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Last November my Unitarian Universalist church joined the many other houses of worship across the United States in putting up a Black Lives Matter sign.

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My congregation did one better with this sign. It also added the heart logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and a rainbow banner indicating that it’s a welcoming congregation for the LBGTQ community. My congregation voted to erect this sign despite the fact that other houses of worship who have put up Black Lives Matter signs and banners have had them either defaced or stolen outright.

This morning I learned that my congregation has had the sign stolen. Yes, it’s distressing but, no, my congregation is not deterred. The word is that we will get a new identical banner and put it up. My congregation refuses to cower to the forces of racism, homophobia, and other types of ugly prejudice that has especially sprung up in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

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I know I’m pretty slow in posting my own experiences with the Women’s March on Washington. With so many other people spending the past week writing their own experiences with the march on various blogs, websites, and social media, I felt like I could take the luxury of delaying my own report. (Besides, this blog is NOT a news site.)

This post has only my own personal experience with this march. It will include my opinions based on what I saw. It’s possible that you may disagree with my perceptions based on what I saw and did at that march. That’s fine. I’m only writing this to add to what has already been posted about this march. I’m hoping that one day in some distant future some historian will read what other people have posted online, including this post, to gain insight as to what happened and write some kind of a definitive account of this march.

Here is my account of what I saw and did at the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017. It was a very dreary cloudy day, which is reflected in all of the pictures I took of the march that day. The ground was wet because it has been raining off and on for the past few days (including President Trump’s Inauguration the day before). Despite the gloomy clouds, it didn’t rain once. I was still glad I brought my folding chair because it was too wet and muddy to sit on the ground.

Participants were encouraged to wear knitted pink pussycat hats. I didn’t have one and I really didn’t want to knit a hat on such short notice because knitting can be such a time-consuming effort. (That whole march was announced just a month or two before.) I ended up wearing my Grumpy Cat hat that I originally purchased at Party City for $10 for a Halloween Party that took place at my church back in 2015.

Women's March on Washington

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I had a number of people praise my hat, including a Metro security guard, which was pretty cool. One little girl at the march who admired my hat told me that she has recently gotten Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book that she loves very much.

I drove to the nearest Metro station on my own because I live pretty close to that station. I originally met up with some people from my Unitarian Universalist church congregation outside the Greenbelt Metro station at 7:40 a.m. (which was the agreed meeting time in advance).

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Even that early in the morning it was pretty crowded. I later learned from other people via Facebook that by the afternoon one had to wait up to two hours in order to enter the Greenbelt Metro station.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

We all boarded the Metro. The train we were on was pretty full. I saw two of the women sitting underneath this ad that was pretty appropriate given where we were headed.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Once we arrived at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station I got separated from my church friends because of the crowd of people, as you can see in the next few photographs.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I eventually went over to the Department of Health & Human Services building because people from my church decided to march with the larger Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) they were all meeting there.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

So I caught up with my friends again. But that reunion was short-lived once the UUSJ started marching because I was separated from them again because of the throng of people and I didn’t see them again for the rest of the time that I was at the march.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I managed to make it to the Mall. At first it was pretty roomy and I was able to set up my folding chair so I could rest in it and eat my lunch (which I brought with me because I know from previous experience that the food vendors tend to draw long lines at large events like this). I set up on the perimeter of the Mall just across the street from the Native American Museum. I folded up my chair after lunch because I needed to use the Don’s Johns port-a-pottle that was set up on the Mall for both yesterday’s Inauguration and today’s Women’s March. I went in this long line just so I can relieve myself.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

After the bathroom break I walked around some more and snapped some pictures. I noticed that the Mall was filling up with more and more people while I was walking in the center of the Mall. For the record, I didn’t see or hear any of the people making speeches because I was so far back on the Mall. (The stage was set up closer to the Washington Monument and I was mostly at the end that is closer to the U.S. Capitol Building.) There were so many people that there was no way I could even think about making my way closer to the stage. I saw a jumbotron at one point but that was crowded with people as well and it was partly obscured with trees so I wasn’t able to see or hear anything.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I became so tired of walking that I decided to go back to the perimeter near the Native American Museum in an effort to open my portable folding chair again and sit down. Except I found myself trapped among the crowds that I literally could not go in any direction. I was stuck like this for at least an hour or more. I later saw this video that the British TV station Channel 4 had posted on its Twitter feed giving an overhead shot showing how packed the Mall became that day.

I learned through the rumor mill that people were busy speaking on stage and all the speeches ran overtime so the march to the White House didn’t even begin at its originally scheduled 1 p.m. time. People were pushing and crowding in all directions and I was afraid that there would be a disaster similar to what happened in the U.K. nearly 30 years ago when people at a soccer match were literally crushed to death. People near me kept on chanting “LET US MARCH!” and “LESS TALK, MORE WALK!” to no avail. It was almost like the people on stage were the 1% and the people being crammed like sardines on the grounds of the Mall were the 99% and the 1% could’ve cared less about the safety of us 99% plebes.

