I admit that when I first heard about Stephan Anspichler’s March to Equality project, I didn’t quite get it.
The March to Equality is billed as “the most expansive march in history supporting LGBT equality,” and consists of people from around the world uploading their “steps”—pictures of feet, videos of “journeys,” or evidence of actual marches—via social media (using the #marchtoequality hashtag) and Marchtoequality.org. The goal: To gather 2.5 million steps by the 50th anniversary of Stonewall riots on June 28, 2019.
As of this writing, Marchtoequality.org reports that 985,000-plus steps have been made. While the March to Equality boasts an impressive slate of “global ambassadors” such as former Major League Baseball player Billy Bean and actor Alan Cumming, there’s no fundraising aspect—and no other discernable point, other than to “support full LGBT equality.”
However, when I recently chatted with Anspichler—a film and TV producer who now lives in Palm Springs part-time—he helped me finally get what the March to Equality is about.
It’s all about storytelling.
“We knew that we would celebrate Stonewall and the 50th anniversary,” Anspichler said. “We wanted to find the right way to tell the story.”
Anspichler said he’s always been drawn to different forms of storytelling, so it was not a stretch when he and his colleagues decided to tell the story of the fight for equality via the Internet and social media.
“For me, it was pretty much the same as doing a movie, but the medium being used is just different,” he said. “It was a really amazing experience to see that it is possible to tell such a story in a much different way.”
March to Equality kicked off during the United Nations’ 70th General Assembly in September 2015.
“We wanted to really build awareness for all those world leaders who were gathering at the United Nations and tell them, ‘Hey, we are here, and here is this movement,’” Anspichler said.
As one example of the type of stories he wants to see from the March to Equality, Anspichler cited the fact that many people—including a large number of Americans—don’t yet have equality in the workplace.
“We want to engage people to tell us and to show us (what it’s like to be) LGBT in the work place. We want to start conversations online,” he said. “We want to really strengthen awareness —through social media and with the people who are already marching with us—that there is a force against (workplace discrimination).”
Anspichler made a home in the Coachella Valley last summer for personal reasons, he said, but he said he soon learned that the Palm Springs area was also a great place for his work on the March for Equality.
“The Coachella Valley is one of the most interesting places to actually talk about such a project, because … the LGBT community is like nowhere else,” he said. “It’s a very warm and friendly atmosphere. The acceptance level here is amazingly high compared to other places. People immediately understood.”
Anspichler said that as the 50th anniversary of Stonewall draws closer, he hopes the March to Equality will also include high-profile events—a concert, for example. But in the meantime, he wants people to keep contributing steps and telling their stories.
“We have a very major goal: By June 2019, we want to have circled the globe entirely in footsteps,” he said. “With all the different struggles that we have around the globe in regard to LGBT-related topics … my biggest hope and wish is that other people in other countries learn from what has happened in the United States, and that this movement would actually be accessible in other countries.
I asked Anspichler what he’d tell locals to encourage them to participate in the March to Equality.
“I would tell them to be proud of the community in the Coachella Valley, because there’s nothing like it … in regards to acceptance and how people are being treated by each other,” he said. “The Coachella Valley should be proud of that and show it to the world as an example of how the world could be a better place.”
For more information or to participate, visit marchtoequality.org.