In the summer of 1980 I was in Washington, D. C., for the celebration of Gay Pride Day. It was a hot day, and perhaps 10,000 people had jammed into P Street Park, just down the road from the gay bars near Dupont Circle, to listen to music and speeches; buy badges, T-shirts, and books; eat hot dogs, homemade cookies, lemon- ade, even Jewish delicacies (at the Bet Mispuchah stand); or have their hair cut, all in the interests of raising money for the Whitman- Walker clinic. In all, the organizers listed thirty-eight booths, plus an open-air art fair and a softball match between the Lesbian/Gay team and the City Council Homerulers.
The day began with a marching band, an echo of all those school and college bands in which the boys had longed to twirl the batons (but that was too sissy) and the girls to beat the drums (too butch). Here they were, the D. C. Different Drummers, players in dark-blue uniforms, women and men, marching boys in red satin matched with white mock construction helmets, and the crowd parted, applauding, to let them through. (Gay marching bands and choirs are a particularly American phenomenon that have come into existence in a number of cities, often with patriotic names like the Great American Freedom Marching Band.)
It was more like a traditional country fair than the commercial street fairs in New York and San Francisco, and the crowd was appropriately mixed: almost as many women as men, large numbers of blacks, even a few children wandering through with their parents. The speakers included some city councillors and the mayor of Washington, who knew very well the political importance of the gay community. (The gay vote was an important factor in the election of Marion Barry as mayor in 1978, and he has sought to pay his debts.)
"I can't stand all these clones together," hissed my friend David, who was working one of the booths. "Look at that one"--