Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kevin Jennings Took High School Students to Radical 1993 Gay Rights March on DC – Part II

What new ideas and experiences did Kevin Jennings' high school students encounter at the 1993 gay rights march on Washington? Check out some videos from the event here (includes ACT UP), here (mass commitment ceremony), and here.
It was the first major national event to push ”bisexuality” and “transgender rights” alongside “gay rights”. The 1993 platform also pushes the notion of “youth” rights, and loosening the sexual age-of-consent laws. Excerpts from the platform:
1. We demand passage of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender civil rights bill and an end to discrimination by state and federal governments including the military; repeal of all sodomy laws and other laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults.... Passage and implementation of graduated age-of-consent laws.
3. ... The recognition and legal protection of the whole range of family structures. ... An end to abuse and exploitation of and discrimination against youth. ... Full implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Health and Human Services Task Force on Youth Suicide. ... Legalization of same sex marriages.
4. ... Culturally inclusive Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies program; and information on abortion, AIDS/HIV, childcare and sexuality at all levels of education.
5. ... Unrestricted, safe and affordable alternative insemination.... That access to safe and affordable abortion and contraception be available to all people on demand, without restriction and regardless of age.
7. ... An end to economic injustice in this country and internationally. ... An end to consideration of gender dysphoria as a psychiatric disorder. ... An end to censorship.
A contemporary report* gives some idea of the sights and sounds confronting Jennings' high school students:
… drag queens blowing kisses, gay men with nipple rings parading in studded leather, "Dykes on Bikes" cruising down the avenues, and bare-breasted lesbians showering each other with lingering kisses.…
A review of the April 25 evening newscasts on ABC, CNN and NBC (CBS did not air a newscast that night) indicates that viewers saw a sanitized version that made the gay movement seem largely mainstream and respectable, just as march organizers had hoped….
The speakers at the post-march rally provided a stream of obscenities considered too vulgar for mainstream television. For example, a drag queen duo cracked a joke on stage about the military ban on homosexuals that was aired on C-SPAN. "They're afraid we will be demanding blowjobs in the shower," said one, "when it's blow dryers we want." Later, a master of ceremonies, praising the conspicuously absent Bill Clinton, told the throng, "I think we have a leader who is thinking with his heart and mind, and not just his penis." And at another point, a woman told the crowd that she'd like to "fuck" Hillary Clinton….
… a man dressed in a blonde wig, wearing a skimpy flag costume and high heels parading on stage…. a white man French-kissing a black man, and a shot of another man in a black mini-dress singing, "Queers Can Do It in the Army." …
Andrew Kopkind, an associate editor of the Nation who is gay … wrote … “In fact, despite the heat there were the inevitable leather chaps and harnesses, a fist-fuckers section and more bare-breasted lesbians. And a fair amount of drags sashayed down the avenues in high heels. But for the first time in the history of gay gala events, the media averted their eyes.”
… a master of ceremonies talking about "crotch politics," and a self-described "big dyke" comedienne who faked an orgasm on stage….
[A Queer Nation spokesman said] even groups like Queer Nation and ACT UP [to which Jennings belonged] made a conscious effort to dress inoffensively for the march.
A “gay marriage” website characterizes the 1993 March:
The interconnectedness of all social justice was a major theme in 1993. The stated demands condemned “racism and sexism, class bias, economic injustice and religious intolerance” as well as homophobia. The board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave the march a full endorsement, which created the first direct tie between the gay rights and civil rights movements. It was also the first time that the event's title acknowledged the role of bisexuals in gay rights activism.
The “B” and “T” were officially added to the GLBT allied movement in 1993. Bisexuals and transgenders (including transsexuals) were given a huge platform for their mind- and body-bending demands. One speaker was a transsexual (“male-to-female”) attorney who told of the oppression married men face after sex-change operations:
Once a person with male genitalia is legally married to a female-genitaled person, they will remain legally married regardless of whether one has genitalia-altering surgery and it then becomes a de facto same-sex marriage. The state cannot force a divorce. The first time that I promoted this idea publically [sic], outside of the Transgender Law Conferences was in my platform speech at the 1993 march on Washington…. But many were forced to divorce and many others simply were divorced. In those cases, the fear of exposure often left the transgendered spouse to be fair game in the divorce settlement. Often children were involved, and the courts would only allow supervised visitation. [Emphasis added.]
AIDS Quilt [Photo: Smithsonian Institution]

The emotional wallop of the AIDS Quilt displayed on the Mall would surely have had a deep effect on Jennings’ students. A homosexual news service reported:
Over two million people, according to the Washington Police Dept., viewed the AIDS Memorial Quilt over the weekend of October 11-13, 1996 in Washington, D.C. This marked the first time the entire quilt, now at 45,000 panels, has been displayed since the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights in April, 1993. … Among the vast numbers viewing the Quilt [in 1996] were 55,000 school children, each of whom had to get parental permission to participate in the visit which included an orientation to deal with the emotions they might experience or witness…. [Emphasis added.]
These are the sights and messages Kevin Jennings used to radicalize his Concord Academy students in 1993. He has surely carried these radical beliefs through his years as national director of GLSEN and to his current position as Obama’s “Safe Schools Czar” in the U.S. Department of Education.

A 2005 article in Education Week confirms that Jennings and GLSEN continued the mission of turning high school students into radical political activists.
Recognizing gay students remains an emotional, politically charged issue. But Kevin Jennings isn't out to provoke shouting matches. Instead, he's quietly turning students into activists capable of changing schools on their own.
GLSEN hasn’t grown from a one-man to a 30-person organization with a $5 million annual budget by battling his opponents on sexual orientation issues.
Instead, he’s done something the civil rights movement taught him is much more effective: He’s turned students into activists…. (Samantha Stainburn, “Straight Talk,” Teacher Magazine, November 1, 2005.)
This fits right in with Obama’s community organizing approach to transforming the country. But while Obama's community activism manipulated adults, Jennings mastered the art of manipulating children


Kevin Jennings in 2005.

*Alicia C. Shepard, Did the networks sanitize the gay rights march?American Journalism Review, July 1, 1993. (Available at