We won

theresa sparks, violet blue, margaret cho sf pride 2008
In the SF Pride Parade 2008: my mom Theresa Sparks, myself, and my soon-to-be-adopted sister, Margaret Cho. Photo by Jonathan Moore, the adorable straight boy who handed out marriage equality stickers all day Pride sunday.

* Shoutout to the SFBG! Pics: Some famous faces of Pride.

It was 8:30 am sunday morning and I was downtown at the Embarcadero Hyatt Regency for the annual Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club breakfast. It was my second one, and it’s a crazy who’s-who of powerful LGBT friendly California politicians, and this being the big year for gay marriage, it was the year to really show up and *represent*. It’s a very important thing, this breakfast. Last year Elizabeth Edwards gave a stirring speech and I was introduced to everyone from Kamala Harris to Carole Migden. This year I know more people and that made it more fun; Tom Ammiano, Mikayla Connell, and even Mark Leno managed to race by the table and give me a squeeze and a hello. That I’ve come to know these incredible people amazes me to no end. I thank my lucky stars for being adopted by Theresa Sparks and Auntie Cecila.

This year we had speeches by Jerry Brown (who did indeed refer to himself as ‘Governor Moonbeam’), Gavin Newsom (as we did last year), and Ron Dellums — the first African American Congressman and current Mayor of Oakland. Hilary Clinton sent a note to be read by a delegate, as did Barack Obama. Hilary’s letter was (in my opinion) very form-like, and did not *even mention* gay marriage. Obama’s letter opened with a huge congratulations to the LGBT democratic club, and was almost entirely about marriage equality, and the wish to make it a reality on a federal level. They are very different letters. I trust politicians about as far as they can be tossed by toddlers, but I think we’re only going to get somewhere with human rights when politicians are finally honest about who the hell they’re talking to. Obama’s off to a good start.

But it was Dellums who made it all make sense. One of the first things he said is still ringing in my head today. “Be sure that every day you wake up with a fire that burns in your belly to make a significant change in the world about something that is bigger than you.” That’s it, I thought while I sat at the table, that’s it. That’s the kind of person I aspire to be. That’s the kind of people I should be around. People who seek real change for that thing that’s bigger than them — no wonder people who I’ve known whose lives are driven by money or fame or petty politics all wind up as former friends. It’s starting to make sense. Now those scars, they can finally mean something.

It’s the kind of speech where you can tell that this man, when he says he saw Martin Luther King speak, you know you’re as close as a person can be to that kind of truth and sacrifice, a fire and brimstone coming from the heart about equality and loving one another that transcends politics yet is all about political action. And like Dellums described his experience seeing King speak, I felt the same way — that for a powerful minute, there was no one he was talking to but me. And to feel King in the LGBT Democratic Club’s space — that we were winning.

His final point was that every citizen deserves the right to be with whom they choose, and to work. And everyone in our nation deserves the rights to do both in equality. I don’t know if you read the California gay marriage ruling/opinion — probably not, as it is a sprawling document (.pdf) — but it came down to something that resounds here like a clanging church bell. The court opined that any law discriminating against sexual orientation was the same as discrimination against race (and religion and gender). And that years ago in California (like 1948), it was shocking and controversial to allow interracial marriage, but now we think it’s a right and an non-issue. Just as it is shocking and controversial now with gay marriage, and thus marriage equality. Dellums tells us, because he’s been here before, people — that we won. And that after breakfast when we walked out the door to all march proudly in the parade with our family and lovers and friends at our sides and in our hearts, we were not marching in protest. We were, that day, yesterday, marching in victory. That we could be happy, and joyful and together because we won. And we did.

photo by laughing squid / scott beale
Photo by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid.

I sat there in the middle of the room crying like a baby, and kept crying while we all stood to applaud Dellums in a standing ovation. Then, Gavin got up and effectively kicked me while I was down, giving a speech about how love is the most important thing in the world and the most powerful. That it is the one thing that can’t be bought, or forced on anyone. And to him, that’s what marriage equality meant. That we, as San Franciscans and Californians, were going to keep doing everything we can — and have been doing all along — to continue spreading love around the nation.

Out the door, on the way to the parade it was freezing in the fog, and holding Jonathan’s hand with our matching gothy outfits and our marriage equality stickers on our sweaters, we trailed behind my stunning sister Xtina. She’d danced her ass off friday night (hey, a girl’s still gotta work) at Asia SF and later Diva’s during the insanity of the Margaret Cho tranny bar tour (on VH1 this Fall, no kidding). Xtina and I texted each other all weekend about how much we loved each other and are fiercely proud to be sisters. Sunday, we shared a teary call where she told me no matter what, she’d always have my back because she was my sister. Just say the word, she said. I said the same, and it would never matter what anyone said against us.

