Setting: Mi Patio, Phoenix, Arizona
Mood: Happy (two bottles of Negro Modelo on the table) yet remorseful (we wish we were back in Washington, DC!)
Characters: Molly (cute, blonde, funny, great poet, punk music fan) and Kat (bad-ass, smart-ass)
Molly McCloy:: I was trying to take notes on the trip earlier, and I realized that I had so much fun I can’t remember a damn thing.
Kat Iudicello: I remember all those cute lesbians. Oh yeah, and this one drag queen, pointing to another drag queen next to me who was wearing six-inch, clear plastic heels, said to her girlfriend, “You knock her over. I’ll take her shoes.” That was sweet.
Molly: I had a great drag queen encounter too. We were flashing the “show us your tits” sign which formerly read “show us your breasts,” and had “breasts” crossed off. We got a lot of great responses amidst the political speeches and marching. We got gay boys showing their nipples while we went crazy, a line of five women who did the lift-their-shirts wave at us, and then, finally, we got this drag queen who smiled at us and then reached into his blouse to pull out a falsie which he waved at us.
Kat: You definitely saw more breasts than I did. Speaking of breasts, let’s talk about Friday night. That’s when the March bonanza started for us. Hung Jury: long line, good house, lots o’ lesbians, and a sprinkling of gay boys, like the world had gone into a lovely tailspin. On our way to the bar, I noticed that straight folks weren’t even out on the streets. They were cowering in fear of the gay and lesbian guerilla take-over of the nation’s capital. As a sign at the March read, “Queer without Fear!” Go team.
Molly: Yeah, going to stuff like this always makes me realize what a lame selection for girl watching we get on TV. I didn’t even mind being in line or waiting or being crammed on the Metro because there were so many women everywhere. On Friday night the dance floor was packed just tight enough with all these girls and everyone was dancing with each other, strangers, friends, everyone just having a blast. One time I just leaned back and let myself fall because I knew a bunch of people would catch me.
Kat: It was amazingly hip, safe, hot, and fun. Everyone was excited. The bartenders were champs with great tattoos. All sorts of dykes were there no stereotypes allowed, everyone you could even imagine. We don’t look alike. Mint piercings and tattoos, midnight cowboy hats, mullets and stone-washed jeans, rich women with cell phones and Banana Republic catalog clothes, leather vest wearing pool players, big shorts and backwards baseball hats, tight tank tops and baggy low-slung jeans and gold chains, Dinah Shore hair cuts and khaki shorts and sockless sneakers….
Molly: and my personal favorite, smart-looking chicks wearing little glasses we don’t get that East Coast intellectual look down here that often…
Kat: Then, after a few hours of sleep, I met you at your hotel on Saturday morning to walk to the festival. When I got there, everyone was still chatting about the lucky ladies they met the night before. The stories were good. Still, I remember being really excited to hit the festival. The city blocked of lots of street space for it. But before we get to the festival, what was that salsa dancing story?
Molly: I think more than salsa dancing would’ve happened if everyone wasn’t crammed in at five people per room. I turned around on the dance floor at one point to find my friend Kishia doing some hot, sweaty Latin routine with some girl who knew a friend who knew a friend who knew a friend from Philadelphia. I was psyched for Kishia, but that other girl’s roommates were looking pretty nervous, thinking they were going to have to deal with the Holiday Inn Lambada in the next bed all night long.
Kat: So Sam, who is now and forever famous as the coolest person to know, put a 12-pack in her backpack, and we headed for the festival. There was a small line to get in, and the donation was only $5, which everyone paid in exchange for a paper bracelet/all day pass. The festival was packed! There were great political booths to check out, full of activist petitions to sign and causes to fight for, and, of course, there were your rainbow memorabilia booths, and food everywhere! Yummy, greasy-smelling everything, except vegetarians were pretty much stuck with french fries as far as I could tell.
