Equality March in DC

Yesterday, October 11th, besides being National Coming Out Day, was the National Equality March in Washington DC. You can see the full purpose of the march here. Ultimately the three main issues on the table were:

An official repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (something the Obama administration promised in the campaign)

Gay Marriage

Hate Crimes Bill

To be dead honest, I am quite surprised today. I’m surprised because the march has barely hit a blip in the mainstream national media. It got a 10 second mention on the Today Show. It got a one minute overview on CNN. For as media savvy as many of the GLBT political organizations have been over the recent years, I am floored at the lack of coverage.

Of course, it’s been a huge thing in the circles that deeply care about these issues—both the proponents and the opposition. However at the end of the day when it comes to national policy, mainstream has to have a strong opinion one way or the other. I don’t believe that Obama or the government will officially (because I think everyone knows how much they like to talk about ‘support’ but are yet to put any of that very public support into tangible action) do anything about any of these issues unless the nation’s conscious is totally involved. And ‘nation’s conscious’ does not include GLAAD, HRC and other powerful GLBT organizations saying it’s a big deal. Just because it’s a big deal to them doesn’t mean it’s a big deal to mainstream—no matter how much they say it’s a big deal to mainstream. I am not saying this as a right or a wrong, I am just trying to communicate the scope of what I’m seeing in the wake of what was meant to be the most influential (and largest) GLBT march in recent history. So then, what is this telling us? I think this raises 3 huge questions:

1. With the shocking lack of mainstream coverage amidst the extreme build-up, is this starting a trend that the mainstream media might be tiring a little of giving top billing to this topic?

2. How much does the secular mainstream actually care about these issues? I have been under the impression for sometime now (especially in the wake of Prop Eight and the election) that this topic was on the forefront of mainstream—hence the reason so many conservatives fought so diligently against everything. Maybe our (GLBT and conservative) scope was off?

3. Are the traditionally effective mediums of large national gatherings in DC by means of marches, etc, worthwhile or effective in the least bit anymore?

And for good measure, here is my 100% totally unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that can’t be proven; ever:

The Obama administration doesn’t want to be held accountable for their lack of fulfillment on promises to the GLBT community at a time where the broader questions of more troops to Afghanistan and spinning the media to believe the economy is actually getting better (e.g. we’re in a time of post-recession now), are a lot more pressing in their minds. Therefore, somehow, the administration was able to gag-order many high profile media outlets to give the absolute minimal coverage as possible.

And I have just entered into the land of crazies!!! 🙂

But I do find it interesting that with such a pronounced history between the media and the most influential GLBT organizations that there was such little coverage.

Here and here are past posts that are relevant to what I’ve written today (the non-crazy-conspiracy theory part).

Tomorrow I will be posting about my strong belief that there needs to be a New Way of Activism (in general – from all communities). Post-modernity, emergent cultures, 21st Century living, are all leading culture to rethink ways of meaningful activism that actually produce results. We’re stuck, and I might have a few new ideas.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the three mains questions I raised.

Much love.


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  • Br. Michael

    New forms of activism may look like more politicians and more ministers out at rallies like myself. The media loves to help “feed” the people who are assumed “even above God here on earth.” like politicians and ministers.
    Or maybe no newer activism is needed… Maybe the media is in it’s own conservative closet “hitting a blip” of the same old safety net of “seen” crimes and not the “unseen” crimes of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

  • I dunno if the mainstream is necessarily tired of giving top-billing to this topic. I tend to think that it has more to do with relevance.

    It’s an issue relevant to me because, well, I am gay. But often times when I talk with my straight Christian friends, I still think in the back of my mind – at the end of the day you still go home to your spouse and maybe kids and go on with your own life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying that it’s not a 24/7 issue for the mainstream because the mainstream doesn’t experience the issue 24/7.

    But you know, sometimes even for me it’s not so relevant. After the discussion or the march, I go on with my life too. There’s so much of my day that has nothing to do with being gay. A lot of the community work that I’m doing isn’t gay-related. And regardless of whether or not the State or even the local church acknowledges my existence or relationships or not, I’m still gonna try to make a positive contribution to my community, my friends and family, and my employer because well, what choice do I have? So even I get tired of getting the mass emails from the GLBT organizations about the same stuff. Honestly, I don’t read them anymore. But all in the context of still feeling the sting of injustice.

    What does that mean?

