The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

We Don’t Need Another March on Washington

With all due respect to Cleve Jones — who, in fact, is due a lot of respect for his years of activism — we do not need another LGBT march on Washington.

An activist who worked alongside slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk announced Event Planning Logistics
plans Sunday for a march on Washington this fall to demand that Congress establish equality and marriage rights for the lesbian, gay and transgender community.

Cleve Jones, whose character in last year’s award-winning movie Milk was played by Emile Hirsch, said the march planned for Oct. 11 will coincide with National Coming Out Day and launch a new chapter in the gay rights movement. He made the announcement during a rally at the annual Utah Pride Festival.

In an interview Friday, Jones said a confluence of events — a new president, the success of Milk which earned Sean Penn an Oscar, and Proposition 8 — makes this the right time to intensify the fight for equality.

“All of this working together has opened this new chapter,” Jones said. “I intend to make the most of it.”

As usual, I’m late to this story. I read it late last night, but at this point in my life, writing/blogging is near the bottom of my list. It comes after everything and everyone else. So by the time I get around to blogging a story like this one, it’s already been beat to death and much of what I’m going to say has been said already.

Nonetheless, I’ll say now what I said last night. We don’t need another march on Washington. Not now. Maybe when we have a victory to celebrate, but not when we have so much work to do.

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Look, I enjoy a good party as much as anyone else. I participated in the 1993 March for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Right and Liberation a year before I moved to DC. And I took part in the Millennium March in 2000, since I was already living here. I enjoyed them both. There was nothing I enjoyed more than the experience of being around so many other LGBT people. When I returned back to campus after the ’93 march, I told a straight friend of mine it was the first time I’d ever felt absolutely safe and “so ‘not strange’.” In 2000, it was fun to see the city I’d lived in for six years fill up with other LGBT people for the weekend.

But 15 years after the first march and 9 years after the second, I sit here and I ask myself: What did they accomplish? When we left D.C. in 1993 and 2000, what changed? Did we leave with concrete plans or strategies for advancing equality? Did we pass major legislation? Did our “friends” in D.C. suddenly become any more supportive than they were?

We all know the answers to these questions: No.

Two marches, sixteen years, and no ENDA, no omnibus civil rights legislation, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Jones that the momentum is more in our favor than ever before. But honestly, that momentum isn’t happening here in D.C. We don’t need another march, because it won’t be happening here on October 11. Not just because Congress isn’t even going to be here.

We don’t need another march, because of the immense cost in time, money and resources.

A march will cost and arm and a leg, and require foot soldiers to negotiate space, hotels, all sorts of logistical nightmares in such a short time frame. Wouldn’t you rather see resources to put people on the ground in Maine, or New York, or Washington state, or any other place where there are opportunities to stop anti-gay efforts and promote equality gains? Our movement is already stretched thin; there are a lot of great minds and dedicated people ready to work hard, but we have actions going on all around the country that need our support, and the economy presents us with difficult choices about how to help best. The last thing we need is an ill-timed effort to drain time and attention from other worthy efforts. But that’s just my two cents (whatever that’s worth). What is yours? Make the case for the march – is this about mobilizing those who didn’t have the opportunity to march last time around? A reboot of the movement?

Is a march on Washington the best use of organizing power and LGBT money, at this point and time, for the movement?

No.

Because the momentum isn’t here in D.C. It won’t be unless we commit the time and resources to building pressure back at home. If we want to march somewhere, let’s stay at home and march down to our congressional reps.’ district offices and have a sit down. Let’s march to our employers and start talking about domestic partnership benefits, or march to our state legislatures and talk about hate crimes or employment discrimination.

We don’t need a march on Washington. We need a march on America, down all of the main streets where we work, down all of the streets where we live, where our families live, where our children go to school, where we live out both the mundane and extraordinary aspects of our lives.

Yes, a march on Washington would be a waste of time, energy, money and resources that would be better used elsewhere.

But it would also be a waste of something else. our presence in our neighborhoods, church’s and communities — where it can, arguably make the most difference and have the deepest impact, because it is where we live out the mundane and extraordinary aspect of our lives as LGBT human beings — spouses, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers, etc. — alongside others who can watch us to so every day.

Some of them support us, some of them get closer to doing so every day, and some would if they only knew who we were, and that we were beside them all along — living out the extraordinary and mundane aspects of our lives every day — and the world kept turning anyway.

Why on earth would we remove ourselves from our communities to gather in the capitol city when the people who make policy won’t be there, when we can make a bigger difference if we come out, speak out, and reach out right where we are.

America needs to see us and hear our stories, yes. But from across the kitchen table, after the PTA meeting, during our childrens’ playdates, at the family reunion, and the city council meeting — not on television news, magazine covers, and the front of their morning papers, where our stories get edited and filtered.

We don’t need another March on Washington. We need a March on America.

Maybe we need a coordinated day of state and local level activity to make the point. But the march we need is one that happens every day.

For me, it’s a march I go on every morning when I take Parker to the bus stop, wave to the neighbors, and chat with the mom whose kid also takes the bus to school — the one whose three-year-old daughter knocked on my door one afternoon while she was taking a walk with her grandma, “because her friend lives here and she wanted to say hello,” and whom I heard say to her grandmother “Parker has two dads…” as matter-of-fact as if she were saying the sky is blue and the grass is green. Because to her it was the most natural thing in the world.

We don’t need a march on Washington, because we’re already marching on America. We just need more of that. Then, when we have more and more of America marching with us, maybe Washington will notice.

And maybe do the right thing.

2 Comments

  1. Beautifully said, Terrance. You make numerous great points, but especially this: “Did our “friends” in D.C. suddenly become any more supportive than they were?”

    I love a party, too – it always feels great to be part of that energy, to be part of a crowd that isn’t always quite so visible in day-to-day life. But, as you said, Congress isn’t even going to be there. Think globally, act locally may well be an adage that applies here — some local initiatives or gatherings that can be sustained well after the rally is over may be more accessible and get more attendance. Sometimes, grass roots efforts do more than big, showy events. Spend the money effectively.

    Your words are sensible and practical. I’d much rather see a victory march than a still-a-long-way-to-go march.

    Excellent post, Terrance.

  2. I could not agree more. And I’ve been doing this stuff about as long as Cleve. Organize, agitate, educate — but please let’s not waste resources on a march.

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