Molly: I have yet to get a decent burrito on the East Coast, much less an edible festival burrito. My chicken burrito had some weird chemical, grill-cleaner taste to it that made me a little queasy, or maybe it was all those Big Brother screens with Al Gore staring at me everywhere that made me want to yak. It became very apparent that Al Gore is our man, which I have yet to get psyched on. Maybe if he gave me a million dollar grant to make lesbian porn… His face was everywhere and then Tipper showed up at the Equality Rocks concert.
Kat: Yikes. I wish 2 Live Crew, the gay version, of course, would’ve busted out with some explicit lyrics at that point. Yeah, the Human Rights Campaign was all about the festival, giving the donations to the Gore campaign. It’s better, I think, to go with past traditions of giving the money to local campaigns and start the fight for equality there. Go Vermont! HRC is great but made for a surprisingly conservative scene. I think I can count the drag queens that were at the festival on two hands and a foot. Good thing the Freaks and Family folks showed up on the Capital lawn by the march the next day in protest of the conservative vibe. I hear the Pet Shop Boys were at the Equality Rocks concert and featured fine, Flock of Seagulls intensified hairdos. Of course, I only heard that because I couldn’t afford the $40 (*@&$!) ticket to get in to the show. But if The Butchies and The Need and Tribe 8 and Team Dresch were playing the show, then I would’ve shelled out the dough. Let’s go anti-mainstream and support independent dyke bands! Oh, yeah, and one all-lesbian band from each state should have played a giant series of pre-show gigs.
Molly: Don’t even get me started. I was sad to hear that the Radical Fairies marched separately from the regular march because they were a definite highlight for me in 1993, all these great guys in pink tights and wings running around and irritating everyone with little noisemakers. They would just suddenly burst into a run, swarming around everyone. I don’t know anything about their group, but that was a great first impression, and the element of fun and outrageousness has a lot of political value for me. Yeah, you can tell the HR campaign is conservative just look at the yuppie baseball caps. I’d like to see their label on a pair of leather chaps… or a butt plug. OK, so I shelled out the money for a mainstream big venue concert of queers on major labels. I felt like I had to go because the people I was travelling with wanting to go, but I actually ended up having a great time. Being in a stadium with 45,000 other gay people was unexpectedly inspiring, worth $40 for a one-time shot.
Kat: It’s just not really supporting folks who can’t afford that sort of fee, and it gives props to bands and musicians that are accepted by mainstream society. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that straight folks “accept” (tolerate from a distance/spell their names on a crossword) such musicians. However, if queer folks are trying to move from the margins to the center, we have to move everyone and not just those who are already in the center, even if they are just barely in the center. So was it Garth Brooks or Chris Gaines at the concert? Maybe Chris is his gay side. Brooks did do a great cross-dressing number on Saturday Night Live, and he was especially good in the game show skit entitled “Old [or Dirty?] French Whore.”
Molly: Garth Brooks sang with George Michael. Some sort of cowboy hat exchange took place between George and Garth and a couple of gay cowboys two levels down swayed back and forth, their hands in each other’s back pockets. The Pet Shop Boys sang with Melissa Etheridge which was kooky and interesting too. I would’ve preferred something like Rob Halford of Judas Priest and Joan Jett trading leather pants before she rides off on his Harley, but this whole thing was set up for mainstream gays and that’s what sold 45,000 tickets. I think a fair amount of gay people don’t want to be counter culture. They want to be “normal” gay people. Not everyone likes dyke punk bands.
Kat: Yum, Joan Jett…sigh. What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Some folks don’t want to be counter culture, right (literally). Their loss, of course, but that’s fine. I just think there could’ve been a selection of music that would bring in non-conservative folks and appeal to youth culture. The numbers are good for the fight for equality, so I fully support the attendance of those who came out and took a public stand.
