October 14, 1979 was a memorable day for me. I rose around 6:30am and grabbed breakfast then left the hotel I was staying in and headed over to the National Mall. Me and the rest of the Texas delegation were starting to gather there, sipping coffee and trying to warm up in the cool Washington, DC morning. I was grateful I had brought my leather motorcycle jacket on the trip.
The Texas delegation joined groups from all 50 states and Puerto Rico for the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Estimates range from 75,000 to 150,000 people showed up that day to march down Pennsylvania Ave past the White house and then rally in front of the Washington Monument.
There was a heady exuberance that permeated the atmosphere that day. We felt less like a bunch of individuals and more like a movement than at any time I could remember. There was a fellowship that gave us courage and we raised our voices and fists as we chanted, “OUT OF THE CLOSET AND INTO THE STREET!” Not very original, but it was a full throated chant that came from our collective hearts.
The event was part protest and part party. Not surprising, since we were all from out of town and for many on the first visit to our nation’s capital. We laughed, skipped and danced our way to the monument where a stage was set up for the rally and what a rally it was!
Robin Tyler, a very funny lesbian comedienne and activist hosted the festivities and there were of course bands and musicians. But there were also serious speakers. One of the memorable ones was the poet Allen Ginsburg. His reading was forgettable, but his presence was impossible to forget.
As the afternoon passed on, and the rally ended, we toddled off to recover at the hotel and then to explore the nightlife of DC. I say we, since I was staying with several Dallas friends at the Holiday Inn. Included in that group were Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo as well as my friend Marc Lerro and Don Baker, Al Caulkin and others from the Dallas Gay Political Caucus.
We had worked for months putting together our group and raising funds for the march. Selling buttons, t-shirts and doing fund raisers at local clubs and bars. We even chartered a full plane for the flight on the now defunct Trans Texas Airways.
Why this trip down memory lane? Well I think it is mainly to remind myself that I have been working for equal rights for LGBT people for a long time and as we are actually seeing progress such as the repeal of DADT and the possibility of ENDA on the horizon, I needed a boost. We can’t give up and we must move forward. And that includes not letting a Republican get into the White House who threatens to turn back the clock for all of us.
Vote, and vote a straight (no pun intended) Democratic ticket. We need to take back the House and maintain the Senate if we are going to see this through to the resolution we sought 33 years ago.