Thirty years ago, this month was a pivotal time not only in my own life, but also in the lives of millions of LGBTQ Americans and those who love them.
In April 1993, I was a clear-eyed, ambitious, hopeful, young(ish) lesbian on a mission, working full time in comedy for several years.
It wasn’t an easy time to write jokes, frankly. AIDS continued its war against our community, pretty much winning. My personal circle of friends and acquaintances had been gutted by no less than 50 beautiful, brilliant and talented young men. The vast majority of stand-up comedians working in “straight” venues depended on AIDS punch lines. If you question this, Google the words “Eddie Murphy and AIDS”.
It was pretty much impossible for an out lesbian comic with any kind of conscience to not weave activism into that professional mix — am I right, Kate Clinton, Robin Tyler and Lea DeLaria? Impossible and irresponsible.
It was a frustrating yet challenging time. Thankfully, many in our community (led by late, great activist Urvashi Vaid) turned those challenges into opportunities, and organized the 1993 LGBT March on Washington.
Heeding Urvashi’s call and loaded my guitar into my 1988 Volkwagen Cabriolet, dropped the top and headed northeast. I funded the trip by doing my little dyke and pony show at several lesbian bars along the way. Exactly one of those lesbian bars remains open today; I knew you were wondering.
On April 25, well more than a million of us flooded Washington DC to claim our rights and power. The platform specifics of the March bear repeating:
Today, even though in 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v Texas in that state laws banning homosexual sodomy are unconstitutional as a violation to the right to privacy, the sodomy law remains on the books in Texas.
Today, AIDS is pretty much under control, thankfully. The culture war has now shifted its attack to transgender folks and their families and doctors who seek to align their bodies to match the gender of their souls.
Today, as many as a dozen states permit state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families, including LGBTQ people and same-sex couples, if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Today, Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation imposes censorship of classroom discussions and books about LGBTQ identities and same-sex families. Educators daring to support LGBTQ kids by perhaps hanging up a Pride flag in the classroom or teaching about Stonewall or Harvey Milk risk dismissal or worse. Multiple other red states are jumping on the DSG bandwagon to pass similar laws. Including Texas, of course.
Today, multiple states are moving to criminalize all forms of abortion to the point of capital punishment for those who choose it or assist in a woman obtaining one.
Today, FBI director Christopher Wray notes the number of arrests of white supremacists and other racially motivated extremists has almost tripled since 2017. Very fine people.
Today, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recommends that marriage equality, which became the law of our land in 2015, be reconsidered.
Thirty years later, neither my eyes nor ambition are as clear as they once were, but most of the time, my hope springs eternal.
Do we need another March on Washington to turn that hope for lasting equality into reality?
Maybe. This time, you drive.
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