Originally posted on the Washington Blade, October 2, 2009.
“Who is coming to DC to march with us?” tweets @DCgay. With the National Equality March just around the corner, many are asking how many are coming to Washington “to let our elected leaders know that now is the time for full equal rights for LGBT people.” Will there be 10,000? 100,000? Perhaps even 1,000,000? Or will we have to go the way of Beck and his teabaggers, photoshopping images and declaring that over a million of us protested? If one were to go by the number of fans the National Equality March has on Facebook and followers on Twitter, I think we just might have to consider the revisionist bent of the right wing fringe!
Seriously though, folks have reason to be concerned about how many will show up on the 11th, as it will speak to the cohesiveness of the LGBT movement and reveal its strength. At the very least, a good showing will prove to us more than anything else that our movement is more grassroots than top-down. On the other hand, a smaller crowd than earlier marches in Washington will somewhat reveal that we have become too fragmented, protecting and acting within our silos. Certainly a few would be tempted to say "I told you so," and remind us that they blogged this was a bad idea in the first place.
Aside from wondering how many will come, it might be good to ask who else will come. Who have we individually and collectively invited?
Will there be visible numbers of LGBT African Americans? Asian Pacific Americans? Latinos? Will there be gay and trans immigrants from Central America and South America among the demonstrators? From East, Central, South and Southeast Asia? Will African newcomers be part of the crowd? Will LGBT people from Middle America and the Deep South be represented? Will our families and seniors show up?
What about straight allies? Will friends from the labor, immigrant, and women’s rights movements walk with us? Will members from the wider African, Asian Pacific and Latin American communities come to support and cheer us on? Will religious communities lift us up and not scream condemnation?
It would indeed be a stunning image: diversity in our community and among our supporters. But more than forming an inspiring tableau that sharply contrasts with the 912 protestors’ anger and hate, the presence of those among us who are often left out of the LGBT table will speak to how far we have come as a community. The presence of straight and progressive friends will reflect how much we have changed minds and hearts.
The National Equality March is not ours alone. We need people to understand that our struggle for equality is their struggle as well. We need Americans to see that the promise of freedom and equality for all has yet to be realized. This is the philosophy behind the march. “As members of every race, class, faith, and community, we see the struggle for LGBT equality as part of a larger movement for peace and social justice.”
I don’t know how many will come. But regardless of how many or few do show up, this is just the beginning. The march that began with the Civil Rights movement and passed by Stonewall will continue long after October 11. We will have many opportunities to reach out to our families, neighbors, coworkers and others in our communities, to those different from us, to let them know who we are. Yes, we are queer, we are here and you will get used to it.
You can follow Erwin on Twitter @ErwindeLeon.