A Protest Song

I spent the weekend in Cleveland and Cincinnati and it was amazing. Even though some devastating things happened on November 4th, Barack Obama still won, and as I watched the election along with everyone else that day, when I saw that Ohio went for Obama, I said “Yes!!! We got this!!” so I wanted to thank Ohio for this great victory. They had a lot to do with it.

In Cleveland, Jessie (our killer merchandise diva with the fuschia locks – if you’ve been to one of the “Beautiful” shows – you know her) and I visited the rock and roll hall of fame, because since I am a musician, it is just one of those things that musicians do. Oh, you didn’t know I was a musician? Yeah. I have been a musician for about 3 days. Well, actually, I got an electric guitar a couple of weeks ago, but I haven’t done much except pose with it in front of the mirror. I didn’t actually start playing til Thursday. Maybe that should be my band name, Til Thursday. We are kind of like Til Tuesday, but just later in the week.

I was asked to perform at an anti-Prop 8 rally on the big international day of protest – November 15 – in Cincinnati, and I thought I should write a protest song for it. The fact that there is now a ban on gay marriage just kills my spirit, hurts my heart. I was deputized as a marriage commissioner in San Francisco in June, and I got to marry a gay couple and a lesbian couple at city hall, and it was such an honor and a blessing, and we all wept through the entire thing. It was one of the greatest things I had ever experienced, and the fact that the state considers those unions now against the law just destroyed me emotionally. Momentarily, I lost my will to fight, and I desperately wanted to get it back, and music was the only answer.

I got an acoustic guitar on Wednesday, wrote the song on Thursday, with help from my brother in law, Eric, who is a musician – cuz that is who musicians hang out with, other musicians. Then I practiced for about 32 hours in a row to get ready for Saturday. On the plane I did air guitar like strumming and made the chords with my hands. In my hotel room I played the song so many times I am surprised I was not bodily removed from the premises. I tried it out on the Cleveland crowd on Friday, and they seemed to think it was ok, so I was ready for my big protest singing debut at the rally.

We drove from Cleveland to Cincinnati early on Saturday morning as icy rain pelted down all of I-71, and Liam Sullivan (Kelly) pointed out a sign next to the highway. It said “HELL IS REAL”. I guess it must have been nearby, but the sign didn’t say what exit. If it is real, then they should have some more detailed directions!

We got to city hall and there were hundreds of people there, which is a lot considering that it was freezing cold and fucking raining!!! But tons of people were there with signs and everything. I stood on the steps of city hall and I got out my guitar. My hands were shaking from the cold and also the sheer nerves of having to play guitar in front of people! It was scary. I am not one for stage fright. I have been a standup comic for almost a quarter of a century (gasp), and I am real blasé about the whole thing. Talking in front of people is no big deal. I’m fucking talking, there are people there. Whatever. Public speaking is supposed to be scary, but I have been doing it longer than I have not been doing it, so I am used to it and I just take it for granted like the fucking ingrate that I am. But playing music, that is something else. Wow – I was really nervous. I was like my big dog Ralph when he goes to the vet, all shaking and salivating and trying to back out the front door, like no one will notice if he is walking backwards because he is still looking everyone in the eye, or the crotch, or whatever is dog level. I wanted to put my snout in someone’s elbow, like if I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t happening.

They introduced me, and I fumbled with the guitar for a bit. I got all scared that somewhere between me taking it out of my gig bag – yeah that is a musician’s term for a bag that you bring to the gig – your gig bag – I got all worried that in the few seconds that it was out of the gig bag, that it would go out of tune. I managed to get the strap and get the guitar in front of me semi-correctly. Then, I started to play, and miraculously, the song I wrote just came out of me and I know I messed up some chords but nobody seemed to mind much. It was the spirit of the thing, you know? At the end everyone was singing the chorus with me “Shove Proposition 8 up their ass!” and it felt really great.