At one point a person near me literally fell to the ground and other people managed to lift him up back on his feet. If it weren’t for these helpful people, there’s a chance that this guy would’ve been trampled and crushed to death. It was literally so harrowing at times that I kept on thinking that if I had fallen down to the ground, I might as well say good-bye to this life because I would’ve been crushed and trampled to death.

The only other time I’ve ever seen the Mall get this crowded was at the 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and March to Restore Fear that was put on jointly by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Except that rally had areas around the perimeter of the Mall where people who got tired of being crushed by the crowds on the Mall could walk towards the edges and take a breather. The Women’s March didn’t even have that convenience because I saw the perimeter across Independence Avenue being just as crowded as on the Mall itself.

Eventually it filtered down that the organizers on stage had decided to start marching to the White House. Hordes of people began to quickly empty out of the Mall. Once again there were empty spaces on the Mall so I decided to pull out my portable folding chair and rest again. I was exhausted as hell. I decided against following the crowd to the White House, look for the nearest Metro station, and just go home.

By that point both my smartphone and the back-up battery recharger had both run out of power so my smartphone was dead. I tried to retrace where I had walked until I found a sign pointing the way to the Federal Center Southwest Metro station. On my way to that Metro station I walked along a section of sidewalk near the Department of Health & Human Services Building that had the giant cobblestones instead of the usual smooth sidewalk. I literally tripped an landed on my knees. Some helpful bystanders helped me get back on my feet and asked me if I was okay. The good news was that I was still able to walk. The bad news was that I ended up with a bruised and stiff right knee. (My left knee somehow escaped being unscathed.) I spent Saturday night at home applying a heating pad to my knee until bedtime when I put on one of my compressing kneepads. This is what my right knee looked like the following morning.

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

Once I made it back to Maryland, I drove away from the Greenbelt Metro station parking lot and I noticed a lot of people walking outside of the parking lot. I saw the cars parked at a nearby business park and an apartment complex, which was reminiscent of the 2010 Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally when I also saw cars parked at a distance from the Metro parking lot. I decided to drive to Three Brothers Pizza in Beltway Plaza where I order two slices of cheese pizza and a medium Diet Pepsi to go. I really wasn’t in the mood to cook anything for myself after spending a full day that that march. At least I was still able to walk despite my injured knee (which became stiff and sore) and the food line was relatively short so it was no big deal.

As I look back on this, I have to admit that I’m of two minds about my participation in the Women’s March on Washington. On the one hand, I thought it was great that I took part in something that literally broke all previous records for other marches and rallies. For years I had to deal with elders both in my church and in my neighborhood talking about how they took part in the 1963 March on Washington (where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech) and I envied them because my parents didn’t go and, if they had, I would’ve been way too young to remember. So the next time I hear an elder talk about hearing MLK give his “I Have a Dream” speech in person, I can reply, “Well, that’s nothing compared to going to the 2017 Women’s March on Washington and being among the throngs of people who broke all attendance records for a large political rally of its type.” (And that’s not to mention that the Women’s March took place just five days after the MLK holiday.)

I was thrilled to see the comparison pictures between the Women’s March and the Inauguration that was held on the Mall the day before and seeing that the protesters definitely outnumbered the Inauguration attendees. I heard that President Donald Trump’s thin-skinned ego received a serious blow over that fact. He deserves it for the way he ran his campaign where he catered only to white heterosexual Christian men with no disabilities at the expense of everyone else. In a way, it was worth it for me to take the time to do something that probably has seriously hurt The Donald’s feelings and if I had to endure being packed in like sardines on the Mall and suffering a bruised right knee as a result, well so be it. I’d rather suffer with a stiff knee than have The Donald’s thin skin and fragile ego that results in him frequently making an ass of himself on Twitter.

It was super cool finding out hours later after I was back home that this particular march was one of many marches that were literally held all over the world and many of those marches (particularly ones held in places like Boston, Chicago, London, and Paris) were just a huge as the one in DC.

On the other hand, it was harrowing as hell given the throngs of people who literally crammed into the Mall like sardines. It was a miracle that no one got crushed to death. I wished the organizers had been more flexible and practical in cutting the stage presentations short so people can march sooner and clear out the Mall. I know that famous people spoke on stage and doing something like this would’ve bruised a few celebrity egos. But I’d rather see bruised celebrity egos than risk innocent people getting crushed and trampled to death on the Mall.

