Twenty years ago today I joined hundreds of thousands of LGBT Americans for the 1993 March On Washington, the event that changed me forever, turning me from a stereotypical early 30s clubbing-crazed party boy/casual activist into whatever it is I am today. While South Beach certainly had no shortage of gay mega-clubs at the time, I’d never been in such a gigantic crowd of my people. Heck, before that March On Washington I’d never even attended a major city gay pride event, unless you count Tampa Pride 1985. Which I don’t, no offense to Tampa.
But ascending that dizzying Dupont Circle subway escalator as cheers poured down upon every wave of new arrivals, well, let’s just say I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment. Bill Clinton had just taken office after twelve relentlessly depressing years of Reagan/Bush and the sense of optimism and possibility consumed every one of us. I know that I still attended all of the huge dance parties which initially drew to me DC that weekend, but today I can’t recall one minute of them, not even where they were held.
What I do remember is my visit to the NAMES Project display, meeting Michael Callen, my purchases from the many t-shirt and button vendors, coming home every day covered with stickers, our straining to hear the speakers from what felt like miles from the stage, and the long, hot, fun afternoon waiting to step off with the Florida contingent, which included a marching band playing Be My Guest from Beauty And The Beast. (They played it a LOT.)
VIDEO: The first clip features Callen singing his classic Love Don’t Need A Reason. Callen died of AIDS several months after the March. The second clip includes a visit to the AIDS Quilt.