By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com October 13 2009 3:10 PM ET
We had a meeting at the Screen Actor's Guild and they said that there is a march and I said well I'm already going to go. We took a vote and the group decided to send me, our legal counsel, the publicist, the diversity guy and a lot of actors.
It's sort of neat that this was happening this year and I got to go and stand up for who I was and still get to guest star in a major television show that everybody watches and digs. I think that would not have happened for me 10 years ago. The idea that I played a straight guy in The Closer in 2009 and then I went to march publicly in Washington representing my fellow actors in the Screen Actor’s Guild was sort of neat. Don’t you think when you say it that way?
I will give you an example. When I came out in 1993. In 1994 or '95, I was on a special on Comedy Central called Out There in Hollywood and they arranged for me to be in car in West Hollywood gay pride parade. On the car it said Jason Stuart Comedy Central Out There in Hollywood. Lea Delaria came over and said, “Finally you came out! Why did you wait so long?” And I looked at her and I had this sort of dumb look on my face and I thought I didn’t know I could.
So, back to the march in D.C., we flew in on Friday night. I went to the Eagle, the leather bar -- and some of the most beautiful men I’ve seen in the country were there that night. Everybody was so friendly. There was a certain warmth that seemed to fill the bars. I don’t know if I was feeling a certain way, or a sense of pride. I met people from all over the country -- certainly a lot of people from New York, a lot of people from Boston, and the East Coast, as well as people from California and the Midwest.
The Human Rights Campaign had given me a ticket to go see Obama but I thought, "I got to be with my peeps because I can’t not do this. It would be wrong." So we all sit in this bar watching Obama speak -- a gay sports bar, which is strange itself. And I say, "put the television on" and they were all, "it’s a sports bar." "No, but the president is speaking!" And we did and you get this emotional feeling in your heart.
I remember in 1992 when Bill Clinton was running for President, and I was in San Francisco working at Cobbs Comedy Club and I remember it was Margaret Cho, me and Stephanie Hodge from this show called Nurses and I remember Bill Clinton saying we need help from everybody -- Jews, blacks, gays -- and I had never heard anybody ever say that and I just started to cry. And I thought, "someone is talking about me for the first time somebody is running for President." And I’m sitting in this bar watching Obama say "I’m going to sign the Hate Crimes Bill if it goes through the Senate, I’m going to get rid of DOMA, I’m going to get rid of 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' I’m here for you guys." He said everything except the word marriage. I don’t know quite what difference it makes because the people that hate us are going to hate him for what he has done you know that’s going to be it so I don’t know what all that means in terms of all that.
In the morning I went to go hear Cleve Jones speak at this coffeehouse and Sherry Woolf. And I was just amazed at the passion and the community. I figured there would be about 50 people there, there were like 300-400 people. We were at this coffeehouse with the French doors open up and a spiral staircase that went upstairs. There were people hanging on the staircase, people were hanging in the bookstore, people were on the street listening. It was when I said to myself, "man people are ready for this change."
When Sherry got up to speak I was just amazed at her passion and her pride of who we are, and her ability to communicate a message with such passion just made me want to stand up and hug her. Then Cleve Jones came up to speak. And Cleve is someone who has become quite the star right now because of Milk, but this is a guy who, for 30 years, was not the star; who was not in the press. Not a lot of people were writing about him. And now because this movie come out, people are giving this man his due. I’ve seen his speak at the Gay and Lesbian Task Force last year -- they were giving him an award and was this sweet man and you could see in the last year he has upped his game and he is speaking with all his passion on the line and he is taking this moment of a film about Harvey Milk and himself and his life and really trying to create some change with it. He is using this in such a positive way and that was very nice to see. He also was part of the AIDS quilt and I just think we have to start, especially the magazines and everything, we have to start remember who did all this. I think it’s really important to remember who came before us.
And then got up early and met at McPherson Square at the Farragut Statue. We had the Theatre Union, the Actors Union and we had actors, writers and producers, and all sorts of comedians and singers. It was wonderful. And we marched with our large Screen Actor’s Guild sign and it was just really amazing. It went for almost three miles. People recognized us from all over the country, so we were taking pictures and videos, it was almost like this incredibly, large opening of this incredible film.
When I got to the rally I just kept walking towards the front and I didn’t have a pass for backstage. I didn’t think to get one. I was standing there and people kept recognizing me. A volunteer said, "what are you doing here?" This gal gave me a pass, Ashley Love. She gave me a pass and I went backstage.
What was interesting was that everyone who we see at all these events, Bruce Cohen and his husband, Dustin Lance Black, Doria Biddle and Frank DeCaro from Sirius Radio, Michelle Clooney from Queer as Folk -- everybody that we see at all of these events in Los Angeles was now here. It's interesting. It is always the same people who are showing up and that was sort of a nice warm feeling.