I’ve read some of the progressive criticisms of the march online saying that it was organized mainly to highlight the concerns of upper class white heterosexual women who supported Hillary Clinton for president. I saw plenty of people wearing Clinton campaign buttons and t-shirts. I even saw a couple of people schlepping life-sized cardboard standees of Hillary Clinton. I found it interesting to note that Bernie Sanders not only attended the march in his home state of Vermont but he also spoke that that march as well while his one-time Democratic primary rival, Hillary Clinton, was nowhere to be found at any of the women’s marches anywhere in the world.

But the majority of protesters I saw did not indicate their support of Clinton at all. I saw people wearing Bernie Sanders buttons and t-shirts. I saw people holding “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter” signs. I saw Muslim women and Latinos holding signs indicating their fear of increasing anti-Islamic and anti-Latino sentiment coming from the Trump Administration. I even saw the occasional “We are the 99%” slogan that originated from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

While the march in DC was overwhelmingly white, I saw plenty of people of color who also marched as well as people who didn’t support Clinton or Trump at all. I know the march wasn’t perfect. I personally would’ve preferred more speeches made by non-celebrity activists representing ordinary everyday Americans and less speeches made by Hollywood celebrities because this march was supposed to represent the interests of everyday ordinary Americans who lack the wealth and privilege that the Hollywood celebrities enjoy. But you’re never going to get 100% perfection out of anything in this life and I have to admit that this march seemed very promising in that it hinted of the potential rise of a genuine alternative opposition movement against the Trump Administration. Whether that potential gets realized won’t be known until later this year.

The next day I actually watched videos of the speeches that I found on YouTube. Every speech I watched were inspiring and powerful. I’m only sorry that I wasn’t able to hear any of it on the Mall when I was actually there. I am glad that YouTube exists so I can hear these speeches in their entirety without having them be edited by some broadcast network news organization.

At this point only time will tell whether this march will have a long-term impact on average people in the U.S. I hope something good comes of this. Otherwise I will feel frustrated that I spent a huge amount of time being nearly crushed to death on the Mall while suffering with a bruised knee for nothing.

There was a massive march on Washington, DC that was hastily planned and organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton in a week in order to protest this disturbing trend: Police officers killing unarmed African Americans and getting away with it. This happened in the cases of both Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Worse, there have been more of these types of killings like Tamir Rice.

Some people from my church had talked about going there so I went in the hope of meeting up with them. I wasn’t sure how this march was going to turn out. It was hastily announced just a week earlier. I thought that it would either be a total bust or it would attract giant hordes of people similar to that Rally to Restore Sanity and The March to Keep Fear Alive that was organized by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert back in 2010.

The good news was that, unlike that other march, I had no problem with finding parking at the New Carrollton Metro station. I was heartened when I went underground and I saw these signs.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

I saw this sign hung on a wall near the Federal Triangle Metro station (where I got off).

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

The march was supposed to start at Freedom Plaza and it was really crowded with people.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

There were a few vendors selling their wares at this march, such as this t-shirt seller in the photo below.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

So the march started at Freedom Plaza and it went down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

The march went past National Theatre.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

The march headed towards the Old Post Office building (whose tower can been seen on the right in the next photo).

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

There is a giant sign outside the Old Post Office building announcing that this historic site was going to be developed by Donald Trump (yes, that Donald Trump) into a luxury hotel named—what else?—Trump Hotel. One member of Anonymous was putting his unique spin on that sign.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

A brief moment after I took that last photo, this guy jumped in front of me (and next to the Anonymous guy) wanting his picture taken. So I obliged him.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Then his friend also jumped in and I took a picture of both of them as well.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

After I took that last picture, they were noticing that they were getting attention from people along with the Anonymous man. I mentioned that they were underneath that giant Trump sign. They looked up and said “Donald Trump? Fuck him too!” I got a laugh out of that.

The march kept going down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Department of Justice building.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Then the march went past the National Archives building and the Navy Memorial.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

There were marches held in other cities that day. The one in Boston resulted in 23 arrests. Compared to that, the one in DC was pretty peaceful. Even the police were relatively restrained as they closed off Pennsylvania Avenue so people could march.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

The march went past the Newseum where we saw people watching the march from the top balconies.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

The march went past the Canadian Embassy.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

The march route basically ended at the east wing of the National Gallery of Art.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

While most people walked, there was this vehicle from radio station WPGC that drove down the march route.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Most people basically hung around while listening to Rev. Al Sharpton and other speakers talk about the current police racial problem in the U.S. I only heard the speech because I wasn’t able to get close to the stage due to the crowd. I walked around a bit trying to see if any of my friends from my church congregation had actually shown up and I took some photos while I did so.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

I finally hit pay dirt when I saw the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love banner and I felt heartened. I found out that the people with the banner were from the Arlington UU Church. But then one of the people told me that the minister at my congregation and her husband had marched with them. I found them. It’s the same minister who suffered a massive stroke on Good Friday and she has been taking a leave of absence since then. She’s slowly recovering but her husband had to wheel her down Pennsylvania Avenue in her wheelchair. (There’s currently an interim minister serving in her absence.) She seemed tired so I didn’t talk for very long. That couple were the only ones I found from my congregation.