I was so proud that so many turned out to protest the gay marriage ban in California – in Ohio!!! That so many all around the world stood up for California that day was overwhelming. I was getting texts from friends all over the place with pictures and reports from their local rallies. I’m gonna write “this machine kills fascists” on the back of my blackberry.

Photos by Amanda Ralston. Thanks Amanda!






Video by missronierho:

24 thoughts on “A Protest Song

  1. Thank you for all that you do. It has been a really hard time generally for me. I am a gay Mormon. Yesterday I was contemplating suicide but I know that would not solve anything. I am glad that you do what you do and I hope that one day I can be a part of this movement and help and inspire people like you do. You give me hope for the future. Thank you. – Josh

  2. Amid all the the beautiful protest noise and hubub, Wanda Sykes quietly came out in Las Vegas (http://tinyurl.com/6dyrsw). This kind of brave affirmation helps others come out and stand up in support. Thanks, Margaret, for all that you do for civil rights.

    (Joshua – don’t consider for one moment that this marriage discrimination – and other forms of bigotry – are going to stick. It may take a while, but attitudes are changing and will change, and the laws will change right along with them. For now, some of my fellow heteros are clinging to antiquated notions of what it is to be human and what it is to be “normal.” These ideas, too, are changing, however slowly.

    Wherever you live – and whatever you currently believe you can do – you *can* be part of this movement now – you are needed and you matter. Try here: http://jointheimpact.com/ to find a group in your community. And ultimately, you will be able to forgive the Mormons, as upsetting as they can be – they simply know not what they do.)

  3. That was awesome! I love that guy there that was doing sign language for you! Very inspirational song! So did Wanda Sykes make anyone else’s day today? and what is normal? i’m so sick of peoples’ silly perceptions of the word “normal” and hearing about how I don’t fit into that perception!

    I wish I could’ve made it to a rally. Maybe next year when i’m out of high school! IT’S A NEW GENERATION MUA HA HA HA!!!!

  4. Thank you for sharing your new found rockstar talents and lyrical truth ~ I laughed aloud. Nodded my head. Briefly sighed. AND passed it on to dozens of like-minded peeps.

    I felt a powerful, peaceful privlege to be in the midst of the San Francisco crowd this past Saturday 11/15. In a sea of diversity (identity, color, age, shape, sub-culture, etc.) ~ I felt nothing but hope, encouragement and pride. As you stated, “a momentary brief pause…” in our history.

  5. I don’t have a who lot of input, except yay Margaret!
    There’s been a lot of depression around here. Feels like we’ve been kicked in the gut and stabbed in the heart. But every day I gain a little hope, and I hope everyone else here does too. None of you are alone in this. We’re here. And we aren’t going anywhere.

  6. Thanks so much for coming and joing us in Cincinnati. We have overcome so much in this city, but still have a long ways to go. I am the Vice-President for the local LGBT rights group (Equaility Cincinnati) and with the support of the crowd there on Saturday and people like you, we will win the fight. Thanks for all you do

  7. OH YEAH!!! YOu totally rocked everyone’s socks Margaret, you’re the original MC!!! Hahaha… I love you so much… you make me cry with tears of laughter, joy, encouragement and empowerment. You are an angel. You are so amazing… Words cannot properly define the immensity of your incredibility. I read in the news that the Attorney General in California is pushing for California State Supreme Court to reconsider it’s ban on Gay Marriage. To consider whether or not it is legal to ban it. I hope this gets turned around. What an atrocity. I am not even gay and it is such an important issue to me. That people in this day are witnessing the same type of hatred and inequality that Martin Luther King wrote his amazing speeches about and the blindly participate. That laws separate some of us from the rest of humanity. It’s not right. I FEEL MY BLOOD PULSING WITH THE DESIRE OF EQUALITY AMONGST ALL AMERICANS!!!!!

