Commentary: Protest shows community

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Originally published in the gayzette extra. Nov. 17, 2008

Michelle Obama came under fire during the 2008 primary season for saying she was proud of her country for the first time in her adult life after her husband, then-senator Barack Obama, became the front-runner of the Democratic Party.

Now, I know how she feels.

Because – for the first time in my adult life – after the Nov. 15 rally in Denver, I am proud of my community.
I haven’t been the poster child of Pride. In fact, in recent years I’ve out right been against it. Sure, I, along with all the other fags and dykes, head to Civic Center in June to get drunk and shake my thing. But I see past the pomp and circumstance of the parade. Something I don’t believe a lot of my queer peers understand. I have opined, and will continue to believe: our community is shallow, narcissistic and full of hate.

One year ago I asked if we as a community could celebrate Pride if we, ourselves were not proud. “What have you done to make yourself proud?” I asked outright. The bottom line for me, then, was that as a community we had nothing to be proud of.

When I heard there was going to be a protest in Denver in response to Proposition 8 passing I was skeptical. “Who will show?” I asked myself. I made a mental list: the advocate dykes, the non-profit gays, the good Christians and a few PFLAG moms. I made a bet with myself that there would be a good 200 people on the steps of the City and County Building.

I lost that bet by much more than 800. And, not to belabor the point, for the first time in my adult life, I was happy I lost.

Looking around the masses gathered I saw bar managers, party boys and Thursday-night lesbians. Without naming names, I was shocked. Some of the shallow, narcissistic, hateful people showed up. Some even had signs.

No, the throngs of people who annually make fools of themselves in the same park on the last Sunday of June were not all there. But among the aforementioned usual-activist suspects, there were people from all walks of life.

You didn’t have to look to the sky to see any Rainbow Flags flying. Sure, they were there. But all the colors were right in front of you, too. The scene was as blinding as the sun a thousand protesters walked under.

There were a lot of speeches. 90 minutes of war cries and song. Too many, organizers agree. After all, marriage or no marriage, gays are still impatient folks. The chants came from the crowd “MARCH! MARCH!”

I covered a lot of protests during the Democratic National Convention. But none were as moving as this one. War is evil. But, what is war but oppression? And that’s exactly what this march was about: ending the outright oppression of the GLBT community; ending the war the Right Wing Conservatives rage against us.

And this war, it’s personal.

I am of the conviction that all gay men hate themselves. This hate is partly inherent but also taught by society (see above). We do not accept ourselves fully because we are not accepted fully by others.

I think the term is “love, unconditionally.” That’s what marriage is supposed to be about. For whatever reason, it’s easier to love yourself when another loves you more. Sometimes you can’t accept yourself until someone else accepts you, first.

And sadly, this is the irony of the same-sex marriage debate. Yes, the struggle is for those hundreds of rights, big and small, that heterosexual marriages grant those participating. But beneath it all there is this understanding that we will never fully accept ourselves until our oppressors accept us. Our love will never be the same love until they say it is.

I think the song goes, “I need you to need me.” It’s humbling to admit.

Sometimes you can be too proud. And I think, for a long time, the GLBT community in this nation has been on one high – and often intoxicated – horse. But what I saw on Saturday was a sober gathering of people questioning California like a jaded lover, “What’s so wrong about us that you have take away our rights?”

There was another ironic sight on Saturday. At the top of the stairs leading into the City and County Building there was a sign that read “Entrance Closed.” On any other day one could simply understand the meaning of that sign. But on this day there was a greater understanding that the government by the people, for the people, was closed to this group of people gathered in front of its hallowed walls.

About halfway through the speeches, I stepped away to get a good look at the crowd. It was then I saw two men walking away from the crowd holding hands. At first I wondered if they were disinterested in the good fight. Who wants to listen to speech after song when you can fuck? But then it occurred to me that perhaps they thought their love was good enough. Perhaps they thought they didn’t need their love to be accepted, validated by the straight community. That’s a nicer thought.

But many more stayed to chant, “MARCH! MARCH!” and later “EQUALITY! EQUALITY!” And so they did, and so they will.

Those who stayed the afternoon showed me anger, passion, love and understanding. They showed unity. So often we’re worried about diversity within the gay and lesbian community. We allow our differences to divide, not enrich. But this rally was different. It was the first time I heard one voice. That’s why I couldn’t have been more proud. For the first time I didn’t see the community as it was, but how it should be.

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