The day was sunny but it was cold. (After all, it’s December!) I was glad I wore my winter coat to that march. I stayed around for a while until I felt cold and stiff so I decided to head to the Judiciary Square Metro station and take the next train out of DC. While I did so, I took a few more photos.

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Justice For All March in Washington, DC

Last week voters in my home state of Maryland voted for a referendum that was known on the ballot as Question 6, which called for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Over the years I have gone through a total evolution from thinking that the idea was a totally silly one to thinking that it should be a legitimate right. I went through that evolution despite being raised in a religious faith (Roman Catholicism) that still preaches that homosexuality is a major sin. In addition I attended public school in a district where many parents were opposed to having sex education taught in the public school because not only would it encourage kids to have sex at very young ages but—eek!—they may even discover homosexuality. The boys in my school routinely insulted each other by using epithets like”faggot” and “homo”.

When I was in the 7th grade, my social studies teacher showed this documentary in class called Future Shock. It was based on the bestselling book of the same name by Alvin Toffler. The thesis was that all kinds of new innovations and trends were happening faster than people’s abilities to get used to the changes so people’s minds would be so saturated with constant change that it would cause information overload and they would enter a psychological state known as “Future Shock.” (Even though the movie was made back in 1972, it was prophetic in that, thanks to the rise of computers and the Internet, technological innovations are now happening at a much faster rate than when the movie was originally made. One example: Five years ago I didn’t even know what a computer tablet was and now I own an iPad.)

There was one memorable scene in that movie that showed a brief clip of two men getting married in a church that was officiated by a minister. The whole class started laughing hysterically at that scene. I have to admit that I laughed too. I had grown up with the idea of a wedding couple consisting of a bride and groom and seeing two grooms exchanging wedding rings then kissing each other just seemed totally weird and ridiculous to me. When the class was over and the kids were going into the hallway on the way to their next class, my classmates were talking and giggling about that scene.

A few years later I was in another social studies class in high school and the teacher showed Future Shock again. I remember her saying that a year or two earlier the film had been restricted to only high school students and there had even been a recent discussion at the County School Board about removing that film entirely from the Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Public School System’s list of approved films for the classroom. Apparently the younger kids who had seen the film told their parents about that gay wedding scene and some of the parents were so outraged that their child was exposed to that short scene of two men getting married in a church that they complained to the School Board about it. So my high school teacher said that we may be among the last students who have had the privilege of seeing that film in a school classroom. (I don’t know if the film was ultimately banned or not. I graduated a few months after seeing the film for the second time and I didn’t keep up with the Anne Arundel County Public School news once I started college.) When that same-sex marriage scene came up, I heard a few snickers but they were a far cry from a whole classroom of 7th graders erupting in laughter just a few years earlier.

Today, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can now see this documentary online for yourself. The gay wedding scene in question is at the 27 minute mark.

During that same era there was a gay rights movement but it was more concerned about things like ending job discrimination and stopping police harassment of raiding gay bars. I don’t recall any gay activists from the 1970’s calling for the legalization of gay marriage.

When I attended the University of Maryland at College Park, there was the Gay Student Union but they were more focused on being treated with respect by the student body and not getting harassed by homophobic bullies. Gay marriage was simply not an issue back then.

The year after I graduated from college my husband and I were planning to get married and we were checking out various houses of worship to decide whether we should do a religious ceremony or a civil ceremony presided over by a judge. We started attending a Unitarian Universalist congregation mainly because months earlier we were impressed by a series of ads that ran in The Washington Post and it began with the headline “Instead of fitting into a church, I found a church that fit me.” We were so impressed by the open friendliness by the congregation members that we not only had the then-minister officiate at our wedding (he’s now our minister emeritus) but we even signed the Membership Book.

About two years after our wedding, my husband and I became involved in the church’s Social Action Committee. We even became co-chairs of the committee even though we were only 25 and 29 years old at the time and there were other members who were older and had been members longer than us. One day a member named Ed Kobee approached us about doing a lay service on AIDS, which was starting to become a major scourge. He was a man who was 10 years older than my own parents and he was long an active member of our congregation who was long a fixture in the choir and he served stints on various volunteer work as Sunday school teacher, Board of Trustees member, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. He worked for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory and he was a divorced parent of a son and a daughter. On top of that, he was still trying to deal with emotional aftermath of the recent sudden death of his daughter (who died in a car accident when she was in her early 20’s just a few months after my husband and I joined the congregation and got married). He was also a rabid football fan who followed the Washington Redskins during football season.