Molly: Yeah, and what about bisexual musicians? Then maybe we could have gotten David Bowie, Pete Townshend, Ani DiFranco, and Michael Stipe. If I scheduled the line-up, things would be way different. I would’ve had a whole section right up front for about 10 bucks. Then again, folks can always rush security like I used to do when I didn’t have cash. When the cover charge is too high people should just sneak in. Let me get back to what did happen, though. Chaka Khan had everyone dancing. k.d. lang had everyone swooning. The Pet Shop boys obliged all the gay guys yelling, “New York City Boy,” by playing the song complete with dancing sailors. I wish George Michael would’ve caught that spirit a little more. Just as my friend Sam (who was able to sneak in eight beers in her pants) started bitching that GM wasn’t playing his pop numbers enough, I noticed he was singing some song I didn’t know painfully slow while someone played the harp. Maybe he was playing the harp. I’m not sure. Sam’s pants were pretty empty by this point. The monitors were hard to see and the sound was terrible. At one point I thought Tipper was talking about taking a trip to “mozambique babaloo,” and Sam figured she was actually hyping the making of “Rocky 32.”
Kat: Sweet. Sam rocks. I saw that movie. Anything weird?
Molly: I guess the weirdest thing was George’s Michael’s insistence that we all give a simultaneous angry grunt to protest the kidnapping and torture of gay kids who were sent by their parents, usually, to these little fly-by-night, straightening-out centers. Those Human Right campaign commercials were scary.
Kat: Scary like capri pants?
Molly: No, seriously eerie. Maybe I was just getting my buttons pushed, but there were a couple of times I wanted to cry, and a lot of people were breaking down. Matthew Sheppard’s parents spoke. It really got to me when they started talking about all the good values they felt they taught their son. A real contrast to the family values bullshit you usually hear. The concert was such an intense mix of high emotions. One minute I’m doing the bump and grind with my friend’s cousin and the next minute everyone’s weeping. The crying felt like this great release, though. It was like I can never admit on a daily basis how much the homophobia depresses me, but here it was okay to break down and recognize it. It was a strange and wonderful event. It had this real Academy Awards feel to it with lots of speakers and short music acts, but even though the format was fun and fast, a lot of personal issues were tapped. I found myself thinking about my mom a lot, even. I’m really glad my parents are cool. A lot of people don’t have that.
Kat: Heavy. I was hanging out with my ex that night. We were talking about how amazing it was to see queer folks holding hands and walking arm-in-arm down Pennsylvania Avenue. Women were kissing women. Men were kissing men. Nobody noticed. And all of this public affection that you see displayed daily as normal behavior by husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends, happened near Capital Hill. Lesbians, gays, bisexual folks, and transgender folks were out and about in front of the ultimate stronghold of legislation that outlaws gay marriage and gay sex and keeps straight folks in their position of privilege. Incredible. It was so thrilling to see the straight-dominated world turned upside down. The safety and joy of being surrounded by folks who didn’t just accept me but looked at me as the norm gave me the chills. It also made me break out into a cold sweat, acknowledging how straight reality is. In my everyday life, I am bombarded with images of straightness. The privilege that straight folks have is so overwhelming that I often avoid thinking about it. Straight folks don’t even notice their privilege because their straightness is invisible to them. It’s been normed into invisibility.
Molly: I know what you mean. That feeling of granted acceptance really hit me when I was waiting in line for a pretzel. I try to be as out as possible in straight society, but sometimes I get intimidated and go low profile, especially in places like sports arenas. Here we were with the usual backdrop, though, the concession stand, the pretzels, the cattle guard bars to keep everyone in line, but it was suddenly OK to be gay in this environment. I got all caught up in it. “Hey, Tiff, we can be gay,” I yelled at my friend in the next line. “I can just go over here and kiss you.” I got out of line and kissed her. She was a little surprised, but I thought everyone should have been dancing, kissing, everything.
Kat: What about the Venus Rising dance party after the concert? I heard that the event was set-up by the March organizers to get women dancing. Was it all women? I heard Sam was pole dancing and there were 32 levels of dance floors…. Oh, wait. I’m back on the Rocky movie thing. Still, I bet Sam was pole dancing.