I didn’t expect to ride in the car. At the last minute I was ordered to get in by Mama Sparks — sitting between Margaret and Theresa, with sexy Xtina in the front seat. Everyone looked gorgeous, and strangely, the whole ride was over in what seemed like minutes. Yelling, waving, smiling so much our faces actually ached. And here’s the thing: Margaret was there because she *wanted to be there*. She was, in fact, absolutely obviously thrilled to be there and to have an opportunity do anything to participate and meet people and have fun. Because Margaret really, really believes in Pride and everything it stands for, in her heart — I know this because I saw it on her face and in every action, and yes, also because she is now my friend and I can hear it in her voice when she talks about it. She stopped for every photo, she talked to every stranger, she took every chance to get up and make jokes and make people laugh and *feel beautiful*. She was a pale and tattooed hero. The crowd loved her, and she gave it back times a thousand. She wasn’t a Celebrity Grand Marshall or anything (and in fact, the other celeb grand marshalls behaved ungratefully, flakily and really like confused and aging pop stars — saying they were too tired or “sick” to do more than show up and leave). Margaret Cho was there because she knows it’s an honor, and she shines brighter than the rest. Period.

She is lobbying for adoption to have Theresa as a mom, too. I have zero in the biological family department, but I think I’m inheriting a family that’s, well, made of things bigger than me. And despite turning some of my fantasies into incest scenarios, that’s exactly what I want. That family, you see, *is* me. Take away my painful past, the people who have hurt me over the last year and a half, the stalkers, the death threats, the nonfriends, people disappearing me from my own online histories, take it all away and you have me. I can do it alone, but I don’t have to anymore. I think there might be at least 1.1 million others just like me (that was the SF Pride attendance estimate this year). And I’m proud of who we are. I don’t know if this makes any sense to you, but I’m feeling pretty solid about it.

After the parade, Jonathan and I unintentionally crashed the staff party in Mayor Newsom’s office — graciously, they let us hang out *on the motherfucking mayor’s balcony overlooking the city*! I lost my card reader so until I can get the fabulous photos off my camera from this weekend, I’ve got this Flickr photoset, and these videos:

* In the car during the parade!
* Crashing Mayor Newsom’s staff party, on the balcony.
* Very acrobatic gay cheerleaders practicing a routine (from the balcony).

Share This Post


  1. I wish I’d been able to see the Parade, and I wish I’d been able to meet Margaret! I was busy inside City Hall, getting ready for the VIP party, so I missed out on the Parade.

    We actually met there (Though I didn’t know who you were, I have to admit!) Big guy, two-color hair and a leg immobilizer, who asked about your leg ink.

  2. you know, I think “unpublishing” is making everyone cranky. especially me ;)

    I wish I could buy all the tiny nibbles commenters — and me — a drink, or some ice cream, or hand out free lube samples or something. knowwhatimean? I appreciate all the views in this thread; my marriage didn’t work, but I know ones that really do. it is what it is. I don’t know what marriage would *ever* look like for me at this point, but I bow (in a short skirt, of course) in the direction of those hot and heavy happy married couples.

    now, I think I need to shake down a sex toy company for presents for tiny nibbles commenters. :D

  3. @Mat

    This is a direct quote from your earlier post:

    ‘It doesn’t matter what you think of something like marriage’

    I simply posted a view with candor not at all intended to cool hot vibes. This site can handle an alternative view, I should think, with little effort.

    Equality is cool. I just derive from a rather lonely perspective that marriage is highly over-rated. Nuff said… back to the festivities.

  4. “Chill with the games”?

    I have no idea what you mean by that, and little interest.

    The point is, bad or good, if you believe if equality for all then that includes everything, which includes marriage.

    I wasn’t “minimizing your opinion”, and at no point did I say that your view doesn’t matter – I was disagreeing. I found it sad on what is plainly and obviously a rare, important and beautiful achievment in human rights you found the need to, as we say in England, piss on everyone’s chips. Try to drop the agenda and look at how happy and proud everyone else here is.

    All the other comments in this thread are positive and full of love, so by all means have the last word if you need to, as I won’t be posting anything else here and further spoiling the good vibe.

  5. Mat,

    Almost half of all marriages will end up shot in the butt. Granted, my view isn’t the most positive one on the relational block but I am hardly generalizing in total with the preponderance of marital data supporting a good chunk of my negativity.

