Metro Weekly

Paying Thanks to the MLK Weekend Warriors

Martin Luther King Weekend 2024 nudged King's "arc of the moral universe" in the right direction.

MAL Weekend 2024 - Photo: Todd Franson
MAL Weekend 2024 – Photo: Todd Franson

At the moment I was born, the Stonewall Riots were in full swing. A few weeks later, humans walked on another celestial body, the moon — a giant milestone for our species. The 1960s had seen the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, but you could argue in the summer of ’69, things were looking up. Or, at least, heading in a good direction, Vietnam notwithstanding.

Gen X, those born between 1965 and 1980, is pushing 60 at its eldest end. At 54, I can assure those who will follow that by the time you hit the half-century mark, you will have seen some shit. With that frame of reference in mind, last weekend — Martin Luther King Weekend 2024 — demands some congratulatory call outs. I’m looking at you, Centaurs MC, the voters of Taiwan, and heroes of Ukraine.

The aforementioned frame, seeing some shit, is key to the kudos. The sociopolitical landscape of roughly the past five decades has been as momentous as any other period of history. I might prefer peace and quiet, but that’s not what Gen X has gotten. No world wars, thankfully, though we did grow up imagining thermonuclear Armageddon as a genuine possibility, if merely accidental.

But the Cold War ended. We were evolving!

Some credit Ronald Reagan for ending that chapter. Well, screw that guy. The Soviet Union may have done itself in with or without Ronny. That’s a topic somebody else can debate. I’d rather talk about his response to South African Apartheid. That foul institution was a huge part of my generation’s 1980s zeitgeist. We watched as Congress moved to impose sanctions on the South African regime in 1986. Reagan vetoed that effort. A month later, Congress made a second veto-proof effort. Well done! Evidence, again, of Dr. King’s quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

The Reagan Administration truly was foundational for much of my generation. And if you were gay, you may never forgive his administration’s infamously sluggish response to HIV/AIDS. By the time of the 1992 Democratic National Convention, however, Bob Hattoy was a proudly out gay man delivering a nationally televised message, “I have AIDS,” while endorsing Bill Clinton for president. One adminstration’s joke had become a desperately important matter of urgency. We could still see the arc.

There was 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. But there was also Barack Obama and marriage equality becoming American law. It’s been a long, bouncy journey. Through the ups and downs, the obstacles and achievements, the distilled pattern had been progress.

That pattern evaporated into nothingness on Election Night 2016. Hillary Clinton should have been our 45th president. At least, that’s what the majority of American voters wanted. Instead, we got a rejection of everything. We got chaos, corruption, and cruelty. Granted, chaos, corruption, and cruelty have always been part of the human experience. But somewhat manageable house fires blew up into inexhaustible infernos.

Joe Biden may be sitting in the White House today, but the inferno still rages. Wealth has become ever more concentrated. The tech bros play with anti-democratic, anti-egalitarian, fascist ideologies like “dark enlightenment.” Authoritarianism has made itself at home in supposed democracies, the Middle East is on fire, and we’ve just experienced the hottest summer on record. The abominable Trump will almost certainly be the GOP’s 2024 presidential candidate. Book banning is a thing again??

Relative to my half-century-or-so, we are so off-kilter.

Amid the bleak, the bright spots carry more weight than ever. That’s why, again, last MLK Weekend was a time to congratulate Taiwan, Ukraine, and the Centaurs MC.

On Saturday, Jan. 13, Lai Ching-te was elected Taiwan’s next president. Why should we care about Taiwanese politics? If you’re Queer, you should care that Taiwan is Asia’s LGBTQ stronghold. If you’re American — and not a fascist — you should appreciate that Taiwan is embracing democracy and freedom despite ongoing threats from its Big Brother, the mainland Communist Party of China. Taiwan is a bright spot steeped in bravery. Even more exciting is the new Gen X vice president-elect, Hsiao Bi-khim, who is a great LGBTQ ally with American roots. (Go, Yeobie the Squirrel!) So, congratulations, Taiwan!

On Sunday, Jan. 14, Ukrainian forces — holding the line against Putin, one of the world’s most homophobic and transphobic despots — apparently shot down two strategically important Russian planes. I find it somewhat disconcerting that I’d be cheering for acts that left people dead, but this is the new now. Well done, heroes of Ukraine!

Closer to home, the Centaur MC must be congratulated for the 2024 Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend. These folks are also fighting on a front line. In the case of the Centaurs, it’s in direct opposition to America’s new crop of regressive, oppressive, hypocritical, and hateful puritans. While the MAL mood would embrace a consensual three-way, when the opposition partakes it’s with secrecy, shame, and accusations of rape. This new moral panic has brought back the term “groomer” and banned drag queens from getting kids excited about reading.

To counter these obnoxiously loud and willfully ignorant nimrods, we desperately need MAL’s mature, rational, and sex-positive message of inclusion, fellowship, and consent. We need it to be as prevalent as possible, so it’s gratifying to see that on the other side of Covid (sort of), this wonderful, community-centered weekend is back in full swing. The hotel was full, day passes sold out, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Centaurs MC, voters of Taiwan, stalwart Ukrainians, thank you for a glorious weekend. I salute you.

Will O’Bryan is a former Metro Weekly managing editor, living in D.C. with his husband. He is online at

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