Molly: I hate to say it, but Sam was the only one who wasn’t falling asleep at this point. Probably because she was smart enough to keep on drinking. The Venus Rising party created a bit of a scheduling problem, because it came after the concert which so many people attended. When we got there some girls were leaving and warning us not to pay the $25 cover. I went inside and took a look at the dance floor and although there weren’t very many people there, there were a handful of cuties up to my standards. I think that the sparse nature of the party was making everyone extra picky or something, because the dance floor was full of cute girls looking dissatisfied and staring off into space instead of getting some action. The girls who were putting on the dance kept a positive attitude and pretty soon the concert crowd filled the place up. My group decided to take a seat and check out the drag king show. The proceeds went to benefit two good causes, including a cancer research project. I liked the kings. I wish I could remember their names. There was a lounge lizard king, a preacher king, a hip-hop king, all getting dollar bills tucked into their pants. Ironically, though, the dancer that made, by far, the most money, decided to strip down and go topless. The women were lining up, waving their dollars when that happened. The party organizers should probably hire lesbian strippers next time. Sam and I tried to tap into that same energy the next day with our “Show us your tits” sign. I felt like a celebrity when Sam hoisted me up on her shoulders and all these people started pointing their cameras at me while I waved the sign just like Lady Di. I think we provided a good light comedy effect because the speakers at the march were starting to say the same things as the speakers at the concert and I’m sure people were tired of crying. What a fun day. I’m always going to push for gay rights as sexual freedom as well as human rights.
Kat: I remember that we couldn’t manage to get together for the March the next day because of group coordination issues, which is a drag (in a bad way). I went with my ex, Caroline, my best boy/friend Rich, and his wife/my friend Noreen, who is pregnant. We put a HRC sticker on her belly, and Rich and I held up Lesbian Rights signs that NOW gave out at the March. We got there after the parade started and were caught up in the excitement immediately, yelling and cheering until we had no voice. The crowd was loud and enthusiastically supported the marchers all the way to Capital Hill. The marchers were chanting, and their groups seemed to wind all around the Washington Monument. They extended so far out from the street, waiting to march, that the groups at the end seemed like little bugs. It was an incredible show of support and demand for equal rights for lesbians, gays, transgender folks, and bisexuals. The day was beautiful, sunny with a slight breeze, and echoed the joy that everyone seemed to feel. There were, of course, protestors, but not that many, waving their boring and predictable signs, “Gays and Lesbians are going to Hell,” “Repent, Queer Sinners,” “Blah,” “Blah,” “Blah.” At one point, the funniest thing happened. One protestor, who is apparently a bit repressed, got a little too excited and mistakenly yelled into his bullhorn: “All you gays want are assholes and penises!” That really got the crowd roaring in approval! He had to face replies such as, “You bet, sugar!” and “Yea for penises and buttholes!” Soon after this, what seemed like miles of queer, bi, and transgender church groups turned to face these protestors and cheered and chanted. It was very empowering, and the protestors were drowned out, made voiceless. A really touching and tough scene ensued when a lesbian pulled away from the marchers and wheeled her chair up to the curb where the protestors were standing. She got out with the aid of her cane and slowly walked up to one protestor who was shouting through a bullhorn. She got in his face, and the crowd and marchers roared their support. It was amazing. Later, PFLAG groups marched by, and they seemed to have representation from every state in the U.S. There was even a group from Rome, supporting gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender rights all over the world in 2000. Plus, there were the Fathers with Strollers and even a group of union folks, marching for labor rights for queers. What really got to me, though, was the group marching for partner rights for couples comprised of an immigrant and an U.S. citizen. Folks get torn from their partners and deported on a daily basis, and there is no law to prevent that forced separation. Rich, Noreen, Caroline, and I joined in behind the New Jersey marchers and were with the loudest group of the March. We passed Big Gay Al and his gay pig, which was a great PETA idea. We also marched by a dyke who had been harassed by an off-duty cop at Dupont Circle and was protesting that act. Come on. I mean even when the world is back to its straight spin, Dupont Circle is like a mini Castro district. The March ended at an enormous stage where one speaker after another shared their person stories of oppression, repression, and their triumphant struggles over both with hundreds of thousands of marchers and protest supporters. The grass lawns between the Capital building and the Washington Monument seemed packed with folks on blankets, watching the speakers on various large screens and meeting new people, hanging out and having fun. There were a lot of young speakers there, but my favorite had to be Martina N. She rocks, telling everyone to pick at least one day out of the year and be an activist. If that happened, she claimed, and everyone got involved in the struggle for equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender folks, straight privilege would implode.
