October 12, 2009
>GLSEN Makes History Marching for Safe Schools
>On Sunday, October 11, 2009, citizens from as far north as Alaska, down to the southernmost tip of Florida and everywhere in between gathered in D.C. for the National Equality March. Beginning at noon, the parade made it’s way through the streets of downtown D.C., past the White House where many groups, including GLSEN, stopped to take pictures before proceeding to it’s destination, the lawn of the Capitol. As we made our way to the Capitol crowd energy intensified and onlookers, many of whom were teachers, cheered in loud approval as the GLSEN banner passed by. One woman in her late 40′s who was traveling with another alliance group stopped the students early on in the parade to praise their participation and affiliation with GLSEN, an organization offering the support she said she could have really used when she came out at age 16.
As advocates consumed the streets and later the Capitol lawn, flashy homemade signs with quips and banners of support, crafty t-shirts and the expected unique attire united the front. Perhaps most surprising however, was the very apparent shift in parade participants. This parade in comparison with parades past changed exponentially, not only through a technological lens but also by generation. Spoken and heard were the voices of predominantly young adults age 16 up through their 30′s who refuse to wait in silence for resolve on issues ranging from ending the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, to the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to accomplishing marriage equality and ending bigotry. In attendance and representing the perfect American portrait were parents with their gay children, brothers and sisters with their gay siblings, and straight allies who saw a cause they felt strongly about and traveled to Washington to be heard.
For many, this was their first rally on such a grand scale and one they knew they couldn’t miss. Matthew, president of his GSA at Keene State College in New Hampshire, coordinated a carpool with his peers who drove through the night to get to D.C. “It was important for me to be a part of this historical event and when I got word that they were expecting record numbers, I decided I wasn’t going to let them down,” Matthew said.
While we may never know the exact numbers in attendance at the National Equality March, there were thousands of stories just like Matthews woven into the historical turnout of young people demanding social change. As is customary, there are always fear-driven questions surrounding the future of our society as it lay in the hands of today’s youth, but let this representation be a message to the naysayers: this generation won’t rest until we have an America that is truly a land of the free, which to me, makes them the most brave.