Archive for "Aug, 10 2010"

To Counterprotest or Not To Counterprotest: Courage, Integrity, Tact, and Cowardice

In many conversations and writings lately, I’ve heard myself emphasizing the need for the LGBT movement to be more proactive. We do a whole lot better when we’re trying to get people to say “Yes!” (like in DC or Washington state) than when we are trying to get them not say “No” (like in Maine and California). At first, when I started making this point, I framed it as “more proactive and less reactive,” but the more I’ve thought about it, I really just mean more proactive.

You see, I think there is incredible importance in reacting. We need to stand up for ourselves. We need to create visibility for ourselves. We need to counter our opponents and their lie-riddled fear-mongering rhetoric at every turn. It’s a matter of integrity—a demonstration of our courage and our stamina. Alone, it’s not a winning strategy; you don’t win a game of chess if you only defend your own pieces. Still, it’s a vital part of our movement and our social well-being.

That’s why I am incredibly disappointed in Equality Pennsylvania’s cowardice in deciding not to counterprotest the NOM tour stop this Friday in Harrisburg.

The National Organization for Marriage has been driving around the US, rallying tens of people at their events, and then creating “breaking news” propaganda videos about how aggressive the counterprotesters are. It’s a devious tactic. Freedom to Marry and the Prop 8 Trial Tracker (“NOM Tour Tracker”), as well as bloggers like Jeremy Hooper at Good As You have been countering them at every turn, revealing the truths of their claims. They only have a few stops left, and on Friday they will be here in little ol’ Harrisburg, PA (it’s the capital!).

Equality PA released a statement explaining why they were not counterprotesting (emphasis in original):

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) kicked off their “One Man, One Woman” tour on July 14th. At each stop where there have been counter protests or attendance by pro-equality supporters, they have disrespected or mocked them and attempted to provoke them into screaming or yelling. Their goal in doing this is to make our side look foolish and hostile. We have also seen that they like to play a numbers game where if we have even a few less attendees than at their event, they will claim that the momentum is moving in their direction. We know from the recent polling numbers and the pathetic turnout their rallies have been recording, that this simply isn’t the case.

We are working hard to advance equality and will continue to do so long after they leave town. While we may be upset by their rhetoric, we can’t get caught up in retaliation when we need to remain focused on what needs to get done to win! Putting our energy into showing up at their event does not help to move us forward. What will help to advance equality in Pennsylvania is if we use them coming to town as an excuse to mobilize local activists and build our network.

So after NOM finishes their ranting and heads to the next town, we will be out there getting it done! We are holding a terrific event in Harrisburg on August 12, the night before they arrive, around a special showing of the movie “Stonewall Uprising” with a panel on youth activism afterward. We encourage everyone who can, to attend.

Click here for more information!

Not only is this a great movie, but this public conversation will increase our network and identify new volunteers and supporters. Please do what you can…attend, make a donation or just plain follow our activities. But please, ignore NOM when they come to town and don’t interact. Attention is exactly what they want, and why should honest people who hold equality close to their hearts be tricked into supporting their sad little charade.

This is an expression of cowardice. It buys into a “fight or flight” dichotomy that doesn’t reflect the reality of potential responses. The assumption is that we cannot respond to NOM’s rally without looking “foolish,” “hostile,” or retaliatory, ignoring the notion and potential of tact.

Is it possible to counterprotest NOM in a peaceful way? A way that creates visibility and builds unity for our community and our families? A way that makes sure that any media coverage includes stories of our experiences and our truths? A way that overshadows NOM’s message of discrimination without fueling their propaganda machine? It’s not easy to pull off, but such a way exists.

That’s why EQPA’s decision amounts to cowardice. Rather than take a risk, they’d rather not try at all. Maybe they should be ashamed, but maybe not. If they don’t think they have the resources or capacity to pull it off, I can totally understand why they wouldn’t want their stamp of approval on it. However, I resent the smugness with which they claim to rise above, ignoring the important catharsis achieved when our community rejects its own condemnation.

That’s not to say that EQPA doesn’t make some good points in their statement. It is true that NOM has been using their tour to paint a negative picture of activists, but it’s NOM. They’ll find a way to spin it their way regardless. Given that Harrisburg is the only stop that hasn’t had a major organization planning a counter response, I’d hate to see Central Pennsylvania spun as a bastion of anti-gay hate. I think EQPA is onto something with using NOM to mobilize local activists, and I think the film screening is a great idea. Educating about the movement’s history and raising the voices of queer youth is amazing, but it doesn’t undo the hurt NOM causes many by rolling into town to spout their incendiary drivel.

We have a serious problem if our movement isn’t willing to stand up to our opponents. I don’t think anything has been more compelling than the media appearances Olson and Boies have been making since last week’s Prop 8 ruling, unabashedly defending the truths of our lives and obliterating our opponents. That sort of visibility and education is exactly what many of the counterprotests have accomplished with their truth squads. It’s the kind of work an organization like Equality Pennsylvania should be prepared to handle without compromising their other proactive work.

Standing up for equality means standing up for equality whether it’s convenient or not. Even if it’s not on our playing field, we have to show.

