Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Like a lot of Queer Californians, I was really upset the night that YES ON 8 passed and repealed the right for same-sex couples to get married. As much as everyone on the news and around me was talking about progress as our first Black president was being elected, it seemed like gay civil rights was taking a huge leap backwards on the very same ballot.

The entire same-sex marriage issue is a complex one for me. Personally I have never been one of those girls who dream of a fairy tale wedding to either a man or a woman. I've NEVER fantasized about how my wedding dress would look. I'm not really a official paperwork or ceremony kind of person. I don't needed an official document of any kind to feel that I've accomplished something. I remember when I took photography in high school and the first time I turned in what I knew to be an A+ image - I nailed it compositionally, tonally, in every way - but the teacher didn't think so and gave me a lower grade. I still remember thinking he just didn't get it and that he was wrong. I didn't feel any less confident about the photo because it didn't have an A+ written on it. That's pretty much how I've always felt about marriage - I don't need a government or religious sanctioned marriage to one day feel that I am "married" to the right person. We can exchange vows anywhere, any place, anytime to each other to commit to one another and the relationship. But when same-sex marriage first became legal earlier in the year, for the first time, I actually wept seeing longtime partners getting to have the same legal ceremony as their straight counterparts. When lesbian rights pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon finally got to legally marry after 50 years together, how could you not feel the overwhelming joy. Because gay people are so mainstreamed in society now, it never really occurred to me (and a lot of other people) that LGBTQ were lacking basic civil rights as long as we were denied the right to marry. That burns me up. A death row prisoner has the right to get married but I can't marry a partner of the same sex if I choose?! So the day after the election I was getting revved up to go protest. I missed the first major protest in West Hollywood but joined the fight at the protest in front of the Mormon Temple. After feeling incredibly empowered from that protest (and really I had unbelievable adrenalin for days following), this is what I've come to realize:

To anyone that voted Yes on 8 - a BIG THANK YOU - your actions unleashed the sleeping giant and we are not going away. You have brought INTERNATIONAL attention to GAY AND HUMAN RIGHTS. in your shortsighted attempt to quash GAY CIVIL RIGHTS you have only given us more power and VISIBILITY in the long run. The AIDS crisis and the way the government ignored it mobilized gays in the late 1980's and early 1990's and gave them newfound power and visibility and the YES on H8 mongers are doing the same for gay people today. I was angry the day after the election, but today I am EMPOWERED.

I've been aware of gays fighting for their rights since I was a child. My first taste was in the mid 1970's when Anita Bryant was all over the TV saying bad things about gay people and working to get legislation against gay rights. Then there was the Briggs Initiative in 1978 that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools. I grew up with many gay men in my life - my Mom was friends with many couples - so as a child I didn't understand why anyone would come after someone negatively for being gay. Gay never had a sexual connotation to me - the gay men I knew were just people I loved, just other couples just like my parents. I know that Anita and her ilk of haters being on TV spurred plenty of conversations between me and my Mom. As I've been protesting, I've seen plenty of Moms driving by with kids in the car, and during the Mormon protest, we even marched past an elementary school just getting out for the day. A lot of these kids will be asking their Moms (and Dads) why are these people protesting and why do people not want gay people to have equal rights. I think this is a great dialogue for parents to be having with kids. I know from personal experience that the younger generation is much more blase about anything gay. I was way ahead of my time in thinking that gay people are like anyone else, but now many of these kids today think the same thing thanks to role models like Ellen DeGeneres, and out friends, families, and neighbors.

I was just beginning high school when the AIDS epidemic came to prominence (mostly because Rock Hudson was public with his illness). I was literally in the very first health classes that discussed safe sex practices. Just as I was getting into college in the late 80's, gay activism was coming to the forefront with groups like Queer Nation and ACT UP protesting to get the Reagan government to have a coordinated national policy to fight the disease and for greater access to experimental AIDS drugs. ACT UP's battle cry was "Silence=Death" and even though this current civil rights fight isn't one of life and limb, the gay community is embracing their voice once again.

My first personal taste of the gay rights movement came as a 21 year old college student. At my school I joined a newly formed group called SQUISH (Strong Queers United In Stopping Heterosexism) and chose the word "queer" as the best way to self-define my sexuality and spirit. I have never fit into any one box and for me queer identified the many shades of grey of both my identity and sexual preferences (I have been aware of my 50/50 attraction to both genders since I was 5 years old). The whole idea behind the word queer taking favor in the early 1990's was that by reclaiming a word that had traditionally been used against gay people it devalued it's negative use by gay haters. Apparently the reclamation worked because a decade and plus later the word has a positive association through TV shows like "Queer As Folk" and "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy." Strictly defined by the dictionary, queer has always meant odd or different, and as someone that has never felt the need or desire to fit in with the status quo, I like the word on that merit as well.

So since the passage of YES ON 8 and with all these protests, I've been reminiscing about my coming of age in a world where queers were mad as hell and not going to take it any longer. I can credit my outness and openness to those days involved with SQUISH and seeing the positive and outspoken role models of Queer Nation and ACT UP who were literally fighting for not only their rights but also their lives. Gays are mainstream now because of those gay soldiers (and the ones that battled before them). We may not have total civil rights YET but we have the mainstream acceptance we always wanted. The official piece of paper can come later. In the meantime, I will keep going to the protests and making my voice heard and my photos seen.

-Lydia Marcus

So many websites and facebook pages are springing up with details regarding new protests. I haven't yet found one ultimate source for all the information so these are the places I've been checking daily. If you'd like to get involved, check out these sites:

And last but not least, there will be a nationwide protest at city halls around the country this Saturday, 11/15/08. The one in L.A. is happening in front of City Hall. This is going to be a BIG event so if you haven't made it to any other protests, this is the one to go to.

more info about this at and facebook also has a page for this event.

I also recommend reading My Battle Cry by Corey Scholibo, by the Advocate's arts and entertainment editor. The teaser paragraph for this story states, "Formerly a cynic when it came to the marriage fight, Scholibo now sees this moment as the first time his complacent generation got a real taste of the fight for our rights and thinks it may have been just what they needed." Scholibo didn't grow up with the desperate need for gay activism the way I did, so it's interesting to see how a younger gay person, someone who's used to having mainstream power and visibility deals with having to fight for his rights for the very first time.

I've become active on Flickr this year and I posted a bunch of shots from the Mormon Protest and have gotten a really incredible support from people in the group - mostly straight too. If you'd like to read the full thread and also check out cool events the group has planned for the rest of the year go to Flickr Los Angeles.

Here are some photos from the last protest/march I participated in on Sunday at the Los Angeles Cathedral (Our Lady of The Angels) to Lincoln Park. A group called Roots Of Equality organized this No on 8 Protest. The march started and ended in Lincoln Park - a 6 mile round trip journey on foot. I joined the protest halfway when it was in front of the Church and followed the marchers back to Lincoln Park.

S & Me at the end of the march. I copied my "Will Your Rights Be Next" sign from one I saw at the Mormon Temple protest last week. I've seen some amazing signs and sentiments, but this one means the most to me personally and I think no matter what walk of life you come from, the sign packs a punch.





We got a lot of honks when the marchers crossed a bridge over the 101 Freeway




No happy feet for me - my soles took the brunt of the No On 8 protest - these are my battle scars.
Battle Scars

The entire set of photos from this protest are on my Flickr page.

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