Molly: Everyone was just glowing. I just felt alive, high, open to anything. I realized how much the idea of community, or sisterhood or brotherhood or whatever you call it, is missing from the straight world. I felt a bond with strangers that I’ve never felt before. What a beautiful day. I liked the signs that said, “If God hates us, why’s the weather so great?”
Kat: Yeah, one of my favorite signs was “My gay son can beat up your straight son.”
Molly: Now that I think of it, I missed the kind of signs I saw in 1993. “Get your church out of my crotch.” “Get your rosary off my ovaries.” And then there were these radical girls from Olympia spray painting through stencils that said, “girl loves girl” and “tuna taco.” Maybe I was too caught up in my own crazy sign experience to catch the good ones. At least for this march I was staying in town. In 1993 I missed the big after-march girl parties because I had to go back to Holiday Inn in Maryland with the school group.
Kat: At least you got to stay this year. I had to fly back Sunday night for work on Monday. It was so sad at the airport. I absolutely did not want to leave that safe, public, gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender space that the March constructed for a wonderful moment. The airport was frighteningly straight, and it was, surprisingly, quite a shock. Luckily, Rich and Noreen bought me some crappy airport-bar nachos with squeezy cheeze and dried out jalapenos that I mowed down, drowning my sorrows in cheap beer that looked eerily like urine or Milwaukee’s Best. Damn. Where is Sam with the sweet libations when you need her?
Molly: You just have to keep the spirit of Sam going wherever you go, Kat. When Kishia and I were on the plane home the attendant announced that the movie was The Straight Story and half the plane started laughing. I’m really sorry you missed the girl party, though.
Kat: Yeah, because I’m an avid subscriber to Curve magazine hip lesbians, mint. So how was the party? I hear there were 32 dance floors and Sam was pole dancing. Hmmm. Didn’t I already say that?
Molly: Yes, but the point can’t be stressed enough. No pole is safe when Sam’s in town. The party was incredible. I was looking at the little flyer that I got for the party, expecting the girls to look like the chicks in the Dinah Shore ads, super skinny, bacon tan, pouty gold-wearing gym addicts in sports bras and walking shorts. Instead, the girls on the flyer looked like real girls, smiling, one with freckles it was a good sign. The party was three floors of girls, a ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s floor, something for everyone. The dancing gave me a better attitude about dating around and not getting too attached, because one minute I was getting real close with one girl and the next minute found me half an inch from another girl’s lips while the first girl…
Kat: You’re a player. I’m telling Sam.
Molly: Yeah, right. At one point I just had all three of these girls dancing with me, one all edged up behind me, one pressed against me on the front, and the other one pressed against the one in front of me while I held onto her hands. Pure revelry.
Kat: Great. You’re getting all the action while I’m on a stinky, stale-air, crowded, polyester-seat ridden plane, drowning my sorrows in a can of soda and a stale bag of pretzels.
Molly: Actually, Kishia was getting all the action. The salsa girl showed up again. They had the same trouble as Friday night trying to find a private place, but this time they were a little more determined. I’m not at liberty to tell what happened but Kishia somehow ended up with sore elbows.
Kat: Ah, yes. Porcelain burns. Sam knows all about those. SO. Last(ing) impressions of the March? For me, it was all about a huge wonderful space, safety, norms redefined, a glimpse at an America without certain privileges, joy, excitement, empowerment, the power of protest, triumphant struggles, and Sam.
Molly: You said it. I want to hold onto that energized feeling as long as I can. I want to keep a check on this conservative gay rights trend we talked about too. I want to make sure this is still about sex.