I’m protesting against Proposition 8 — after the fact — with thousands of other people because:
1. We lost, and I hate everyone now. Especially you good people who voted for Prop. 8. You’re all jerks. Burn in Hell.
2. Queer protest marches always have the most imaginative chants, notwithstanding “Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia’s got to go.”
3. Clogging the streets, though not accomplishing anything tangible while it happens — unless, like me, you count making people late for the Madonna concert a satisfying outcome — is part of the fighting-back process. It’s cheerleading for the opposition. It’s Step One after the gut-punching. Step Two is figuring out how to dismantle an unjust law or constitutional amendment, regardless of the slim-yet-tyrannical majority’s wishes to impose on the rest of us its religion-based, anti–civil rights opinions. That’s when the boring legal work begins among people who know how to do that kind of boring legal work. For the rest of us, plain old-fashioned venting of homo rage is all we have for the moment. So I vent.
Wednesday night, West Hollywood: The rally begins. But not with a bang. It’s as wimpy a whimper as I’ve heard in a while. A gay men’s chorus whisper-sings “We’ve Only Just Begun.” I love the Carpenters, too, but right now I’m feeling a little more, oh, I don’t know, Cannibal Corpse about this whole deal. I mean, forgive us for forgetting for one minute that because we lived in “liberal” California we didn’t have to worry about anyone taking our rights from us again. We were too busy having relatively decent lives generally free of oppression, and we let down our guard. This was supposed to have been a relic of the ugly Anita Bryant ’70s. But here we are, damned for not being constantly freaked out by the people who hate us, punished with Carpenters lullabies.
The choir starts up another. I don’t recognize it. Some Broadway ballad I’m sure, and I’m literally growling into my now-not-husband’s ear. (And don’t patronize me with, “But you’re still legally married.” Sure we are. For now. Wait till the mandatory divorcing begins. You know that’s next. Then watch them go after domestic partnership.) I’m not sure what comes over me, but I just start screaming during the singing. I do this twice. Some people around me laugh. Some other gays shoot me dirty looks. But whatever. Then I scream, “FUCK SHIT UP!” with as much volume as I can deliver in one bellow.
Speakers speak. People talk about God and how we’re all created equally in God’s sight. Some more speakers speak. Some more God stuff. Chastity Bono is there. Toward the back of the crowd I hear yelling and horns honking, so I turn to my friend Gary and say, “Whatever’s going on behind us sounds way more awesome than this. Let’s go.”
The husband wants to stay behind. I promise to keep in touch on my cell phone. A spontaneous march begins up San Vicente to Sunset. I’ve never helped to shut down a major thoroughfare before, but I’m ready. Trudging up San Vicente, Gary begins chanting, “Who’s in charge! Who’s in charge!” Answer: no one. Not that there needed to be. We encounter only helpful police as we take over Sunset, greeted by applauding people at cafés and other retail outlets. Even in front of House of Blues, where lunkheads often congregate, I only see one guy giving us the not-pleased-with-gays hand gesture. And because I’m bigger than he is, and also because I’m pretty good at Wii boxing (my boxer is Joan Didion), I figure I’m safe in barking back my favorite 12-letter profanity. Nothing comes of it. Some frustrated motorists we pass aren’t happy with us, but one of the women to my left starts yelling, “IF YOU’D VOTED NO, YOU’D BE HOME BY NOW!”
You know what sucks when you’re old? Walking a long distance with a bunch of kids who practically gallop down the street. And who show no sign of stopping. And who are genuinely spoiling for a fight, unlike someone like me, who just enjoys yelling a lot. So I let them go on ahead, peel off down a quiet block lined with cars trying to get across Sunset and I wander back home, content. I need a nice cup of tea and a sit-down. And from my couch I watch KTLA video of young people being beaten down by the police. When those cops say get down on the ground, they mean it, kids. Don’t think that they’re kidding. They will Rodney-King-the-shit-out-of-you. Oh yeah, and the other thing cops don’t like is little skinny-jeaned homosexuals vogueing on top of their cars.
Thursday, Mormon temple, Westwood: I miss this one. The husband goes. Forgets to wear comfortable walking shoes and is chafed when he gets home. Assists in blocking Wilshire and backing it up all the way to the 405, which kind of makes it a normal day of traffic on Wilshire anyway. Sees no violence until, like me the night before, he comes home to witness it on TV. Video of some guy in a truck getting out to punch a protester in the face. Punch back, Gay!
Saturday, Silverlake: I get a couple of beers at the Eagle, first because protesting is just nicer with some booze in you. The husband and I talk about which celebrities ought to be at this rally. “Madonna was just in town,” he says. “And she went to that ACT UP! demo in Truth or Dare. Let her come to this one. She owes us.”
“I want Barack Obama to fly in and fix this shit,” I say. “And not in a plane. I mean really fly. You know he’s got superpowers and can totally do that. He’s just waiting for the right moment to show them to the world. Failing that: Vicky Becks.”
I have the first of two ridiculous conversations I’ll have with lunatics on this night. One’s a drunkard at the bar. I can’t really blame a gay barfly for doing everything wrong in his life, but this one was trying to convince me of his superior liver-damaged logic in having voted yes on Prop. 8 (if he was even telling me the truth). It goes like this: If the world ended and all we had left were two male rats, then that would be the end of the entire rat race.
“You’re done talking to me,” I tell him, walking away.
The next turns out to be a man who, I learn once I see all three of his signs, is Melrose Larry Green. “FACE IT, YOU LOST” and “THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN,” it seems, are equal to “HOWARD STERN IS THE KING OF ALL MEDIA” on his evening agenda. He walks right up to me and says, “The people have spoken!”
“Oh yeah?” I ask. “You vote yes on this?”
“It doesn’t matter. The people have spoken.”
“I’m the people and I’m speaking,” I say. “It matters. And your king Howard is on our side.”
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He walks away.
The PA on the flatbed carrying the rally’s speakers can’t be heard farther than 20 feet away, and about 10,000 people are gathering, meaning that 9,500 of them listen to the equivalent of Charlie Brown’s teacher. So, to pass the time till we start marching, I just look for signs with typos on them: “Clerical Facism” and “We are your nigbors” are good. And though it’s likely a stylistic choice, “Stop H8te” reads like “Stop Haiti” to me. Best nontypo sign: “THE BIBLE: SLAVERY GOOD. GAYS BAD. SNAKES TALK,” even if talking snakes is one of the reasons I’m still sort of a fan of the Bible.
The husband and I get separated again during this march, thanks to my insistence on keeping to the fringes. I’m hoping I’ll run into some counterdemonstrators. But the most I find is a tiny, Spanish-speaking, storefront Pentecostal church as we detour up Vermont. The small congregation watches from the sidewalk, as everyone chants past, wondering what the ruckus is about. No angry showdowns. In fact, this march is so well-planned and well-organized and well-behaved and well-directed down streets that have nothing but closed businesses and very little human street traffic, that we’re kind of just entertaining ourselves. I’m hoping they’ve organized another one for Sunday morning, blocking the entrance to some big Evangelical outpost like Saddleback Church, because this is all a little too nice.
We make the loop back to Sunset Junction, and I finally see a handful of counterprotestors. Not like they needed to show up. They won this round, after all. But here they are, late and lazy. And everyone ignores them. George Takei walks past me. So does Wanda Sykes. And my feet hurt again. I get a chicken burrito at El Pollo Loco, beating the rest of the hungry gays. The husband catches up with me at our car. We drive home, wondering silently how to make Step Two happen in our lifetime.