Ed felt that it was important that we do a lay service because AIDS is a topic that’s important to him. We didn’t ask why at the time. I figured that since he’s divorced, he’s probably dating and he didn’t want to contact the disease from a woman who may have previously have had sex with a bisexual man who has the disease. Ed, my husband, and I went out to dinner one night while we discussed the topic of the lay service, where an AIDS worker actively involved in caring for those with the disease, would speak about his struggles caring for people with the disease. That night Ed dropped a bombshell to my husband and I. He mentioned that he came out as gay to very few people inside or outside of our church congregation.

I was totally startled by what Ed said and my husband later confessed to me that he felt the same. We tried to look as normal as possible while we were both personally reeling from that revelation. All of my assumptions about gay people were suddenly blown away. (My mother used to say that you could tell if someone is gay because he would act effeminate. If you met Ed in person, you would know that he is definitely NOT effeminate. I used to believe that there was no way that gays and lesbians could have children—while totally discounting the possibility the fact that there was a time when gays, lesbians, and bisexuals married people of the opposite sex in an effort to get rid of their attraction to people of the same sex. Many of those marriages were unsuccessful.)

After that dinner we went on to put on that AIDS lay service and it got positive notice from congregation members. Ed didn’t talk about his personal life during that service and my husband and I weren’t about to divulge his secret without his consent.

A few months later gay rights activists were gearing up for a major march on the Mall in Washington, DC. Ed told us that he was going. I didn’t even give that march another thought mainly because, as a woman in a heterosexual marriage, I didn’t feel that gay rights was my fight. I didn’t have any openly gay relatives and Ed was the only gay person I personally knew.

But then Ed had a discussion with the minister and he inspired the minister to give a Sunday sermon from the pulpit called “Gay Rights are Human Rights.” (I still remember that sermon title after all these years. LOL!) I remember the minister talking about how the Civil Rights movement for African Americans got as far as it did because of whites sympathetic to the idea of equal rights for all became involved in the movement. The minister said that as heterosexuals we could give a boost to the gay rights movement by getting involved in it and the perfect way to start getting involved is by considering taking part in that march.

The minister instituted a section of the sermon called a “Polylogue” (he called it by that term because, unlike a dialogue, which is talk between two people, a polylogue involves a talk between more than two people) where people could stand up and respond to the sermon. At that point Ed stood up and announced that he was gay and he’s currently seeing a man.

The longtime members of the church who had known Ed for many years were shocked by that revelation since they knew that he was previously married to a woman and had children by her. But then something amazing happened. The members began to remember Ed as a longtime active member of the congregation and how much time and money he gave to the congregation and they decided to support him. It was a good thing that Ed came out to a Unitarian Universalist congregation because I know that had he been a Mormon, a Southern Baptist, or a Roman Catholic, he would’ve been denounced as a “sinner” and hounded out of church for making such a revelation.

When I was growing up my mother used to tell me that it’s useless to try to convince elderly people of a certain age about such new ideas as African-Americans having the same civil rights as whites because elderly people tend to be set in their ways. Well, at the time, half of the congregation were elderly people and many of them had accepted Ed’s revelation with open arms. I was amazed by that and it definitely shot down what my mother used to tell me about elderly people being rigid in their thinking and too set in their ways to ever change their attitudes.

Ed’s coming out to the congregation have had an effect. My husband and I were among contingent of church members, nearly all of them heterosexual and many of them were older than 50, who went down to Washington, DC and took part in the march. We caught up with Ed Kobee and we met the man he was currently seeing, Al Usack.

A few weeks after that march, Ed decided to raise awareness about gay rights among the congregation. He formed a chapter of the UU gay rights groups known as Interweave and he encouraged my husband and I to take part in Interweave because he said that the movement needs straight support. The good news was that there were members in our congregation who did take part in Interweave and the group did programs like show films on gay-related topics. During that same time, his lover, Al (who, like Ed, was also previously married to a woman and had children—including one daughter who came out as a lesbian at the same time that Al came out as gay), moved in with Ed and he became an active member of our congregation as well. Ed and Al became the first openly same-sex couple in our congregation.

The Unitarian Universalist Association was among the first religious faiths to formally adopt full supprt for gay rights back in 1970 (just months after the Stonewall Riots in New York City). Despite the UUA’s position on gay rights, Ed didn’t feel that the congregations were open and welcoming enough to gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgendered persons. He introduced a new UUA ciriculum known as The Welcoming Congregation and my husband and I were in a group who were previewing and testing the workshop lessons. Within months we understood how our congregation were inadvertantly being less than welcoming to non-straights. One example was that the then-Director of Religious Education, who was also among the people testing The Welcoming Congregation ciriculum, realized that for years she was using a Sunday school registration form for children that had spaces specifying “Father’s Name” and “Mother’s Name.” The problem was that this form slighted children who had same-sex parents. She subsequently changed the spaces on the form to the more gender-neutral “Parent’s Name.”

