Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I spent the weekend before the election with my fellow Lesbian and Gay Band Association members at our annual conference in Palm Springs. It had been three years since I'd attended the conference, and it was great to see old friends and be one of the 300+ LGBTQIA musicians from all over the country (world?) making music and marching our message of equality through the streets.

The election, and ensuing inauguration, was of course a topic of conversation at the conference. LGBA marched in both of President Obama's inaugural parades, and before that played on the sidelines of President Bill Clinton's inaugurations. The board of LGBA, and in particular their Inauguration Team, is experienced in the management of a huge massed band performance in the presidential inaugural parade, and as such had already started planning our involvement in what many of us hoped would be the 2017 inauguration of President Hillary Clinton. The LGBA board planned to apply for the inaugural parade regardless of the outcome of the election, following a decision made in 2008 to apply for every presidential inauguration thereafter, irrespective of the president being inaugurated. The rationale (I assume, as I have never served on the LGBA board) was that LGBTQIA Americans deserve representation in this national event, and as their marching band, we should be that representation. I venture that most of us, at least those of us supporting Hillary, were concentrating on getting Secretary Clinton elected and not really considering the possibility that Trump might win, and what that would mean for our inauguration plans.

So the LGBA Inauguration Team took registrations from members so they could begin preparing our parade contingent and our application to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. They were promoting registration hard at the conference, as these members who'd traveled to Palm Springs were many of the people who would likely travel to DC for the inauguration. There was a lot of excitement around it (over 500 registrants by the end of the weekend), and many of us even bid our fellow members farewell at the end of the conference saying "see you in January," considering it a fait accompli.

Two days later, the election results hit us, as they hit many other people, like a ton of bricks. The high we felt after such a successful, fulfilling, and celebratory conference gave way to worry, anger, and fear. What would happen to our marriages and adoptions? To our immigrant partners? To the reproductive rights of our female members and friends? To the rights and safety of or members and friends in likewise marginalized communities? Political action was and still is being taken: petitions signed, representatives called, calls to action posted and shared.

Thoughts returned to LGBA's potential involvement in what would now be an inauguration of Donald Trump. Our Facebook group flooded with members' opinions on what to do now. Some felt it was important to still apply and represent our community, especially now in the face of opposition. Others felt it was tantamount to support of President Trump and unacceptable. Some said performing in the inauguration would be an act of political protest, and we shouldn't shy away from a challenge. Others countered that any protest held from within the parade would have ramifications: jeopardizing our future in inaugural parades, possible immediate removal from the parade, possible risks to our safety.

I simply deflated. The inaugural parade is a hard gig. It's the dead of winter. It's preceded by days of intense rehearsal. With inauguration day on a Friday, it would require at least three days off of work. All of that was worth it for Obama and it would have been worth it for Secretary Clinton. In no uncertain terms, it was decidedly NOT worth it for Trump. In the survey that LGBA put out after the election to reassess its members intentions and seek feedback for the way forward, I indicated that I would not go.

This past Sunday, the LGBA Inauguration Team announced that it would not be applying for the 2017 presidential inauguration. Reactions were of course mixed, as was to be expected based on people's opinions before the announcement, but everyone appreciated the hard work that went into their deliberations, and the difficult situation they and the board were in. Although I feel for my fellow members who were determined to march in the parade no matter what, I am glad we will not be confusing the general public and especially the LGBTQIA community by participating in an inaugural parade for President Trump. Marching in an inauguration is an honor I've had twice, and I will have it again, but not in January.