30 Years Ago I Became an Activist

reading time 3 min

(Originally posted to Facebook on October 11, 2017)

Today is the 30th anniversary of the day I became an activist. Today in 1987 I went to the 2nd March On Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. I drove down with four other students crammed in Joellen’s ludicrously bright orange station wagon. At the time I didn’t consider myself an activist; I wasn’t even calling myself bisexual at the time. I was just going to be supportive.

The march was amazing. Powerful. We found the contingent with all the student groups. We met people from all over. We chanted, sang, and marched. It was nothing I expected and 100 times better.

However, I still felt like I was just along for the ride.

When the march ended, we walked towards the car. I distinctly remember turning the corner and suddenly finding myself looking out over the National Mall. It was covered with The AIDS Quilt. It was huge. Much bigger than I had imagined. I was shocked. One quilt tile for each person that had died of AIDS so far. It was the size of multiple football fields. This was 1987 and the cumulative death count was at 20,000.

The five of us walked silently though the quilt. Reading the panels. Crying. I don’t think we said a single word the entire time nor did we talk from there all the way back to the car.

I mark that day as the day I became an activist. I went as a concerned student. I returned an activist.

Returning to campus I came out as bisexual. I got more involved in the student L/G alliance (we added B later, and T wasn’t on anyone’s radar then). After graduation I joined the state-wide LGBTI coalition (I was involved in adding B, T, and I) and worked on the NJ anti-discrimination bill (the 6th state to pass such a bill), was on the committee that created and ran the New Jersey LGBT pride parade for 5+ years, co-created NJ’s first bi organization, got involved in national bi activism, co-created a regional activism conference, and worked on various workplace diversity projects.

Activism also formed the majority of my social life. Outside of work and college, nearly all my friends are people I met thought activism. These friendships have been more important to me than any bill I worked on, support group, conference, or any other action. These friendships are what I am the most grateful for.

It all comes back to that one day, October 11, 1987.

[Note: Today is the 29th National Coming Out Day.]

Tom Limoncelli

Tom Limoncelli

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