Millennium March Pride

by Linda Romano | 5/5/00 5:00am

Although I went to the Millennium March on Washington for Equality, I have never really considered equal rights a "cause" of mine. This doesn't mean that it is something I do not take seriously. In fact, my stance on the issue probably tends to oversimplify it. Whereas I can see the double-sided nature of many opinions I hold, I do not really see how there is any other side to argue when it comes to granting people equal rights. Every human being has and should be treated with the same rights. It seems like one of those "the sky is blue"- type truths that is beyond debate.

Because I am aware, however, that not everyone seems to share my childlike understanding, I was less than up-front about my trip. When I was leaving work last Friday and people asked me about my plans for the weekend, I was purposefully evasive. I shrugged and replied that I had nothing big planned.

I came up with many reasons why not telling anyone where I was going was a good idea: How could I just assume that everyone would be supportive of the march? What was the point of having people draw conclusions and make judgments?

I realized how wrong I was as soon as the trip started. Being a part of the entire weekend was one of the greatest privileges and experiences I have ever had. The normally partisan city was pervaded with mutual respect, and this was despite the wide spectrum of people present. During the bus ride down, I started wondering about how one march could put a blanket over a community that included so many people. It seemed an enormous task to say that a weekend would unite all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The idea seemed even more ludicrous when I considered the hundreds of other aspects of a person's identity.

But part of the reason for the march's success was that everyone who took part in the weekend realized that we all had one thing in common -- our desire for everyone in this world to be treated equally. This desire transcended every other aspect, and that was one of the most positive parts of the weekend.

It is frustrating, sometimes, to be part of a society that places such a high value on diversity. Not because diversity is bad, but because as we come to accept more and more unique facets of ourselves, we have the potential to drive so many people away and move further away from an understanding of each other. In an attempt to validate every feature by which we can identify ourselves, we become super-categorized, and in turn, isolated.

But I learned that it is possible to qualify yourself and still become a part of something larger, without losing any of your identity. Coming to Washington to support the weekend didn't make people any less African-American, or any less hearing-impaired, or any less gay. It just made them able to bring different viewpoints to the struggle for equal rights.

I noticed the same phenomenon with the group from Dartmouth. The people who came on the trip represented so many different cross-sections of this College. I didn't know more than half of them before the weekend started, but because we all had something so important in common, it made getting past the little things a lot easier.

I am proud that I took part in the Millennium March, but I am not proud that I decided not to share my participation with other people. It requires so much less effort to anticipate the worst from people. I blindly assumed that people would pass judgment, and such an assumption is equally as dangerous as the assumption that different people deserve more or fewer rights. Putting myself out there for others to accept is one of the hardest, but most worthwhile, parts of being a person.