    Well, perhaps the GLBT organizations need to do a better job at finding ways of helping the issue become more relevant for people. And yes, I agree that we need a new fresh approach to activism. (Hehe, I think we both have ideas on this.) Nevertheless, I don’t think demonstrations make the issue more relevant. Of anything, I think it just draws attention to the issue. But it doesn’t make people care necessarily.

    I think relationships make people care. When we share hearts and stories with each other, being willing to be authentic, that’s when it becomes relevant – when my close friend who loves his country could get discharged from military service for admitting who he is; when my old high school friend is in the hospital and her partner has difficulty being allowed in the same room because of the family’s refusals; when the gay couple next door invites us over for dinner but the church around the corner won’t even let them sit in a pew unmonitored.

    Even further, how about instead of hearing these same (sadly) “typical” stories, we have different kinds of conversations. Let’s ask each other (both gay and straight) what it was like to grow up in our culture? In our family? In our neighborhood? In our church? How did that affect us? How has it shaped our lives? Our decisions? Our paradigm?

    What would it look like if we were intentional about creating a safe environment where we could ask some direct questions about being gay?

    I do think that GLBT organizations need to do the coordinated work of raising awareness to these issues. I think they could also do a better job at empowering people to tell their story. (In fact, they could do a better job at collaborating with one another and possibly getting on the same page about certain things.) But we can all take our own initiative to do that too. I think that the GLBT community needs to do the work of building those meaningful relationships with the mainstream so that it becomes and stays relevant.

    Then maybe a march on the mall or downtown can be more effective.

  • Did You See This

    I do believe it is about corporate interests. All of our major media outlets are part of huge corporations with other interests. I find it a tad ironic that it is Time practically admitting it.

  • As the mom of a gay son, who spends quite a bit of time with gay young people, it does matter to me. We can’t keep throwing away young lives or treating them as second class citizens.

  • Mrs T

    Check out the site Sarah M posted. There are tons of pictures if you link the word 'march' in the article. Thanks!!

  • Kevin

    Mainstream media could be tiring of giving this topic exposure but I think there has also been a long history of not adequately covering active forms of protest and voices of dissent. When tens of thousands of individuals converged on D.C. to voice their opposition to the war in Iraq on the 5th anniversary of the war, it was the same story with a small blurb typically tucked away in the middle of a large newspaper or a brief mention on a large TV network to just acknowledge that it happened if any coverage at all. Gag orders could have taken place, but it would surprise me if it would even be necessary as gate keepers that have to answer to corporate interests have long been established in major media outlets. From the vast array of media sources owned by those like Rupert Murdoch to those that we consider to be more liberal/progressive, dissent and protest do not typically get much airtime as most of them are relatively conservative and you typically have to rely on independent media outlets if you want to hear about marginalized groups challenging the status quo.
    I am interested in hearing what you have to say about new forms of protest as I tend to find myself stuck in the 60s more often than I should probably be. In the civil rights movement for example, individuals continued to march on a regular basis and self-sacrifice and even suffering that is necessary to arouse the moral conscience of those in power was typically assumed to be a part. Our protests today tend to often be more of a sideshow since they lack a continued presence and pressure. But then again, I’m not sure that it is fair to compare different facets of the gay rights movement today or any protest for that matter to the civil rights movement as they had clearly outlined laws that represented the inequalities they faced (like sitting in at a restaurant counter) that they could break in non-violent civil disobedience.

  • Jon Trouten

    I bet if the gays were carrying around lots of Obama as Hitler signs and “where’s the birth certificate” signs and advocated for the overthrow of the USA like other recent DC-based rallies, the national press would be all over the NEM.

  • Jeff

    Per Jon Trouten’s excellent comment, I do believe that “media attention” is a mixed bag for anyone, given how much of the supposed news now is either gossip, celebrity bashing, unsubstantiated rumor or envy-driven assaults on (whom exactly? idealists of any stripe are fair game for attack?). Given that, if it is true, maybe it is time for some quiet grass roots work rather than marching.

  • Ben

    Here are some thoughts to your questions:
    1. The mainstream has done everything but post a ticker at the bottom of their screen saying they will now be advocating for the gay cause and that all gay causes are welcome but eventually people are over the gay cause. Why? Because it’s the same reason people are tired of President Obama, it is everywhere and it is getting shoved down our throats. For instance, on Top Chef, they always have their token gay contestants but this year they made it into this whole drama about how they were cooking for a wedding when they couldn’t get married. I was like, “what does this have to do with making a good dish to serve?” Many sitcoms have gay characters in them and it is more normal in mainstream media period. But even the cause has to grow up if they want traction. What were they shouting about? Nobody knows and nobody cares, that is the consequence of our individualistic society.

