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After the March BY JUAN PALOMO IN APRIL 1963, an all-Mexican-American slate of candidates ousted the Anglo city council incumbents in Crystal City with the help of the Teamsters Union and PASO, the Political Association of Spanish-language Organizations. It was the first time something like that had happened in the history of the state. On the day they took office, Juan Cornejo, who had just been selected mayor by the council, looked around the room and said, “Now what do we do?” I was reminded of that on the day after the great gay and lesbian March on Washington as I boarded an American Airlines jet bound for Dallas. The couple next to me may have been the only straight passengers on the plane and they looked bewildered and uneasy at the hooting and hollering throughout the plane, a carryover from the previous day’s hubris. Despite all the pride, the defiance, the celebration, the sense of solidarity and the giddiness at being able to be ourselves openly for an entire weekend, the march left many of us with an empty, questioning feeling. We had emerged from our mass march up and down the yellow brick roads of Oz with a new or renewed sense of empowerment, but like Cornejo and his crew, many of us had no real idea what we could do with it. There were a lot of unrealistic predictions and expectations. Some marchers were absolutely certain that the sight of a million homo* sexuals on the Mall would overnight change America’s mind about us. For the moment, at least, they chose to ignore the dark reality of the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the country, who, predictably, reacted to the weekend’s events by holding up their Bibles even higher and screaming even louder. Others were dead certain that Sam Nunn, Strom Thurmond and Colin Powell would be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and change their minds about gays in the military. Hey, one million people! You’ve convinced us let those perverts into the showers with our boys! The truth is that we could have packed every open space in the entire District of Columbia with five or 10 million gay men -and lesbians and the short-term politiCal landscape would not have changed much for us. It would have remained the same because, despite the advance billing, the march was Juan Palomo is a columnist with the Houston Post. really no more and no less political than have been most of the gay,pride marches that are held in cities acrosss the country each year. The Houston Post’s lead story described the march as “a massive street party,” and that’s what it was. Yes, there was the rage of the AIDS activists, the sorrow of those who mourned the losses to the disease, the anger of those pushing for a lift of the ban on gays in the military, and the general frustration of most lesbians and gay men over the continued second-class citizenship they believe their country affords them. . The overwhelming emotion, though, was one of celebration, joy and pride. That sense was expressed best by a hand-written sign held up by a marcher: “I’m in gay heaven!” For that weekend, at least, both meanings of the word gay applied. There was a sense of euphoria, a feeling that despite all the obstacles there is no turning back for the gay rights movement. That feeling was reinforced by the positive or at least neutral coverage the march and related activities got in the press. The coverage was impressive. My own newspaper ran numerous stories leading up to the march and had several stories on the march itself in addition to a column by Deb Price, the lesbian Gannett News Service columnist. That was in stark contrast to the coverage it gave a similar march in 1987. I was in the Washington bureau that year but because I was still very much in the closet, I didn’t dare suggest to my bureau chief that we cover the activities. This time, three of our four Washington bureau people were out there in the hot sun covering the march. I can’t help wondering whether my being out of the closet had influenced the decision by my Washington colleagues to cover the march as thoroughly as they did. That thought reinforced my contention that individual acts of honesty about ourselves to those around us are more powerful than any march. Most newspapers and TV stations did have the requisite picture or two of the crossdressers and the bare-breasted women and the men in leather, but for the most part, the march was a massive display of the ordinariness of gay America. Even the reporter for Pat Robertson’s TV network was forced to concede that the odd folks at the march constituted a very small minority, that the majority of those there appeared to be very normal. Although much of the reporting on gay and lesbian issues has improved, most jour nalists still found it hard to refrain from fixating on the flamboyant queens or the butch lesbians. Inevitably, the question came up at every news conference by a gay or lesbian leader: “How do you feel about those people sharing the spotlight with the mainstream gay community?” My favorite response was that provided by David Mixner, the California businessman who raised millions of dollars for Bill Clinton’s campaign. “I am not willing to tell another human being that I’m going to be intolerant of him in order that I can be free,” he said. The march may have fallen a bit short of the one million mark, but it will prove to be a decisive moment in the history of the movement and the country. As I said, in the short term, we can’t expect much to change, but years from now, people will look back and understand that hundreds of thousands of gaymen and lesbians and their friends from all walks of life were willing to stand up proudly and defiantly in the face of fierce opposition to tell the world repeatedly, “We’re here, we’re queer get used to it.” \(There were many variations of that chant. The most popular was, “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re wonderful don’t fuck with us.” A group of Canadians had the best: “We’re here, we’re queer we’re cross-borThe official slogan for the march was, “It’s a simple matter of justice.” But it is more than that it is a simple matter of reality. Every day more and more homosexuals are leaving the closet, dragging with them numerous family members, friends, and co-workers. Each one of those coming-outs will be a small victory, but together, they will create a big, unstoppable wave. To the extent that the march gives that fmal nudge to those on the verge of coming out, it will be a tremendous factor in the future of gay and lesbian America. Attitudes toward homosexuality are changing and they will change even more with each person who comes out of the closet. The ban on gays in the military will be lifted. Not because of the march and not because of any of the testimony that is being presented at the hearings, but because Bill Clinton is, after all, a man of honor who truly believes that it is a question of human rights. He will keep his word to the gay community. Congress might vote to reinstate the ban but it won’t be able to override a presidential veto. It won’t be a painless victory. There will be much consternation and the Bible-thumpers THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17