What a day! The weather was just perfect. The skies above were crystal blue punctuated by white puffy clouds. The temperature hovered around 65 degrees and a slight breeze. We could not have asked for better day to have a march for equality for the GBLT community in our nation's capital.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, the first and only march I ever participated in was the first march on Washington D.C. for gay rights back on October 14, 1979. This march was different in many ways.
First, this march was much nosier. The 1979 march had many more people (over 100,000 versus the 40,000 or so that were at today's march) but we were all quiet. Remember this was the first ever gay rights march in Washington D.C.
Our route from the Washington Monument was lined by hundreds of police on motorcycles. That was for our protection. In 1979, there was so much tension in the air you could slice it. By contrast, today's March route was not lined by police motorcycles. In fact, we had no police protection at all other than the standard police protection afforded all citizens of this country. That's progress, now we of the GBLT community are being treated like all other citizens.
Today's march was boisterous. It was like a block party. There was no tension in the air. Oh sure, along the parade route there was the occasional religious bigot holding a bible up and shouting that we were all going to hell. But they were quickly shouted down, in the "nicest way possible."
Color abounded with the many rainbow flags. Laughter was heard all around. Even though the parade was somewhat disorganized (as most parades are), everyone was patient and good natured about the delays.
My only problem after walking the route from the White House to the Capitol Building was that my back was aching something terrible. My friend Bob and I had to sit on the capital lawn to recover.
Oh, I also lost one of my rainbow flags (I quickly purchased another) and my hooded sweat jacket during my walks. I especially miss my navy blue hooded sweat jacket but I'm sure it has found a new home. Hopefully the new owners will appreciate it as much as I have over the years.
Bob and I enjoyed out two hour plus outing on the cool, green grass of the Capitol Building grounds. I took the occasion to walk around and take pictures of the Capital Building and the demonstrators and I even met a few and exchanged e-mail address with them to send them copies of the pictures I took of them.
Then it came time to meet up with our little group that took the bus from the K-Mart parking lot in Rehoboth Beach earlier in the morning for our trip to Washington. We were to all meet outside of one of the buildings of the Smithsonian Institute.
Bob and I arrived early. Bob wanted to stop inside the Smithsonian to get a new booklet. I went in with him. I soon noticed that I was being given disapproving stares by some of the more conservative tourists in the building. One that I remember especially was a lady about my age (67) who was sitting outside on a bench with her husband. I nodded a friendly acknowledgement in her direction as I followed Bob into the building. She gave me a cold look and turned her head without acknowledging me. I mentioned this to Bob and he said "No wonder, you're waving your flag (the gay rainbow flag) all around." And indeed I was plus I had about eight strands of various colored bling (Mardi Gras necklace beads) draped around my neck. I was so caught up in my freedom that I forgot that I was entering a different zone when we went to the Smithsonian with all the regular tourists.
Well, not wishing to offend anyone's conservative sensibilities I quickly retreated to the Smithsonian men's room and furled my rainbow flag and took my many colored necklaces off and placed them in my camera bag. I emerged from the rest room a different man. I told Bob "I can always pass. I’ve been doing it for years"
I immediately noticed that I was no longer receiving disapproving glances from the folks now that I had put my beads and flag away. However, Bob did receive one or two “looks.” He was still wearing his Equality March T-shirt (which he layered over his other clothes earlier in the parade.) However, his T-shirt was plain white with printing on it. Not like me, a gay man proudly displaying his many colors. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Something very interesting did happen during the parade. Just as we started someone shouted behind me "Look! There's a rainbow!" And sure enough, I looked up from the street to the sky above a nearby building and there was the rainbow. What really made this rainbow significant was because there was not a hint of rain today. The whole day was sunny. So, one has to wonder......were we receiving a blessing from Above? It sure did look like it.