests at the feet of those who fought FOR gay marriage.  They are Exhibit A in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

So, what would happen if the gay community told our self-anointed leaders “Thanks, but no thanks”?  What if we had a virtual march—not on those who oppose us–but on those who pledge to lead us….and fail repeatedly?  What if we asked HRC or the DNC “what have you done for us lately” and told them that letters, proclamations, parties and taking our money did not count as answers?

And what if, to borrow a line from my former boss and forever hero Gerry Studds, rather than Party on Washington on October 11, every single person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender simply stood up–wherever they live their day-to-day lives–and said, simply, “I’m gay.”  Or, what if we borrowed a strategy from our immigrant brothers and sisters and called in sick to work on October 11 (remember what got corporate America’s attention on AIDS???).

As Gerry used to say, if everyone who is g,l,b or t did that–hell, if 1/3 of everyone did that–it would all be over.

Now, THAT’s a reason to throw a party!!




2 responses

9 06 2009

I have HAD IT. I refuse to comply with our government in ANY way until my loved ones and I are EQUAL. Taxes? Jury Duty? F-that. Not until I am treated with the SAME respect and given the SAME civil law access that others have.

We need to STOP acting UN-equal. NOW.

Here’s my personal message for the White House:


9 06 2009

hey there john…thanks for the comment…and the passion. i’ve increasingly been thinking that the latest evolution of ACT UP is due. not that it is–or ever was–the only way, but that impatient, supremely confident chorus that relentlessly held EVERYONE accountable is missed.

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