Why we’re marching

October 5, 2009

October 11 will be a day to march--in Washington, D.C., and cities around the country to demand full LGBT equality, and nothing less.

The stage was set for this outpouring of strength and solidarity by the tide of protest after California's Proposition 8 same-sex marriage ban passed last November. Now, activists across the country are taking a stand nationally, and setting their sites high--equal rights in all 50 states, backed up by the authority of the federal government.

SocialistWorker.org asked some of the people building this demonstration--both veterans of the movement and those new to activism--to give us their reasons for marching on October 11. Look here for more statements.

Cleve Jones
Veteran activist and initiator of the National Equality March | Palm Springs, Calif.

I hope we'll have a massive turnout, especially from young people and straight allies--that's what I really want to see. But this is about much more than a march. It's about really trying to change the state-by-state, city-by-city, county-by-county strategy for incomplete and impermanent rights.

I am tired of people accepting fractions of equality. You're equal, or you're not equal, and the only way we can become truly equal is through federal action. That's not my opinion; it's a fact of the way our government works.

In the state of California, for example, same-sex couples already enjoy all of the rights that the state can grant them. They are still second-class citizens because they cannot bring their partners across national borders, they cannot collect Social Security--they're still denied federal rights.

We're trying to shift the strategy to continue the local work, but to recognize that true equality only comes from the president, Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Protesting Proposition 8 in San Francisco
Protesting Proposition 8 in San Francisco

One year ago, nobody in the LGBT movement was talking about a federal strategy for the movement. We've already succeeded in getting people to talk about it.

There's controversy, of course. Many people are deeply invested in the old strategy. They've planned campaigns that will last for 20 or 30 years--it's the reason for their existence. And again, these are good people, for whom I have nothing but affection and respect. But the strategy must change.

Aiyi'nah Ford
D.C. Host Committee for the National Equality March, and host of Listen Up Live | Washington, D.C.

When I'm asked why I intend to participate in the National Equality March, it is actually a rhetorical question of sorts. By this, I mean, people already assume that they know the answer they will get from "The Tastee Diner Girl."

It's quite interesting, as they all ask me with the same satirical seriousness of a TMZ reporter--inquirers silently awaiting the arrival of my proverbial soapbox and some great speech full of SAT-esque words that no one can pronounce (let alone understand). They look for the classic Al Sharpton vibrato, mixed with Jesse Jackson alliterations. So when I open my mouth and answer, I have come to expect a certain awkward pause.

Yes, I made international headlines when my companion and I orchestrated a protest against the Tastee Diner of Silver Spring, Maryland. This protest was in response to being asked to leave for a modest embrace at two in the morning. Quite specifically, for being asked to take our affection outside, as "this [the Tastee Diner] is a family establishment and people are trying to eat."

Never mind that the heterosexual couple who was right next to us was doing a lot more than embracing. Or the fact that this "family restaurant" serves wine and beer, as I don't recall that option at IHOP or Denny's. But the reality is, I could care less about that restaurant or people's interpretation of some grainy black-and-white surveillance footage.

The reality is this isn't about me! This is in memory of the countless individuals who have died on the journey to equality. People like Matthew Shepard, beaten and left to die for being homosexual, or Tyli'a Mack, who was stabbed and killed in broad daylight because she was a transgender woman.

What you can do

The National Equality March will begin at Noon on October 11 and end on the West lawn of the Capitol building. The march will be followed by a rally starting at around 2 p.m.

For a full schedule of the National Equality March weekend events, including several workshops sponsored by national LGBT organizations, visit the National Equality March Web site.

Students who will be marching on October 11 are invited to join the march's student contingent, which will be gathering at the Ellipse beginning at 10 a.m, and then march as a block to join the National Equality March at.

For more information, call 773-616-0230 or e-mail [email protected].

This is in memory of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black child, whose dead body was found floating in the Mississippi River, murdered for supposedly whistling at a white woman, and for Sean Bell, who was shot dead by New York police who were later acquitted.

Furthermore, I march as tangible evidence of the audacity of hope that our president speaks of. The hope that my family will understand that I am the same child that they raised, with the same morals and values, and that my sexuality doesn't compromise that. Hope that our community can attend church and feel comfortable in observing their chosen religion. Hope that children of LGBTQ couples are not chastised because of their parents' love. The hope that our fellow citizens realize the injustices we face daily because we are same-gender loving individuals. Hope that some child who is uncomfortable with their sexuality can see that the insecurities of others are not a reflection of who they are, but of who their persecutors are not.

I have chosen to march for these reasons, and I invite you to join me. Not in an effort to condone homosexuality, but as a statement that we are all human, and we are all equal. We march with one demand...RESPECT OUR HUMANITY...GIVE US EQUALITY!

Whitney Walton
One Struggle, One Fight | Berkeley, Calif.

I am marching because as a Black, working poor, single, queer woman, getting married is not my first or only priority. This is one of the most inclusive, grassroots, people-focused LGBT events I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. I am marching because it's not just about me--I am not willing to compromise or abandon the rights of my brothers and sisters so that I can have a better quality of life.

The amount of effort by everyday yet extraordinary people to make this event come together is truly inspiring and motivating in a way that can hardly be put into words. I am tired of talk without action, and action without thought. I truly feel like this march will give people the opportunity not only to dialogue and take action, but also to build skills as grassroots organizers and take the fight back home.