If that wasn’t enough, Ed had chafed for years at his job at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory because he had to hide his real sexual orientation out of a genuine fear that he would lose his job. Al, who worked for the CIA, also had to also hide his sexual orientation because he would’ve been thrown out otherwise and he quietly retired without ever letting on that he was gay. (This was back in the days when men and women were drummed out of the military and Department of Defese-related jobs for even suggesting that they were gay or lesbian.) When Ed decided to retire, he made a speech at his retirement dinner where he divulged the fact that he is gay to everyone present and he even introduced Al as his partner. (My husband and I were invited to Ed’s retirement dinner where we would’ve heard him come out to his longtime coworkers but we couldn’t make it due to a scheduling conflict.)

With Ed and Al both retired, they began their second career as fulltime gay rights activists both in our congregation and in the general public. They were among the first activists to push for legalizing same-sex marriage and they were also involved in the fight against AIDS.

Ed and Al decided to get married in our UU congregation and they invited nearly the entire congregation along with their families. As my husband and I watched the ceremony my mind flashed back to that scene in the Future Shock movie and I realized that I was watching a real-life version of that scene. It was a nice wedding that included a reception at the church with a wedding cake. If Ed and Al had been a heterosexual bride and groom, you would’ve concluded that it was a typical lovely wedding. The only difference between Ed and Al’s wedding and the wedding of a heterosexual couple was that it was a religious wedding only that wouldn’t be recognized by the local, state, and federal government simply because they were a same-sex couple.

In time Ed and Al became a fixture in our congregation. They attended Sunday service alongside heterosexuals and they frequently attended all-ages church events. They blended in among other families and I began to realize that they had a marriage that was just as stable and valid as the other legally-married heterosexual couples in our congregation. Thanks to their efforts, our congregation managed to attract other gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered. Some were single while others were same-sex couples. Some of them went on to become active members for many years while others were members for only a few years until they moved elsewhere.

As for Ed and Al, they remained active in our congregation and in the local gay rights movement until they learned about a gay retirement community that was being established in Florida near Tampa. They visited the Palms of Manasota community, fell in love with it, and decided to move there. While the congregation were sad to see Ed and Al go, their efforts to make our church more accepting of non-straights have left a legacy. Since Ed and Al moved our congregation has continued to attract members of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered community, including same-sex couples with children. In recent years we’ve attracted people who have come out to our congregation as polyamory. (With the increase of acceptance of same-sex marriage, I predict that the right to marry more than one spouse will be the next major civil rights movement. Right now the polyamory people are at the same point where same-sex marriage was back in the 1980’s—they are accepted and tolerated in our UU congregation but still perceived by the general public as being weird and strange.) In time I was even inspired by the public debate for the legalization of same-sex marriage to create this piece of jewelry from Shrinky Dinks which one can wear as either a pin or a necklace.

My Gay Marriage Threatens Your Straight Marriage HOW?

Ed and Al have continued to be active Unitarian Universalists and gay rights activists in Florida. Recently they wrote a chapter about their experiences as a same-sex Unitarian Universalist couple for a book called Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists. Last year, about a month before my hip surgery, Ed and Al traveled north and visited our congregation. The main reason for the trip was that they were taking advantage of the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington, DC and they finally had the chance to make their longtime relationship legal. (My husband joked to them that they had been “living in sin” all those years.) Florida refuses to recognize same-sex marriage so if the issue continues to be decided on a state-by-state basis, Ed and Al could continue to be trailblazers if one of them becomes seriously ill and the other can use their DC marriage to claim that he has the legal right to such things that married heterosexual couples take for granted like visiting the spouse in the hospital.

Last year I came to Annapolis with other members from my Unitarian Universalist congregation to lobby our elected representatives to legalize same-sex marriage. For the past several years it had been an annual occurence where a coalition of political and religious groups in favor of same-sex marriage would spend one day lobbying the elected legislators—known as Lobby Day—and the bill would either fail to get out of committee or it would go to the entire floor only be voted down in the legislature. Yet every year the opposition to the bill became less and less as more and more of the legislators began to personally know same-sex couples and realized that they were in long-term relationships that were just as stable and loving as married heterosexual couples. In previous years my husband, who was (and still is) one of the advisors of our congregation’s Youth Group, helped with organizing the teens to carpool to Annapolis so they could advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland. (Many of those teens either had a g/l/b/t relative, knew a g/l/b/t youth, or were g/l/b/t themselves.) My husband would talk about how wonderful and empowering it was to advocate for such a cause and he urged me to do it.

In January, 2011 I finally did it when members of my church’s Social Action Group were organizing carpools to Annapolis for the annual Lobby Day and I volunteered to go along. That event started with a late afternoon rally in the Lawyers Mall that’s outside the State House. I took my camera out and shot the rally.

