Many years ago I learned that a dinner and a demo is my dear partner’s idea of a good time. For her, a bullhorn is a sexual device.
Once on a bright, freezing cold February day we were marching for either U.S. out of (fill in Latin American country), or for nuclear disarmament, or for aerosolized pentamadine, or against the first or second war in Iraq. We were in front of the White House – yes children, there was a time when you could get close – when someone shouted “Die-in!” Everyone lay down like they were filling in chalk silhouettes.
I stood there like the Washington Monument on a sunny day, with my dear galpal, tugging my coat and hissing, “Supine! Supine!” I spat back, “This is a camelhair coat. I am not lying down on the ground.” A helpful, supine queen nearby suggested, “Honey, take it off, put it on inside out and just lie down.”
In the moments before we leave for a protest, no manila file folder is safe in our house. My dear partner believes in them. She protested in 1990 at George HW Bush’s first and only AIDS policy speech. She smuggled a file folder in her briefcase through security. As Bush spoke, she stood silently with her opened folder, “Talk is Cheap; AIDS funding is not.” She was escorted out.
As I was layering on the warmest clothes I could find for the huge December 13th rally in NYC, I heard the familiar screech of magic markers and caught a stinging whiff of Sharpie. The sign read “Lesbians Against Police Violence and Racism”. Each word was underlined in red. Several times.
We joined protestors in Washington Square Park marching to One Police Plaza. Protestors carried hundreds of huge black silhouettes of hands with “Black Lives Matter”. Ten people carried a huge montage of Eric Garner’s eyes. Signs were hand-made or mass-produced. They were all on message. I was nervous that our sign introduced an off-topic LGBT motif.
The march was massive, mostly black and brown, mostly young and ceaselessly vocal. We fit right in, with an occasional nod and thumbs up.
Manilla file folders are good in a wind. Even held overhead, a sudden rogue gust will not buckle them. I had forgotten what our sign said, until I heard a young girl, shout, “Mom! Lesbians!” Insert the ‘what are the chances, but we actually knew them’ joke here. We did actually know them.
One young lesbian from a pod of young women ran up to us and asked if we had more file folders. Sadly, we did not. Note to self: next time, bring blanks. We saw them later with impromptu cardboard signage, “Lesbians Against Police Brutality”.
I am glad I was there in solidarity, as a lesbian witness against racism. This is a moment when all thinking white people must question our individual and institutional white racism. That is our job. In that questioning I realize I fear that my “Lesbians Against Police Violence and Racism” sign would actually be read as off-topic in Gay Pride parades.