By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Life for us is never boring, even though to us it seems pretty ordinary. By the time 2010 rolled around and we had settled into married life, we tried to spend our time together wisely and doing things that we not only enjoyed, but things that mattered. We had been to a few local protests and Kiss-Ins in Dallas, and of course the annual Pride parade had been the previous fall, and so we were soon making plans to return to D.C. for a protest that was scheduled in May in support of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. I had planned to take my professional cameras and cover every phase of the protest, and we knew that there were several people (friends included) who planned to handcuff themselves to the fence that surrounds the White House. This trip was going to be different than the National Equality March from the previous October, because there were those who specifically planned to make the sacrifice and risk arrest in order to take their stand for equality. I felt very honored to be able to make the trip and be a part of it, witnessing history behind the lens of my camera.
There was a buzz in the air as we arrived on that morning to the north side of the White House. People began to arrive in small numbers, and gradually the crowd grew to a good size. People began making speeches into their bullhorns, including Howard Dean and Daniel Choi, and Erikka and I stood together – she videotaping the events, me snapping hundreds of images of historical importance (if for nobody else but us). I was given a heads-up of when the group was going to handcuff themselves, and was able to position myself on the sidewalk in front of the fence, right in front of them. I got some incredible shots, and we stood and screamed in protest and solidarity along with them – these are the kinds of experiences that we have been so fortunate to have together! When the Capitol police arrived, we (along with all of the other folks with cameras and video cameras) were warned to leave the sidewalk or risk arrest ourselves. Most of the people backed up behind the barricades that they were setting up, while a few of us stayed at the fence where the action was. I took as many photos as I could, until we were warned once again that we had five minutes, and anyone remaining on the sidewalk on the north side of that fence would be arrested. At that point, I relented and we got behind the barricades, where I continued to take pics of each person as they were cut down from the fence, handcuffed with zip ties, and placed into the large police van waiting by the curb. Many have asked why we spend our money to go and do these things, and the answer is two fold: we do it for ourselves and our fellow LGBT sisters and brothers, so that we might all experience the same privileges and benefits as anyone else; and we do it for future generations, for our kids, so that they may never have to fight to be equal like our community has.
I was thrilled when, a couple of months later, I was contacted by a writer from a magazine in Houston, Texas who was writing a feature story about Dan Choi. He had seen my photos from the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell protest in May, and said that they would like to use one to go with the story. I didn’t get the cover photo, but they did give me a full-page photo, with a large credit under the author’s name. As a photojournalist, I was thrilled beyond thrilled to be published in a magazine; as an activist, I was over-the-moon that I had been there to witness such amazing people doing amazing things for my wife and myself. As we approached our first wedding anniversary, we had already attended two amazing and historical events – I couldn’t wait to see what the SECOND year would hold for us!