After the rally ended we went off to lobby our elected officials. I was very heartened when all of our own officials said that they would support the same-sex marriage bill. However, despite that effort, the same-sex marriage bill failed once again. What was encouraging was that the vote was extremely close so we knew that sometime within the next year or two or three, passage of this bill would become a reality. I really felt great because I felt that I was trying to make a difference. I was thrilled when the bill made its way out of the committee. But then I was disappointed when the bill failed in the legislature by just a few votes. The only encouraging thing was that, given the close vote, it would only be a matter of time before same-sex marriage would be legal in Maryland.

A month after that rally I made two falls a week apart where I landed on my butt both times and I later found that the falls had knocked my hip replacement (which I got in 2008) out of alignment so I had trouble walking. I underwent a hip revision surgery last September that snapped my hip replacement back into alignment. Then, three days after Christmas, my husband came home from work, announced that he was moving out, and ran out of the home before I had the chance to respond. I suddenly found myself as a separated woman who was still recovering from surgery.

For years opponents have said that same-sex marriage is a direct threat to the institution of marriage. All I can say is that this is totally false in my case. In that “Dear John” letter my husband left behind the night he walked out on me, he did not mention same-sex marriage at all and I never felt my marriage was under any kind of pressure by the presence of same-sex couples in my UU congregation.

A few months later Lobby Day came around again. My congregation’s Social Action Committee were organizing volunteers who would lobby elected officials to pass the bill once again. Unlike last year, my heart just wasn’t into making same-sex marriage equality legal. I was emotionally reeling from the sudden collapse of my own marriage and I began to feel that marriage shouldn’t be legal for anyone. I knew that I would be a poor advocate for legalizing same-sex marriage because I was so depressed about how my marriage got suddenly plunged into limbo. I could imagine some same-sex marriage opponent taking one look at my situation and ask sarcastically “Well if marriage didn’t work for you, what makes you think that marriage for same-sex couples would work for them?”

So I sat on the sidelines while fellow members took part in Lobby Day. I was happy when I learned that marriage equality had finally passed the legislature and Governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill.

But that victory was short-lived. The same-sex marriage opponents immediately put together petitions demanding that the same-sex marriage would be put up to a referendum for this fall’s election. I totally cringed because I knew that in recent years similar measures were put on the ballot for referendum in other states and they were all rejected by voters. I feel that such things as providing equal rights to minorities should never be put to a popular vote because the majority tends to vote against such rights. If certain things like repealing the Jim Crow laws were put to a popular vote, those Jim Crow laws would probably still be legal today and there would still be racial segregation that would affect everything like choosing whom to marry, where to live, where to shop, where to vacation, etc.

My church began an all congregation effort to call voters to convince them to vote in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. I had people try to urge me to get involved but I couldn’t. I was still reeling emotionally from my husband’s walkout last December and I’m still feeling down about the entire institution of marriage.

Intellectually I still feel that adults should be free to legally marry whoever they want as long as the marriage ceremony isn’t a coerced shotgun wedding. I still support same-sex marriage out of that principle. I even feel that polyamorous adults should be free to legally marry as many spouses as they can handle. But emotionally I’m starting to reconsider marriage as an institution. Right now I’m learning the hard way that you can have a lot in common with your spouse, treat your spouse with respect, avoid abusing your spouse, remain monogamous with your spouse and your marriage can still fall apart. I made a good-faith effort on my part to make my marriage work but I found that, without my husband’s effort on his part, it wasn’t good enough.

So I sat on the sidelines while my fellow congregation members made the phone calls, knocked on doors, and marched with other gay rights activists in the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade. All I did was sit on the side, took photos of the marchers, and uploaded them online.

2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival
2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival
2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival
2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival
2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival
2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival
2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival

I also took photos of the same-sex marriage opponents who marched in the parade. The opponents were far smaller than the pro-marriage crowd.

2012 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival

I was totally shocked and surprised when I found that the referendum passed and Maryland (along with Maine and Washington State) were the first states to make same-sex marriage equality legal by voter referendum. Last Sunday my congregation celebrated by putting up multicolored balloons and erecting the “Vote for Question 6” lawn signs in front of the Meeting House. Our minister even spoke about the victory and introduced those who were at the forefront in getting voters to vote in favor of the referendum.

Post Question 6 Victory at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church
Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church after Election Day 2012
Celebrating the Legalization of Marriage Equality at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church
Celebrating the Legalization of Marriage Equality in Maryland at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church

I am really pleased that same-sex marriage is becoming as accepted in the general public as it was in my Unitarian Universalist faith. As of this writing, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to announce its decision on November 30 whether to take on the challenges to gay marriage. If the U.S. Supreme Court does this and rules in favor of gay marriage, then same-sex couples will be able to have the right to get married in any state in the United States. I’m going to cross my fingers on this and hope for the best.

