By Robin Tyler
In the spring of 2000, our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community will once again "March on Washington." This is a crucial time in our history, and we need to have a National March. Although we have received some cultural acceptance, and are finally recognized as a community by the media, and certainly are targeted by corporations as consumers, the plain and simple fact is we have no rights.
On the Federal level, we have not passed ENDA, and do not have the right to work. DOMA (the defense of marriage act) is to stop us from marrying. James Hormel's confirmation as an ambassador is almost dead, not because he isn't qualified, but because he's gay. The 'don't ask, don't tell' military policy has escalated the number of gays and lesbians who are being forced out of the military. Because we have become more visible, violence against us has increased enormously.
Many organizations want to do state marches in 1999. They feel that more work needs to be done to bolster statewide organizations. I agree. But, as an older activist, and an organizer for over 30 years, we must not erase our history. We have been working at all levels, city, state and national, for decades. We have had state marches (here in California we had two, the first being as a result of the March on Washington). We must continue to organize on the state level. We must continue to keep the pressure on at every level of government. To March on the States in 1999, and to follow this with a March on Washington in 2000 will be very, very powerful. There is nothing as moving as the visibility of hundreds of thousands of us gathered together in Washington, and a National March allows those who will not come out on a state level, to participate.
The last March was held after the presidential elections. That was too late. We relied on the promises of political parties that were not kept. This time, we will show our strength, our unity and our committment, and our goals before the elections.
Historically, in previous Marches, organizations either did not want us to March (as in the first March in 1979, where we were told we would threaten the gains of our movement and "drain the resources of our community") or organizations came very late to the table (as in the second March in 1989, where we were told a March on Washington would "drain the resources of our community"). Of course, we went through the battle of 'Don't March' in 1993 as it would conflict with our celebration of Stonewall in 1994 and also, "drain the resources of our community." But we felt it was up to the community to decide where to spend their money. All three times, despite being battered by the forces of our own people who did not want us to have a National March, we continued to organize successful Marches on Washington. These marches acted as reinforcing fuel to the life force of our movement. They energized us for years.
In 1979, 100,000 of us attended the first march, and we wept as we embraced each other by the Washington Monument, faced the White House, and demanded our Rights. I emceed and line-produced the main stage. The rally was heard over National Radio. We knew we had made history.
The second March (attendance 1 million) gave birth to "The Quilt" and "The Wedding Ceremony." The wedding ceremony was so controversial within our own community at that time. Little did we know that only a decade later, we would fight for this to become a reality for our community. I produced the Main Stage Rally and although television and newspapers covered the March, both Time and Newsweek did not. They said we had not notified them in time. Today we have been on the covers of Time and Newsweek.
By the 3rd March in 1993, we still had no rights, but more and more people, including famous personalities, were beginning to come out. Melissa Ethridge, Martina Navratalova, Sir Ian McCallen, the Indigo Girls, as well as straight celebrity supporters such as Cybil Sheppard and Judith Light appeared on that stage. We honored those of our community who had served and were forced out of the military, and wept, as the mother of Alan Shindler, the young gay man who was murdered in the navy, and one million of us, paid tribute to his memory. And for the first time, CSPAN covered us, and we were seen all over this Nation, and on CNN, all over the world. And once again, we called for equal rights. I co-produced that stage. Since that third March, the media has given us tremendous coverage and recognized us as a community.
But we are more than just a community. And we are not the gay 'industry.' We are a movement, and movements in order to survive and thrive, must move. We must mount a successful state-wide action in 1999 and we must March on Washington in Spring of 2000. We have received overwhelming support from grassroots members of our community who attended other Marches on Washington, or who have heard of them and want to participate in the next one. UFMCC and HRC came aboard immediately, and the National Latino/a Lesbian & Gay Organizations have been unwaivering in their support.
This should not be a battle over state marches vs. a national March. I presented a financial plan to HRC and MCC that I believe will raise enough money not only to cover the March, but to possibly raise money for organizations who are fighting for our rights on every level. This march will be televised nationally and all over the world, so millions of people who cannot afford to participate in any March, can be a part of this great experience. We will put our children on stage, and our parents, and show our diversity, and our unwavering commitment. We will honor our youth and our elders. Our courage, our will to live, and our strength through the extraordinary. We will not stop until we have equal rights. This includes the right to work, to live without violence, to marry, to keep our children, to serve our country, to support our health issues, and all of the other benefits non-gays have in this country. And until that happens, like the Phoenix, against all odds, we have and will continue to rise, again and again, and to March on Washington, and to never stop the struggle until we have full equality. We owe it to our future generations. We will di it with dignity and self-esteem and love. And we will win.
Robin Tyler, Executive Producer
Millenium March on Washington for Equal Rights 2000 (LGBT)