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The 1987 march on Washington October 1987: the largest gay gathering to date brings unprecedented visibility--and gives Mel White his first chance to be out. (Safety in numbers).

Thirty-five is a number of particular significance to me because for 35 years I was a victim of antigay teachings by religious leaders who believed that gay people abuse children and undermine civilization. Conservative clergy had caricatured and demonized the "homosexual lifestyle" until I would rather die than admit I was gay. So I missed out on the first major march on Washington in 1979.

But on October 11,1987, my partner, Gary Nixon, and I joined 500,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Americans in Washington, D.C. Even though I had come out to close family and friends, the march would be the first time either of us had been out and in the company of so many gay people--and the sheer diversity we found thrilled us.

We met sisters and brothers representing every possible "lifestyle," from dykes on bikes and lipstick lesbians to young gay men in tight shorts to elderly gay men wearing buttons that told the stories of various battles they had fought in their struggle for our civil rights.

We sang hymns with several thousand members of the Metropolitan Community Church and heard a powerful sermon by the Reverend Troy Perry. I cried every time I saw someone from Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays waving a sign that said I LOVE MY GAY SON.

That day I discovered that my queer sisters and brothers represented every color, class, and creed; that they--that we--were not a menace to this country but a powerful, loving, gifted, creative presence, a rainbow of promise and productivity. That night, I held Gary in my arms and thanked God for my homosexuality. I lay there regretting all the time I had wasted believing the lies and vowed to spend the rest of my life in the struggle for truth and justice on behalf of God's gay children. What a journey it has been.

White cofounded the group Soulforce, which fights spiritual violence against GIMT people.
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Author:White, Mel
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Nov 12, 2002
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