THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW
— out musician Melissa Etheridge in a 2007 interview with AfterEllen.com
The first national American gay rights march was in 1979, and attracted an estimated 75,000 gays and lesbians. The second, on October 11, 1987, drew between 200,000 and 500,000 people and became the kick-off for National Coming Out Day. In 1993, between 300,000 and 1 million people— including Melissa Etheridge — marched on Washington for gay rights.
The fourth in 2000, called the Millennium March, attracted between 200,000 and 1 million people, and featured performances by Etheridge and k.d. lang, among others.
This weekend, LGBT Americans are gathering together again in D.C. for the Equality March, with President Obama speaking at a dinner hosted by gay rights organization HRC the night before. Among the list of speakers for the event are lesbian comedian Kate Clinton, openly gay poet/artist Staceyann Chin, and out bisexual singer Lady Gaga (see the full list here).
I’ll leave it to the LGBT news and political sites to debate the civil rights gains we’ve made since the last march, but here’s an (extremely abbreviated) rundown of the state of lesbian/bi visibility in entertainment then and now
In 2000, we had several prominent lesbian characters on broadcast TV (on Buffy, ER, Dark Angel, and All My Children), but few on cable or in mainstream movies. In real life, only a few high-profile singers, actors, and professional athletes were publicly out.
Today there are fewer prominent lesbian/bi characters on broadcast or cable TV, and there are still double-standards around physical affection for same-sex couples (although these standards have relaxed some since 2000); there are still very few prominent lesbian/bi character in mainstream theatrical releases, but there are far more high-profile lesbian and bisexual actresses and musicians in real life — and they’re winning Emmys and Grammys; hosting awards shows, talk shows, and news shows; performing on popular late-night talk shows; and even performing for the President at the prestigious Washington Correspondents’ Dinner.
So we’ve clearly made progress in this area since the last march on Washington. But how much?
Some days I think it’s a lot. Other days, not so much.
But I want to know what you think — in the poll below, and in the comments.
And if you attend the march this weekend, let us know how it goes!
— by Sarah Warn