After I finished editing this week's cover story on Cathy Renna, I told Will O'Bryan how much I enjoyed his interview with her, that it really brought me back to the old days of D.C. queer activism.
You'll note that I didn't say "good old days," because despite the fondness with which I may remember the early 1990s, the reality is that they were truly scary days in many ways. These were the days before effective HIV/AIDS treatments, when obituaries still brimmed with the deaths of gay men. Much of the pro-gay effort of the first Clinton administration collapsed in the Gays in the Military fiasco, when newspapers and news shows followed U.S. senators, both Republican and Democrat, through the close confines of submarines to illustrate how homos would destroy military morale. And even many of us who were on-the-edge activists doubted we would see marriage rights any time soon, if even in our lifetimes.
Obviously, things do change, and faster than we might have expected. But they don't change without effort, and Cathy stands out in my mind as one of the activists who achieved the most with her efforts. I can't say that I always agreed with the stances she and GLAAD took on media issues -- my libertarian streak often runs against the more progressive instincts of GLBT media critics -- but you can't deny they had an incredible impact on how the country's mass media covers our community. And it's a better world because of it.
It's hard to keep the activist fire burning for years on end -- at least that's been my experience -- but I've always been impressed by how Cathy has really pursued the causes she believes in (I know this because I've been on the receiving end of many of her story pitches). I'm glad she'll be back in Washington with her family, especially as we're on the verge of what could be a huge shift in political power. The possibility for change in the coming years may be immense, and we'll need all hands on deck to make it happen.