Friday, October 16, 2009

Redux: Now what?

Originally posted on the Washington Blade, October 12, 2009.

It was a beautiful sight - over 100,000 lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual and transgender individuals marching by the White House and toward the Capitol demanding full equality and civil rights for all Americans. Yesterday was a perfect fall day, complete with a rainbow that formed in the sunny sky as we were about to start.

It is undeniable that this was a successful grassroots effort organized mainly by people under thirty through Facebook, Twitter and the Internet. I could not help but be buoyed by the energy, passion and determination of the college students walking next to our church group. Like the tens of thousands of young people that descended upon Washington, there was no doubt in their minds and hearts that all people are created equal and that all citizens should enjoy the same privileges and protections.

But in the throng were also women and men from earlier marches. A few were present during the Stonewall Riots forty years ago. The National Equality March was called by activist Cleve Jones and encouraged by civil rights activist David Mixner. Those of us sandwiched between the Stonewall and the Prop 8 generations came together in full force.

Yesterday’s event created an amazing image of power, diversity and unity which we need to take with us to inspire our struggle for equality.

There are those who pit one generation against another as well as argue that one form of political action is better, even more righteous, than the next one. The march was a waste of time – we should focus our energy and resources on state and local fights. HRC is in cahoots with the administration and its fancy black tie dinner is a venue for rich white gay men to dress up and feel political – we should not cooperate with the establishment. Incrementalism is no longer acceptable – we should have all or nothing now. For some, it is either you’re with Cleve or with Joe. There is only one right way.

I believe that there is no one way. Last Saturday, I attended a gathering of small and fledgling Asian Pacific Islander organizations trying to have their faces seen and voices heard in the largely white cacophony which is the LGBT movement. That evening I attended HRC’s annual dinner, as did a number of women and people of color. Yesterday, I proudly marched under the banner of my Episcopal parish in Woodley Park.

There is a lot of work to be done and we need as many people on all fronts - energized youth knocking on doors and stopping folks on the sidewalk; bloggers agitating and needling; talking heads arguing with opponents; insiders working the system; LGBT of color showing up; religious leaders challenging their congregations and denominations; elected LGBT and fair-minded officials aggressively pushing legislation; African American, Latino and Asian leaders fighting homophobia in their respective communities.

In the meantime, the rest of us can help and give as much as we can in crucial civil rights battles, like those going on in Maine, Washington State and soon, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and New York. We can support and vote for pro-LGBT candidates in local and state races. We can donate time and money to LGBT organizations. We can and should come out and tell our stories to our families, neighbors and colleagues.

The reality is, in spite of our showing this weekend, not much has changed. Yet. But the tide is turning and this country is definitely going in the right direction. But we need to keep working and stop harping at one another. We have to realize that this is how democracy, politics and social movements work. We have to accept the fact that there are many voices and valid ways of working for change.

So let us celebrate this success, support each other and keep fighting the good fight. The finish line is up ahead. Look.

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