Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why D.C. Is My Happy Place

Last Sunday was the Equality March, where LGBTQ folks, allies, and Women’s March stalwarts gathered to show our pride and solidarity and to protest the Trump regime. As my BFF/ex-wife and I walked into the crowd at Farragut Square, we happened upon a wave of woohoos. A marching band in matching purple T-shirts played “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and I felt old when only a few people looked fired up about that. When they played “Born This Way,” I jumped around in sincere joy at my people’s unofficial anthem.

It was certainly the biggest LGBTQ demonstration I’ve ever been in, though of course it was teensy compared to the D.C. Women’s March. Amy was carrying a pinwheel she’d made herself!

 and I’d painted a sign that said this:

Since November, protests have come to feel like a second home to me. I take so much comfort in the signs, both the clever puns and the classics:

I’ve been chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” for twenty years, and I was amused by the addition of “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump, sashay away!” The crowd grew at every intersection, and was ebullient until we reached the White House—you could hear the boos and the “Shame, shame, shame!” chants from many blocks away. When we got there, we noticed snipers on the roof, but maybe they are always there. Though we were literally targets of the Trump administration, I felt completely safe. I know that’s partly a function of privilege, (It’s much safer for me in protests than it is for people of color, Muslim folks, and trans folks, a fact I try not to take for granted.) but being with The People tends to make me feel at home, whether I’m canvassing, marching, or just going in for my weekly therapy appointments at Women Organized Against Rape. Connection is what keeps me strong and happy, the opposite of helpless, knowing that we are many and we will not be silenced.

            After the march, Amy and I sat down in the shade outside the Museum of Natural History to catch our breath and have a snack. I needed to go in to use the restroom, and as I got metal-detected and wanded to get into the museum, a thought occurred to me: Everything in the entire Smithsonian is mine. The Hope Diamond and all of her mineral friends, the Ruby slippers, the Washington Monument, every fountain and path and sunken sculpture garden, it’s mine. Ours. It belongs to everyone at every intersection.

This is not and has never been a country that belongs only to straight white men, and I’m glad that so many of us are working to turn away from that default and toward ourselves and those who need our support.

On the way home, Amy and I happened to pass the National Cathedral (Picturing Jed Bartlett there, crushing out a cigarette in the transept…)I wanted to gaze up at the architecture and see if I could get inside to look at the stained glass, which I hadn’t seen since a school trip when I was twelve. (The fact that I ran out of film on that trip still haunts me. Thank goodness that’s not a concern anymore!) Amy, legs sore from marching, kindly waited outside in the turnaround while I went to explore.

The outside of the building was as awe-inspiring as I’d expected, but it was the windows that really transported me, brighter to my eyes because of all the rainbows I’d just spent the day with. Pictures don’t do justice to the saturated colors, which looked like the other-worldly light that I picture when I do chakra meditations. A choir was singing, and as I walked around lit up and mesmerized, I realized that I must look odd walking around a cathedral with my rainbow-ribbon pigtails, pride fest beads, spiked collar, and beribboned leather cuff, but I thought of course I’m in a cathedral all prided up, this is my cathedral too. Doubly so.

My Catholic ancestry and upbringing means that I share responsibility for the horrors of our past, but it’s never occurred to me that I could take ownership of the beauty too. Every rich, shining pane of glass, every flying buttress, belongs just as much to my queer, pro-choice voice-having lady self as it belongs to the pope himself. Maybe I’ll go to the Vatican someday and check out my Sistine Chapel, my Rafaels, my golden dome. As much as the horror is mine to inherit and try to correct, so is the light.

And the same goes for America. I’m used to taking part of the responsibility for the Native American genocide, for slavery, for the School to Prison Pipeline, sharing in those problems and knowing they are mine to help fix, but I’m also ready to claim the good things. I visit the Hope Diamond as often as I can because it’s beautiful and ours, just like President Obama’s legacy is beautiful and ours. We can hold hope in our hand and let it sparkle, never let anyone take it away.