  8. Thanks so much for coming out to Cincinnati and supporting Impact Cincinnati!! The song was great and even though the weather sucked, it didn’t keep us from standing up and letting our voices be heard! As one of the organizers, I can’t even begin to explain how wonderful, hardworking and dedicated, Cameron Tolle (leader), Barry Floore, Jill Benevides, Chris Gilbert and Doug Meredith (and countless others) are! What started out as two people with an idea has now become a new grass-roots activisim collection for Cincinnati! And I’m super excited to see my friend Amanda Ralstons photos on here! All this talent coming together to fight for our freedom…It’s a beautiful thing thats happening here.

    Thanks again for coming to Cincinnati!!

  9. Dear Margaret,

    Could you post the following far and wide so that your San Diego folks know about this! The Hyatt is supporting injustice and people need to know!

    Thank you so much –

    Saturday Rally Against Hate @ Manchester Hyatt

    NOVEMBER 22th -5:00 p.m.

    Doug Manchester is one of the leading funders ($125,000) of Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative that discriminates against LGBT couples. While Hyatt may officially disavow Manchester’s contributions to Proposition 8 as a personal choice, the fact remains that their multi-million dollar LGBT marketing efforts must be seen as little more than sheer hypocrisy when the revenue this marketing attracts is then funneled into efforts that bite the hand which feeds them. In such a situation, we always have the ability to choose not to feed them any longer.

    WHERE: 1 Market Place, San Diego, CA 92101


    Tony Cochran

    Unite Here

    Local 30

    3737 C amino Del Rio S

    San Diego, CA

    (c) 818 980 3323

    (o) 619 516 3737 ext 325

  10. Joshua: Please reach out to someone and talk. Whether an understanding friend, a therapist, or a hotline. You are never alone, and you shouldn’t think you have to carry that burden on your shoulders. Promise if you feel like ending it all again you will pick up a phone and ask for help immediately- or go online to any LGBT sites that can help (though NOT the ones claimining to “cure” homosexuality). Pray. God loves all of us for who we are. Any individual or church who tells us differently don’t know what they are talking about.

    Keep coming to Margaret’s sight to give you hope. Just don’t give up. Things are going to get better, and you’re going to want to be around to see it!

    Margaret – I am a huge fan, and thank you for everything you do for gay rights and for keeping us laughing.

  11. My husband and I saw you Saturday night…I was hoarse from laughing so hard. Thanks Margaret, for an excellent show and for all you do. I love when celebrities use their celebrity for good.

    Best wishes!

  12. Thanks Margaret. I love your comedy and the politics you infuse in it. I stand with you as a Canadian in getting Prop 8 repelled. Think about visiting us in Canada as gay marriage is legal here in all the provinces. Take heart as it will be made law federally one day in the all of the States. Obama as the President has to have the courage to implement a federal law like our Prime Minister did. Cheers bellas!!

  13. What a great job, Margaret – as usual. Your song is perfect, and so was your delivery. Everything you do is art, obviously coming from a place of truth in your heart, mind, body and soul. You are one of my all time hero freedom fighters. Keep standing up for fairness, human decency, truth, and laughter. You should be president – or at least vice-president. Keep telling it like it is.

  14. Hey!, thanks for the good “A Protest Song” post. Would it be possible, that i can write a story about this post in our local newspaper? I would be really happy if i can do this and i will give you a link from a german blog too. Please answer. Greetings Goldpreise

  15. THANKYOU so much, Margaret 🙂 I know I’m late commenting but I hope you still see this but I’ve just started reading your blog in July and I’m waist deep into the archives ;>

    Your perfo in Ohio was SPECTACULAR!! OMG ~ you are so very rock -n- roll ~ for one thing~you def. have rocknroll in you I’m so glad you picked up a guitar ~ and your voice has always been amazing, both your singing and your speaking voices are the voices of a star. Obviously, doing comedy and all!

    Anyway, you are so inspiring and just freshen everything up and make life good again and it’s people like you who make life worth living, I speak for myself but I think I actually speak for many, many people. We love you, Margaret!! See you back in OHIO! (Cleveland!!!!) on 10/5/12 ~ can’t f*n wait and can’t wait to check out your new ink as well! 🙂 XOXO Mara

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