    I can’t find the temerity within myself to minimize your human capacity to express opinion by responding with the utterly nonsensical view that ‘your’ view doesn’t matter (as you have blithely stated about mine), because, frankly, it does, to you. Or why exist at all? Why communicate if views don’t matter?

    Obviously, YOUR view matters since you certainly felt strongly enough to address mine with it.

    Let’s be fair here and chill with the games.

    Equality for equality’s sake is fine. I’m all for it. But to fight for legal entrance into the conventional model of relational bondage seems desperate and not at all representative of the mental freeness I typically associate with gays.

  6. In response to comment #6

    Marriage is as good or bad as the people doing it, regardless of gender, sexuality or anything else. Some marriages are horrid destructive things, sure, but many are beautiful, continually suprising and rewarding journeys. I’d count mine in the second category. Maybe your marriage is the pits, Agile, but mine isn’t, so please don’t generalise. It doesn’t matter what you think of something like marriage, the point is that everyone should have the chance to do it if they want to.

    And as for the Boing Boing thing.. Very upsetting and dissapointing. One expected more honourable, transparent and liberal behaviour from Boing Boing, especially since that’s the behaviour they seem to expect from everyone else. I’ll keep reading them, but they’ve gone down in my estimation in the way they acted on this.

    The bottom line is, many of BoingBoing’s posts make me sad, frustrated or just bored at yet another clumsy shill for corys latest book, whereas Violet’s posts often make me happy, proud and moved.

  7. Je support les troops · Edit

    re: the BoingBoing questions…

    I am of the opinion that Xeni, et al didn’t like some aspect of your lawsuit against Ada Mae Johnson. This is pure speculation, but I would be surprised if it isn’t the answer – or at a minimum, the answer they eventually give you.

  8. Great post! Your descriptions were so inspiring and heartfelt, and I totally agree with:
    ” ‘Be sure that every day you wake up with a fire that burns in your belly to make a significant change in the world about something that is bigger than you.’ That’s it, I thought while I sat at the table, that’s it. That’s the kind of person I aspire to be. That’s the kind of people I should be around. People who seek real change for that thing that’s bigger than them — no wonder people who I’ve known whose lives are driven by money or fame or petty politics all wind up as former friends. It’s starting to make sense.”

    California is just the start…the demographic there is younger/more liberal than the rest of the country right now, but as with science, the tides turn when holders of old theories die off (they don’t change their minds, we just outlive them). This is the issue we will all look back on and wonder why the hell it took so long!

  9. Legalizing the gay ball-and-chain is moving? Marriage is the pits. The desire for social conformity foisted as marital equality drags the homosexual into the odd past. Why would gays do this to themselves? Marriage is the ultimate womb of conventional idealism.

  10. How very moving, like much of your writing. Speaking as someone who gets continually depressed by the state of the world, things like this give one hope for the simple beauty of humanity.

    Good on ya, lady! Good on all of ya!

  11. You know, I’ve been reading this blog for years, and I think this might be my favourite post yet. It was awesome. :)

    Huge congratulations to San Francisco, and the whole of California! You’ve won, and you’re going to keep on winning from here. Keep on showing the rest of us how it’s supposed to be.

    And of course, keep up the great blog!

  12. I wasn’t in SF for Pride this year (my second ever!) but I could totally feel what you’re talking about even down in DC: the life-affirming-ness of going to Pride, rather than doing it as a form of protest. Victory march, indeed.

    Thanks for keeping such a wonderful blog.

  13. YEEEEEHAW! WOOHOO! I was glued to reading news reports yesterday…

    But it’ll still be a struggle. Just (“temporarily”) transplanted to the area of the country where the Bible belt leaves welts and people beg for more. While there are some who still are deep in Mayor Dellums’s original struggle, equality for all *is* spreading.

    Sometimes it’s from surprising directions. Many people are struggling with the drought and workload; they are turning to sustainable farming just to put enough food on the table. Then they turn to some successful locals who also happen to believe in equality… Amazing how people start to listen to those helping them feed their families.

    (Oh, and if anyone wants to stop the coal industry from polluting and taking whole mountain caps or the tobacco industry from stealing kids’ lives, give these people some other job that pays. The only folks here making sufficient money are in coal, tobacco, or funerals. Folks are clinging to “clean coal” because they really have no options. And tobacco, well, it’s a frickin’ weed. It’s easy to grow and turns into cash to buy food, which is harder to grow or raise.)

  14. VB,

    We are winning and soon we will be in charge at the federal level! Your blog is in my top five daily must reads. But most of all thanks for introducing me to Madison Young. Chomp.

Post Comment