Friday, October 30, 2009

Going Gaga in D.C.

The National Equality March took place on a beautiful day. It was sunny and dry, with a hint of fall in the air. It was a perfect day for a stroll to the Capitol Building with 100,000 or so of my closest gay friends.

I’m guessing wildly at the number of people in the crowd, of course. As with most protest marches, estimates varied wildly depending on who was doing the estimating. I heard everything from tens of thousands to 200,000. I have no gift for crowd counts myself. All I know is that it was a huge swathe of people that stretched for blocks and blocks.

The march started at McPherson Square, circled Lafayette Park, passed by the White House (I seemed to be the only person in the crowd alarmed by the snipers on the roof—apparently they’re old news to Washingtonians), and then headed down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building lawn.

Although the route covered more than two miles, the march was over more quickly than I expected. The crowd was very well behaved, and if there were any counter protesters, they behaved themselves, too. It was a nice day, and I think everyone was in too good of a mood to get testy with anyone.

When I was younger, I almost never stuck around for the speakers after pride parades and protest marches. They were usually the least interesting part of the day for me, far overshadowed by the people-watching, sunbathing, and public consumption of alcohol. On this day, however, Pipi and I, happy to sit down for a while, listened to most of the speeches. I’m glad we did. Matthew Shepard’s mother spoke briefly, and I honestly don’t remember much of what she said, because she could just stand there silently and we would still love her to pieces. Cynthia Nixon spoke, which excited me in a star-struck kind of way. Lieutenant Dan Choi, a West Point-educated Arab linguist who is currently being discharged from the army for being gay spoke incredibly movingly and eloquently about the need to be brave and love whom you must no matter what the consequences—and he should know.

The biggest surprise of the afternoon was the musician Lady Gaga. Before traveling to Washington, D.C., I was only dimly aware of her. In the days before the march, I got a crash course in all things Gaga from Pipi’s fabulous 16-year-old cousin, who is a big fan, but I still wasn’t overly impressed.

It turns out that music is probably the least interesting thing about Lady Gaga. The musician, who is all of 23 years old and sings pop songs that are no more intellectually challenging than Madonna’s early hits, is an incredible ally to the gays. She wasn’t the most gifted speaker that day, but she was one of the most earnest. She just loves her gay fans and wants nothing but the best for us. So bless God, bless the gays, and bless Lady Gaga, who is doing what the HRC, Barney Frank, and even older pop stars like Melissa Etheridge and Elton John can’t do: Bringing a message of tolerance to the future voters of America.

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