It’s just so amazing that something I once saw in a film and laughed at is now a reality that I totally support. The Future Shock film was correct in its prediction of the coming of same-sex marriage but it was incorrect in its implication that it’s one of the factors that will have the general public suffer from Future Shock. The vast majority of same-sex couples I know are into living a humdrum ordinary suburban life as their heterosexual counterparts. They don’t indulge in wild drug-fueled parties and they aren’t the kind of people you would ever see on a reality show. If you’ve ever met an average same-sex couple, you would conclude that there’s no real reason why they should be legally deprived of the right to marry.

My church congregation is holding its auction today from 3-9 p.m. including dinner and even a few performances by the congregation’s more talented members. (We have members who can act, play instruments, and even sing.) I’m donating a few of my customized and/or rehabilitated dolls to the auction, including this Vinylmation Mickey Mouse toy that I purchased blank from Walt Disney World back in August and I customized myself (see the September 2, 2010 entry for details and photos). In order to make my customized Mickey more appealing to potential bidders, I placed him in this really cool box with glass sides.

I purchased the box from A.C. Moore. A few days ago I attempted something similar (see the November 11, 2010 entry for the photo) with my customized angel pig toy that I’m currently displaying at the Artdromeda show in Baltimore this weekend. (The pig toy’s box also came from A.C. Moore.) I liked the results so much that I decided to try it again with the Mickey toy for the auction. I painted the outside wood parts brown, lined the inside bottom with special sky paper that I found in the scrapbooking aisle at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and Crafts, and attached a hanger on the back. The owner has the option of either hanging the box up on the wall or placing the box on a flat surface (like a table, counter, or desk).

Standing on the Side of Love Mickey in a Box
Standing on the Side of Love Mickey in a Box
Standing on the Side of Love Mickey in a Box
Standing on the Side of Love Mickey in a Box
Standing on the Side of Love Mickey in a Box
Standing on the Side of Love Mickey in a Box

By the way, this auction does NOT have an online component. If you wish to bid on this item or any of my other handcrafted donations, you have to be present at my church in person. The congregation also accepts cash or checks only. (No PayPal or credit cards.) See the website for directions.

For years I’ve heard of figurines known alternatively as "designer toys" or "urban toys". (For simplicity purposes, I’m going to follow what the Wikipedia does and refer to them as designer toys.) I used to see them on sale in the now-defunct Tower Records stores and I see them from time to time in chain stores like Hot Topic and Spencer’s and in small locally-owned botiques.

When I visited Walt Disney World during my trip to Florida last month, I found out that even Disney has jumped into the designer toy fray. Many of their gift shops sold a line of Mickeys known as Vinylmation. These Mickeys come in both 3-inch and 9-inch models and they come in a variety of colors and designs.

I also saw a line of blank Mickeys on sale for those who want to try their hand at designing one. I also saw stickers and glitter sold separately that one can use to decorate the blank Mickeys with. I decided to purchase a blank 3-inch Mickey and a sheet of stickers. Here is what the Mickey originally looked like.

Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love

Once I returned back to Maryland, I started to play around with designing Mickey. I became influenced by another souvenier from Walt Disney World which was a pin of a rainbow flag shaped like Mickey’s head. I thought it was such an incredible find that I wore it to Sunday services at my Unitarian Universalist congregation where I got praises for it. I became influenced by a pair of angel wings that were printed among the sheet of stickers I purchased at Disney World. Then I remembered how my congregation has been enthusiastically supporting the Unitarian Universalist Association‘s "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign so I did this design for my blank Mickey.

To make him sparkle brightly, I mixed in glitter powder with acrylic paint before I painted it on Mickey’s shorts, legs, gloves, nose, and head. I used metallic paint for the shirt and shoes. Once I finished with the paint and stickers, I used glossy acrlic gel to seal the work. Then I used a matte varnish to seal the entire job. I took a few pictures outside in the sun in an effort to show how shiny and glittery Mickey is.

Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love

I also took a few more shots of Mickey in a more shaded area so you can get a better glimpse of his colors. The hearts you see on his shirt and on each ear is based upon clip art that was originally created by Sean Bolton. (The design is a heart-shaped variation of the flaming chalice, which is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith.) I’m thinking about offering this one up for sale in my congregation’s annual auction later this year.

Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love
Standing on the Side of Love

I could’ve gone further with my blank Mickey by doing things like painting his head in an entirely different color but I went conservative and based Mickey’s head on the numerous Mickey variations that Disney has done over the years because I don’t want to turn off anyone from bidding on this little fellow in the auction. All in all I had a good time with customizing that little fellow.

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