Resistance trumps pride at annual LGBTQ march in L.A.
Eric A. Gordon/PW

LOS ANGELES — This year was different. The militancy came back.

The earliest gay pride marches in L.A. in the post-Stonewall years, starting in 1970, were militant displays of a new-born movement for rights and recognition, targeting police entrapment, job security, and a host of other prejudices both social and legal. Some younger queer folk cannot remember a time when LGBTQ people could not serve in the military if they wanted, or study and work in a discrimination-free environment, or even marry the partner of their choice.

Over the years, as rights were won and harassment declined, L.A. Pride marches became annual fun-filled affirmations of identity and accomplishment, complete with corporate sponsors and the participation of elected officials, church and civic groups. The Pride Festival following the march had become a concert stage and bazaar for product promotion and recruitment for LGBTQ organizations, where the food and the spirits flowed.

This year was different. A true friend of the LGBTQ community had been denied her shot at the presidency in November despite winning the popular vote by three million votes, and a malevolent corporate baron had by an unprecedented algorithm of factors been sworn into the highest office in the land.

Even before he started his new job, the gears started moving toward a takeback of hard-won rights, both on the federal level and in the states. All of a sudden, reproductive rights and employment rights, the right to be served in public facilities and in county clerks’ offices, the right of a transgender student to use the bathroom of their choice, all this overnight came under threat. Along with other movements—women’s, environment, labor, immigrants—LGBTQ lives and hopes have been upended. The Resistance has begun.

Sunday, June 11th dawned overcast, typical of our “June gloom” weather here. By mid-morning the sun started poking through, and by mid-afternoon it had become a real Southern California day. Crowds of LGBTQ people and their supporters started gathering as early as 7 a.m. My friend and I joined up with the ACLU, which handed out aqua tee shirts with a rainbow-colored Statue of Liberty holding her fist up high in place of her usual torch. When we got to the main staging area on Hollywood Blvd. just east of La Brea, we stood inexplicably for almost two hours before the march kicked off. Speakers blasted some rousing orators but between the distance and the inadequate sound set-up, their words were mostly lost.

Subsequently we learned that the Resist March had been addressed by numerous officials and celebrities, both at the start and at the endpoint rally. Rep. Maxine Waters, from Los Angeles, famous for her feisty opposition to the president, said, “…if he thinks he can mess with the LGBT community, he’d better look at what happened right here in West Hollywood.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), now receiving a lot of press as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said, “For years, we have gathered in these streets to celebrate our pride, and this year we are as proud as ever, but we are also mad as hell.”

I spoke with Jerome, 32, originally from Arkansas, who came to West Hollywood almost ten years ago to be himself. He had been to Pride marches before, for the fun of it and to toss off a few drinks with friends, but had never taken a political stand until now. “This is the worst I’ve ever seen our country,” he told me, “and I had to come out here today.”

The Los Angeles Times estimated the turnout as in the “tens of thousands.” If you got to a little rise in the street you could look forward to the head of the march and back to the rear and see block after block filled with protestors. A few wore quirky outfits—the “freaks” the media used to pick out of the crowd to show how peculiar and un-American these people are—but most dressed soberly and comfortably for the 3.5-mile march.

Hand-held signs, many of them individually created, ridiculed the man with the small hands and no heart, promoted universal health care, climate science, women’s rights, labor rights and minority rights. “Jesus resisted,” read one sign. “Love trumps hate” was a popular slogan. Another was “Make America gay again.” It was a microcosm of America as a “free speech zone.”

When we rounded the corner from Fairfax down to Santa Monica Blvd. a couple of flatbed trucks were parked at the intersection bearing signs declaring homosex to be America’s sin. The crowd booed as they strode past. There were no reported incidents of violence or disturbance.

At the ticketed Pride Festival at the end of the route, booths gave away tshatshkes—beads, buttons, bandaids, condoms—and information about addiction services, churches, political organizations, social service agencies and the like.

We stopped by one booth staffed by a young man and woman representing the Republican Party. “I guess you guys aren’t too popular here,” I said, observing that no one else was there to chat or pick up information. In fact, the GOP gave out no literature or swag at all. Two walls of the booth were covered by enormous tributes to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando just a year before, decrying the supposed Islamic ideology that led the shooter to commit mass murder. Passers-by were asked if they’d like to sign the remembrance tribute, and indeed many had signed—the blank spaces were almost full. (Were these signatures gathered at the Festival or were the giant posters brought in already signed? I had no way of knowing.) But there was not a word about what the Republican Party stood for, what it represented, what plans it had for America.

Tens of thousands of Angelenos showed up on Sunday because they had a very clear idea of what the GOP had in store for them and they didn’t care for it one bit.

The LGBTQ community counts itself as a dependable, highly motivated contingent in the Resistance movement.


CONTRIBUTOR

Eric A. Gordon
Eric A. Gordon

Eric A. Gordon is the author of a biography of radical American composer Marc Blitzstein, co-author of composer Earl Robinson’s autobiography, and the translator (from Portuguese) of a memoir by Brazilian author Hadasa Cytrynowicz. He holds a doctorate in history from Tulane University. He chaired the Southern California chapter of the National Writers Union, Local 1981 UAW (AFL-CIO) for two terms and is director emeritus of The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring Southern California District. In 2015 he produced “City of the Future,” a CD of Soviet Yiddish songs by Samuel Polonski.

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