My trip to the East Coast has been one of the most amazing and rewarding things I've done yet, by far. Not only did I get to see lots of friends I haven't seen in years, resulting in moments like this:
but I got to take part in some righteous hooliganism with some really awesome people:
So, Saturday I flew out at the buttcrack of dawn, arrived in DC twelve hours later, and got to hang with my friends Chuck and Patrick. Naturally, after an evening of dancing and fun, I swore at and insulted some friends of Chuck's. Meh! It wouldn't be a trip with yours truly if I didn't piss ANYONE off.
Luckily, I had a chance to do that again.
My first meeting with GetEqual was on Sunday. Just to clarify, GetEqual is a group of activists dedicated to strong principles of non-violent civil disobedience. They are often portrayed in the press as the loud, showier counterpart to organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell issue-- instead of utilizing fundraising and lobbying, they use public protesting to draw attention to issues and put pressure on political leadership to enact social change.
I got to meet a lot of awesome people on Sunday, and during a two and a half hour meeting, we outlined the following day and got to know each other. It was a wonderfully organic evening; we, as a group, decided exactly what we wanted to do, how we would do it, and when we would do it. It was pretty cool to see such a diverse crowd ranging from a transgendered writer for Pam's House Blend to yours truly, an irresponsible blowhard with a bone to pick.
And boy, did we pick it.
After the meeting, I hung out with Lt. Dan Choi (yes, that guy) and some friends of his. Of course, I proceeded give a lecture detailing the benefits of prostate massagers, followed by a detailed examination of life in a drug treatment facility. Sometimes I just cannot keep my mouth shut!
After a meager couple hours of sleep, we got up, put on our respective uniforms, and got ready to take part in a day I will never forget.
Bright and early, we all met at Leonard Matlovich's grave to pay our respects and lay a wreath on his headstone. He is a huge part of the history of gays in the military, being the first servicemember to ever come out.
Whether it was fatigue or I hadn't eaten enough, I don't know, but I got dizzy and had to fall out in the middle of the ceremony. There was some concern whether I would be able to participate in the rest of the day, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything short of being axe-murdered, so I sucked it up and we moved along.
Next, we went directly from the gravesite to Harry Reid's Senate office to demand some answers. Dan had given Sen. Reid his West Point class ring some time ago-- and the good Senator, I understand, promised to return it upon the repeal of DADT. We didn't really get any answers and pissed off his deputy chief of staff to boot; it was a cool experience anyway.
After our jaunt to Reid's office, we took a break and had lunch. I was feeling ill again, and even had to run to the restroom to throw up. Far from a nervous reaction, my medication sometimes makes me nauseous-- rare now, but some days it does-- and I became worried I wouldn't be able to take our next step. After eating, however, I felt much better, and then we took got in cars and drove to Lafayette Park, right in front of the White House.
Then I got nervous.
Our plan: Handcuff ourselves to the White House fence and refuse to come down until they DRAGGED us down.
As soon as we got out of the car, we split up and casually strolled around the park, trying to look inconspicuous. Of course, eight people in uniform lounging about on park benches, nervously staring at the White House while in the company of Lt. Dan Choi isn't exactly what one could call "incognito." We watched as more and more cop cars moved into the street in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, as well as two paddywagons waiting to take us away. Would we even MAKE it to the fence? We weren't sure.
Finally, Dan made the first move, addressing the horde of cameras that had shown up. We were committed. The police, to their credit, watched as we walked up to the fence, turned around, and facing the crowd, handcuffed ourselves to the fence.
To my left was Robin McGehee, from GetEqual, and to my right was Scott Wooledge, a contributor to the DailyKos. Scott, while gay, didn't really have to be there-- he had never had anything to do with the military. Instead, he chose to stand with us in solidarity, which was really freaking awesome. He turned to me, and with excitement and fear, said something that still gives me goosebumps days later:
Yes it was. We were handcuffed to the fence, the locks in our cuffs superglued shut. There was no stopping, and no backing down. We were chained to the FUCKING WHITE HOUSE, the leader of the free world inside listening as we chanted our chants, made our points, and threw accusations of his failure at his doorstep.
Of course, they arrested our asses, one at a time. They used boltcutters, we went limp, they rolled us over and dragged us away, still screaming.
I was the last off the fence.
As we were driving off to jail, Dan started singing spirituals, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, etc. Caught up in the spirit and excitement of the moment, I contributed with the only song I could think of, and this was it:
I couldn't help it, we needed a dose of laughter and good old-fashioned gay silliness. I'm sure the guys driving the paddywagon were exasperated.
Long story short, we stayed in jail for quite a few hours and were released that night. I received a citation for "failure to obey a lawful order," which is my first criminal offense ever. When the officer asked me if it was my first arrest and I confirmed it, his response was, "You picked a hell of a way to start a career in civil disobedience."
To illustrate that point-- under place of offense on my citation, which you can barely make out here (sorry about the photo quality) it says:
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
HELL YEAH, BITCHES!
Did we change anything? I don't know. But we said our piece, stood up for what we believe in, and we were heard. And that is enough.
Can't wait til next time.