I am marching to bridge the gap between tolerance and equality. I am tired of waiting and hoping that someone will give me permission to live my life as a full-fledged citizen. I am not asking for any special favors, but simply not to be treated as the exception to any rules that give me full federal equality.

I am marching because I am tired of asking. I am demanding. Demanding that we as a community realize our power, potential and worth as human beings and equal citizens, and fight for what should already be ours in the first place.

I am marching because the best time for struggle, the best time for equality, and the best time for freedom is always going to be right now.

Rev. Donna Tara Lee
Gainesville, Fla.

My name is Rev. Donna Tara Lee and I am an out transgender activist. I am participating in the National Equality March during October 9-11 because I believe America's LGBT citizens are discriminated against in many ways.

Except in six states, we cannot legally marry the person we love. Thirty states have laws in their state constitutions banning LGBT marriage. The federal government has a law called the Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting LGBT marriage. LGBT partners are denied all the benefits of married heterosexual American citizens concerning tax breaks, health care, inheritance laws, hospital visitation rights and many more.

There is no hate crimes legislation on the federal level safeguarding LGBT citizens from crimes committed against us just because of our gender orientation or identification.

In 30 states, LGBT persons can be fired because they are gay. In 38 states, transgender Americans can be fired because they are transgender. A federally passed ENDA law on the federal level will end this discrimination.

Due to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the Pentagon, LGBT citizens cannot openly serve in the military. This means that LGBT citizens are denied many benefits that veterans of military service are entitled to.

Foreign partners of LGBT citizens, unlike heterosexual spouses, are routinely denied visa rights to live with their American partners.

I am a retired civil servant who faithfully served my government for 35 years in a civilian capacity. I am now a substitute teacher. I am 61 years old and have always been a productive citizen. I will no longer tolerate being discriminated against.

The NEM calls for an omnibus amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that will add all of these protections to LGBT citizens. This action on the federal level is absolutely necessary to once and for all end LGBT discrimination.

We cannot allow this to be done on a state-by-state basis, as some states will never pass LGBT anti-discrimination laws. And I do personally believe that most, if not all, LGBT discrimination is based on religious beliefs. This violates the First Amendment freedom from religion clause. This discrimination also violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

As American citizens, we all deserve the same rights and responsibilities. We have the responsibilities, but not the rights. This needs to change now! These are the reasons I am marching.

Dove-Paige Anthony
Join the Impact Chicago | Chicago

First and foremost, it should be stated that I am a trans activist. As a member of the transgender community, I know entirely too well what it is to be discriminated against. It isn't always easy to define, but when it happens, you know it by how it feels.

In most states in this country, I can be fired for who and what I am, and have absolutely no legal recourse--the same goes for housing. So it's safe to say that the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is near and dear to my heart. I have been working toward helping get it passed, and educating people about what ENDA is and why we need it, for the better part of the past three years.

Oftentimes, it is the transgender part of the LGBT community that is financially the worst off. This is because trans people can be--and more often than not, are--fired for who and what they are legally, but if they're lucky enough to keep their jobs, they are routinely passed over for raises or promotions.

In particular, it is trans women who are passed over and discriminated against in this way, primarily because, like it or not, we live in a phallocentric society--the penis equals power, and trans women have rejected that position of power to be at one with themselves. For many people, at a subconscious level, this is downright treason, and so they feel justified in taking it upon themselves to be the punisher.

Coming out as trans, your employability plummets. Unemployment rates in America are at an all-time high, and that gives people one more reason to get rid of the trans person who works for them.

Unemployment leads to no insurance, and hormone treatments are expensive. For most trans people, hormones are the one thing that makes life make sense--take them away, and the world comes crashing down around you.

I used to go to an online support group for trans people, and there was a young trans girl there who, when she came out as trans, faced rejection from her family and friends. Her family completely disowned her and kicked her out, and she ended up in a little kitchenette apartment with a bedroom and a bathroom--it was all she could afford. She was continually harassed at work, and if she complained, she was told it was her own fault.

These are the kinds of things she would talk to me about. Then she just stopped showing up online. After several weeks, we discovered that she had gotten fired from her job for too much complaining about people harassing her for the "unnatural" way she "chose" to dress and live. Without insurance, she couldn't afford the cost of hormones, and life quickly spiraled out of control.

We learned that in a final act of desperation, one night, she hung herself in her closet. They successfully forced her to go back into the closet...permanently.

This is a perfect example of why we need ENDA. ENDA will not solve everything, but it's a perfect place to start. The Western world needs to be re-educated concerning gender and orientation.

I know all too well that every time I set foot outside my apartment, I take my life into my own hands. I know firsthand that there are people out there who are more than willing to murder me for my gender variance--I have been attacked on a number of occasions, and at least one time, I am pretty certain that murder was the intention.

It was this attack that caused me to get involved in activism, because bottom line is that none of this will change unless the public perception of LGBT people changes, and the only way to change the public perception of us is to change it! It will not change on its own. We have to be visible, but also vocal and eloquent in what we say. We have to express our humanity--this is the path to change. On 10/11/09, we march!

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