Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unexpected Allies

The renaissance revels were just the beginning of our Saturday. We still had some serious work to do, including stalking the cast of Glee and making a scene in front of the president.

Let me back up. We timed our trip to Washington, D.C. to coincide with the big National Equality March on Sunday, October 11. But of course, that wasn’t the only big event in town that weekend. Saturday night, there was a gala dinner in D.C. hosted by the Human Rights Campaign. President Obama was scheduled to speak, which was cool, but if Pipi and I were being honest with ourselves, we’d have admitted that the people we were really hoping to catch a glimpse of were the cast of the show Glee, some of whom were supposed to be attending the dinner. (I like this show so much more than I want to!)

Quick glimpses of these stars were about all we could hope for, because we were not guests at the dinner. We were just part of the motley crowd standing outside the venue with signs.

It would be unfair to describe us as protesters, because that would imply some sort of unified message. We were more of an accrual of people with assorted gripes. A few people were protesting the dinner itself, feeling that the time and money might be better spent doing….well, that part of the message wasn’t clear. Abolishing formal wear, maybe.

Most of the one hundred or so people milling around with signs were, like us, there to urge Obama, whom we generally support, to get moving on promises he made during his campaign. These would include ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. The gathering felt more like a constructive criticism session than an angry, confrontational protest.

Then there were the people that I suspect show up at most events where the president might see them. These included an anti-war contingent, and some pro-life protesters. There was also a crazy van circling the block plastered with pictures of the twin towers burning, New Orleans under water, and the tsunami-ravaged coast of Samoa. Captions blamed all these things on gays. The rumor was that this van was driven by, if not Fred Phelps himself, then by some of his people. We were not able to confirm this, however, which is a shame, because there’s a guy I’d really love the opportunity to personally scream at.

We never did see the cast of Glee—they either got there very early or else they slipped in another entrance. But we did see the presidential motorcade, which was exciting.

I saw one other thing made it all worthwhile: Two women in dresses who just happened to be walking down the street asked Pipi and I what the crowd was all about. We told them it was a pro gay-rights protest, and they said that they supported us and wished us well.

That was a nice moment, but I probably would have forgotten about it right away if I hadn’t noticed them again about 10 minutes later. They had by this time somehow gotten ahold of a large rainbow flag, and were holding it up proudly as they marched around in a circle with a knot of protesters.

My gut feeling is that these two women were straight, but of course, it doesn’t matter. What I take from the encounter is that issues like gay marriage and defeating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell have a lot of mainstream support. Fifteen years ago, gay rights were the sole provenance of severely coiffed people who yelled a lot. Now we get help from sitcom stars and people on their way to cocktail parties.

They say love conquers all. Consider yourself warned, crazy van guy.

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