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How the March Won Me Over

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I'll be the first to admit it -- coming into this march, I was a skeptic.

You see, I'm somewhere between generations. I'm not the activist who's been fighting the good fight since Stonewall, front and center at every call for equality, for Washington to sit up and take notice of our lives -- of our worth.

I'm not even one who really remembers what it was like to be gay during the Clinton years. I mean, I was out for two of them, but admittedly, I spent those years caring more about Deborah Cox and deconstructed jeans than "don't ask, don't tell."

But I've also been doing this gay journalism thing long enough to have seen some political battles won (same-sex marriage in California) and lost (fast-forward five months). I've attended dozens of pride parades all over the country. I've met gay and gay-supportive politicians, and even faced down the Westboro Church contingent a few times. I'm still young, but I'm most definitely not gay youth.

So when Cleve Jones, David Mixner, Robin McGehee, Robin Tyler, and a slew of other tried-and-true, dedicated activists called us all to Washington, I had mixed feelings.

In theory, I thought, this could be amazing. But in practice? Much as I hate to put it out there, I wasn't so sure. After all, Obama was scheduled to be at some golf tournament -- Congress wasn't even in session. And while Washington is just a train ride away for New Yorkers, from Los Angeles, well ... I'd marched up and down the Sunset Strip for my rights in November - and December -- and again in May when the state supreme court voted to uphold Proposition 8. Plus, I'm an editor -- I could cover it from the Advocate offices, right?

Then, suddenly, Congress was in session. And Obama decided the Human Rights Campaign dinner was a better use of his time than teeing off. And Barney Frank, well ... much as I usually enjoy his musings, the whole "complete waste of time" statement pissed me off. It's one thing to wonder if this whole march thing is going to get Washington's attention ... it's another thing to tell the people who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into planning it that their months of work was "pointless."

So I came to Washington. Forty-eight hours before the National Equality March was set to begin, I booked a flight and a hotel. I rallied the writers and reporters and photographers we'd recruited to cover this thing and let them all know I'd be joining them in Washington. As an editor ... writer too. Photographer, IT support in a pinch, and text me, tweet me, call me out on Facebook ... as the weekend jack of all trades, I was officially covering the march.

I just didn't know I'd get so swept up in the emotion of it all.

The kids won me over -- well, they spearheaded it, at least. Not kids in the literal since ... kids of "the movement."

My 23-year-old coworker and tireless volunteer Boo Jarchow, who worked hour after hour, week after week to make this weekend a success. Who went hours on end without sleep because she didn't want to miss a thing. Who was so excited about every last thing she took cabs around town, sprinted down streets, and burned out the batteries on both her BlackBerry and her iPhone to make sure there was no event, speech, mixer, or rally in which she didn't feel involved. The fivesome of teens from Knoxville, Tenn., who drove eight hours to be a part of history, who were thrilled to find out I worked for The Advocate and practically tackled me for my ticket to the HRC dinner to see Obama.

They're just some of the many who gave this weekend purpose, and they remind me what it's all about -- a better future, starting now.

I hadn't lost hope. I wasn't jaded or bitter. I'd just forgotten what it feels like to stand shoulder to shoulder with thousands of your gay brothers and sisters and know that one day, if you scream loud enough and demand to be heard, change happens.

Sure, Obama's speech at the HRC wasn't revolutionary -- some would even argue it was a colossal failure. He's still not talking about marriage ... or Maine ... and "don't ask, don't tell" repeal is still "on its way." But rewind the clock a year. Bush addressing a crowd at an HRC fund-raiser? The fool probably thinks HRC stands for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and if she were hosting a fund-raiser, he wouldn't go to that either. I get the need to pressure our politicians -- to demand more. But sitting there for 20 minutes while the president told our community we mean something. I don't suggest we let up on our demands for equality, but I'm not going to pretend it didn't send chills down my spine.

Today I stood 10 feet from David Mixner, who looked on from his wheelchair as thousands of people poured onto the lawn in front of the Capitol building. He told Advocate.com, "I told you they would come. Never underestimate the power of people who want their freedom." Damn ... those are inspiring words. David was in a hospital bed two months ago.

If he could make it to the march and speak to the crowd with such passion, why the hell was I such a holdout?

Even Lady Gaga damn near moved me to tears. A 23-year-old pop star taking Barney Frank to task from a podium at a national rally for gay rights? We may worship Madonna and Whitney, Barbara and Bette, but when have any of them taken the time to prep a speech that they the shouted through a microphone with the world's media watching in support of gay rights? I appreciate a good diva as much as the next gay, but Gaga went above and beyond this weekend.

As I sit here typing this up, my feet are throbbing from walking -- I'm sleep-deprived, have eaten less this weekend than I have in, well, how long have I been with my boyfriend? I've typed, I've interviewed folks, I've posted photos, blogged, edited, schmoozed, screamed my lungs out, and, yeah, even a few times, I cried.

But most importantly, I'm damn thankful I came to Washington. Because doing it all from Los Angeles would have been easy, and it would have saved money for travel, but it wouldn't have given me hope, and it wouldn't have renewed my faith.

"Never underestimate the power of people who want their freedom." Thank you, David ... thank, you kids. I won't. Never again.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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