That’s why I will be participating in a counterprotest on Friday at noon being organized by a group called Justice League – Activate. I will stand against NOM with my family, document their efforts, and speak on behalf of Pennsylvania gays and lesbians who still are subject to state-sponsored discrimination. If none of my friends will stand with me out of solidarity with Equality Pennsylvania, that’s their choice. However, I will not let preachers of discrimination control the media for the day without some visibility from the people they unflinchingly discriminate against.

While I still argue that proactive activism demands greater priority, reactive activism is important for our community’s maintenance. We have to be strong enough to rebuff our opponents AND push forward in spite of them. To ignore them is forfeit and I’m already tired of feeling like I”m on a losing team.

I hope you’ll join me Friday to show Central Pennsylvania that we are here, we are queer, and we care about marriage too. We want the same safety and security that marriage provides. We are proudly standing up for all families who just want to live their lives as happy members of their Pennsylvania communities.

The Surreptitious Evil That Is Vacation Bible School

I wrote a pretty extensive post earlier this summer about Vacation Bible School, known to many as “Bible Camp” or “Church Camp.” These are week-long (or summer-long) camps designed to keep kids busy and indoctrinate during the long summer months.

In that previous post, I showed how many local churches here in Central PA were employing curricula from such extremist groups as Answers in Genesis and Living Waters/Way of the Master, groups intent on interrupting science education to promote their fervent creationist nonsense. These camps target kids as young as 3 years old.

As I was poking around The Daily Item yesterday, I found a story about another local VBS that shows just how benign such indoctrination can be. My point is not to paint these Sunbury folks as extreme or malicious, but merely to demonstrate how much privilege religion has in our communities and what easy access religious leaders have to our youth.

Maggie Kurtz woke up one day with a vision and decided to change the rules.

She succeeded.

Kurtz, 33, of Sunbury, is the director of vacation Bible school for the First Baptist Church, in Sunbury, and she decided it was time to get away from traditional methods and get in the minds of children and help teach them about the past, while having fun in the present.

“I wanted to have the children take a trip into the Egyptian culture,” Kurtz said. “When the children arrive, they enter Egypt.”

To be honest, her idea is pretty creative. As far as education goes, it’s a wonderful way to engage children’s minds. Unfortunately, her motive is to convey the Bible with the illusion that Bible stories are fun. It’s all just peaches and creme in that Old Testament!

You see, there’s this false juxtaposition. The folks in the story talk about how “amazing” and “wonderful” it is to see the “delightful” kids make Egyptian headbands and weave their own baskets. And these innocuous activities are paired with Bible teaching, thus suggesting that the Bible teaching is also innocuous. It’s far from it.

And consider: here is a mainstream local newspaper featuring this story about all the fun the kids are having. How many parents that aren’t even members of First Baptist are going to send their kids to the VBS so they can experience the Egyptian marketplace too? Talk about free publicity.

Gavin Shawder, 4, of Northumberland said he attended all week and had the time of his life.

“I enjoy this so much,” he said. “It’s a real good time.”

I say forcing religion (or sneaking religion) upon young minds amounts to child abuse and inhibits their free will. Wait until their brains develop enough before attempting to indoctrinate.

Jordan Hunt, 12, of Selinsgrove, agreed with his younger friend, but said he had other reasons for being there, not just the fun.

“I like it here and it is fun,” Hunt said. “But to tell you the truth, I really enjoy learning from hearing the Bible stories.”

I sure hope that Jordan doesn’t turn out to be gay. He might already be convinced the Bible is the place to look for answers and he will be led astray.

Sorry, I know there are many folks out there who aren’t bothered by Vacation Bible School, but I think it’s just plain evil.

I wonder if Maggie Kurtz might be convinced to talk a little bit more about modern-day Egypt and teach the kids about Islam. Let’s get some Vacation Qur’an School going and see if it gets covered in the local newspaper with interviews about how fun it is! I’m sure no one would flinch…

Queer and Queerer Ep. 19 – Beyond Prop 8 and Beyond Ex-Gay (ft. Christine Bakke)

She graced the pages of Glamour magazine. She stunned the nation on Good Morning America. She helped launch a movement (Beyond Ex-Gay) and NOW she is our guest on Queer and Queerer! Zack and Peterson welcome Christine Bakke to the program. Christine is an artist, an activist, and an outspoken ex-gay survivor. As a lesbian who once tried to suppress and change her orientation, she now speaks out passionately about the dangers of treatments that try to “de-gay” you. She joins us to talk about the Prop 8 ruling, its implications for the Ex-Gay Survivor movement, exorcism, demon nests, and activist art!

Remember, send us your questions for episode 20! You can ask us ANYTHING.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week's episode:  

(Please click here to listen on iPad/iPhone or download.)

Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Read the Prop 8 decision findings of fact in detail.

» The Slate Political Gabfest discusses the Prop 8 ruling.

» Meet Ryan Kendall, Ex-Gay Survivor and Prop 8 witness

» Details magazine looks at gay exorcism

» The APA’s Report on Reparative Therapy

» Be careful not to fall out of your RV!