    2. Conservatives fight against anything that impedes their worldview and vis versa. Prop 8 became more of a story after than before because of how homosexual groups protested people who gave towards the pro-traditional marriage movement. So because they couldn’t enjoy their lives, they decided to ruin others. It was a disgrace on the movement as a whole, in my opinion.

    3. I think the days of mass marches to Washington are coming to an end. When you have to “schedule” your time on the mall, it kinda takes away the meaning of sporadic gathering. Everyone has a cause, everyone has an issue and everyone is tired of hearing about everyone else’s issues.

    Just my opinion, not saying it is right or wrong, just how I see it.

  • Mrs T

    I have thought for some time that the ‘liberal media’ is not as liberal as they want others to think about themselves in this one area. They give a lot of coverage to certain GLBT stories, but not others.
    I would venture to guess that if their kids came out as GLBT, they would have as much trouble accepting it as a conservative.
    There was coverage about the march in the “Red Eye,” the free paper, today & I anticipate the 3 GLBT newspapers will give good coverage this week.
    In Chicago. look for “Gay Chicago,” “The Windy City Times,” & “The Chicago Free Press.” I’ve been reading them regularly since the winter & feel they give lots of info. They are all free also, in newsboxes in “Boystown” as well as other high traffic areas, at least some on on the North side….. This is Chicago, but they do sell subscriptions if you live elsewhere. It may be money well spent.

  • Jon Trouten

    Ben: What were they shouting about? Andrew highlighted the three main points at the top of this thread.

    Re: Top Chef and their token gay contestants. Does that mean that everyone else is a token heterosexual contestant? Regarding the one situation that you noted in that episode: ONE contestant expressed the concerns over the wedding theme. The only two gay contestants observed that they needed to keep their heads on the actual contest.

    Re: Prop 8. Yeah, seriously why should those gay people be upset that they’d just had their marital rights stripped from them (narrowly) via popular vote. As far as them focusing on campaign contributers, don’t forget that the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign was doing that very same thing before the election. “Yes on 8” contacted “No on 8” contributers and threatened boycotts and bad publicity unless they recieved equal or better contributions.

  • "I have thought for some time that the ‘liberal media’ is not as liberal as they want others to think about themselves in this one area. They give a lot of coverage to certain GLBT stories, but not others.

    I would venture to guess that if their kids came out as GLBT, they would have as much trouble accepting it as a conservative."

    This is an interesting observation, Mrs. T., and I think you are onto something. If there were not still a significant amount of pressure for gays within mainstream media to remain closeted, you might see more coverage of gay news and events, the NLGJA notwithstanding. Some in the LGBT community want to see more outings.

    I also have seen some analyses of the entertainment industry (and TV news is as much entertainment as anything these days) that point out there is still a high degree of stereotyping of gay themes and characters in Hollywood and on Broadway. It appears there is an underlying discomfort with "queer" still in all facets of the media and that folks down deep are more uncertain about homosexuality than they may project. I think it touches a discomfiting chord that many cannot articulate but know is there.

  • SarahM – Thanks for the Time article as I did not see it before your link – I think it hits everything dead on point!

    Eric – Humanization is the key from both ends…something that I think gets lost in fighting political battles. I truly believe no one wants to listen to marchers or protestors anymore, and because of it don't even think twice about a message through that medium.

  • Ben

    Jon – I would assume they weren’t protesting silently, haha. So some shouting had to have happened. Just watch Lady Gaga and her speech, she shouted. haha. Just being a little sarcastic. =)

  • Lori

    I’m not sure what I sense as I read this. This march was about the grassroots. It was about encouraging people within their districts to go back home and make a change where they are. For me, this march was about stepping out of my box. It was a time for me to be quiet. It was a time for me to watch, to listen, to learn. Had I been watching from the outside, I probably would have seen what many saw – a group of people marching with little to no coverage. Another march/protest that won’t bring about any change. For me, this was the beginning of something new within my heart. For me, it was an opportunity to watch and learn from my brother, who was one of the co-directors of the march. It was so much more than what I’ve just read, but my understanding of it also comes from brother who organized it. I think it’s hard to get a full perspective on something when we’re unable to experience it in full. I experienced more than I ever imagined and look ahead to how tomorrow will unfold because of the stirrings at the march in D.C. I continue to wait and watch. I continue to learn.