Netroots Dispatch: Building Trust, Building Coalitions

This post was generated live at Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, MN.

I want to offer one more post today synthesizing what I addressed in my previous two posts today. In both, I spoke to the partnerships between groups and strategies that are often perceived as antagonistic, and in this third post, I want to make sense of that in a discussion about trust.

Trust between individuals and groups can be incredibly difficult to build and requires outreach in both directions. Organizations need to be able to trust that the bloggers who may very well criticize them and hold them accountable are committed to the same efforts of LGBT equality. Likewise, bloggers need to be able to trust that the organizations are prioritizing the movement over the organization and that their strategies are an effective approach to the desired solutions. In the same vein, insider and outsider organizations need to be able to trust that the strategy of the other is ultimately contributing to the success, not creating new obstacles.

In achieving this trust across the movement, risks have to be taken. Insider organizations have a particular obligation to earn trust with other leaders in the movement. By including them in off-the-record conversations about their strategy, they can entrust bloggers, direct action groups, and others with certain tips that can accentuate the campaign. Ego cannot get in the way of this happening; if any particular group or individual attempts to take full credit on an initiative, they are effectively eliminating the potential to build a coalition.

Likewise, as skeptical as “outsiders” might be, giving the insiders a certain benefit of doubt goes a long way to building the bridge of trust from the other direction. There are definitely times when a blogger’s investigation can blow the lid on what might have been a very successful strategy. My hope would be that insider orgs see the value of blogger and queer media perspectives, even if it’s not the picture they would paint. Effective communication across that bridge can alleviate all of these problems; bloggers can honor the confidentiality of the big orgs as the orgs bring the bloggers into the over-arching strategy.

I’ll leave it at that for now. This is a complicated paradigm change we must achieve, but it’s built on lessons learned from campaigns over the past decade. If we can tap into that greater synergy and see the interacting potential of diverse strategies across the movement, our in-fighting will come to an end and our success will be guaranteed.

Netroots Dispatch: Direct Action vs. Insider Lobbying (There Is No Conflict)

This post was generated live at Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, MN.

As groups debate the best strategy for moving an LGBT equality agenda, there is often a perceived conflict between the “insider” private negotiating and the “outsider” public direct actions, blogging, etc. As I’ve listened to the dialogues this weekend, it seems to me that the conflict is, in fact, perceived. While various groups, leaders, lobbyists, and bloggers might not agree with each other’s strategies, that disagreement does not mean that the strategies actually conflict. In stark contrast, the diverse strategies can actually create an incredibly synergistic movement if strategists use each other’s tactics instead of just worrying about distinguishing themselves.

Unfortunately, egos on both sides and the absence of an orchestrator for the meta-movement seem to prevent this synergy from being fully realized.

I thought that Heather Cronk from GetEQUAL made this point most eloquently in a panel Thursday morning about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the DREAM Act. When GetEQUAL did direct actions at the White House fence, it might have superficially looked like a rebellion against the insider tactics of “Gay, Inc.” lobbying that a group like HRC traditionally does. But the two are not mutually exclusive. As Heather pointed out, “moments of chaos help cut through the political bullshit,” and actually create more space for the HRCs of the movement to exert more power. They can go into the meetings and say, “Look, we’re trying to make this work, but we’ve got these ‘crazies’ acting out, so you have to give us more to work with.”

Some might not buy that argument, but as we realized in the LGBT strategy session yesterday, there is another very important benefit to those kinds of direct actions. Even if the action does not directly benefit the political negotiating, it indirectly supports the movement by generating media stories. Often times, there is very little happening in the news to sustain coverage of a particular issue (e.g. ENDA). Blogs cannot drive any coverage to the mainstream media if there are no stories to cover. Introduce a well-executed direct action, however, and we get breaking news, several days of coverage, follow-up for arrests and trials, and more importantly, personal faces on the issue. Even if insider groups cannot use the direct action in their negotiations, those negotiations still benefit from media attention and the shaping of public opinion on the issue.

The outcome, inarguably, is synergistic momentum, and I think the DADT effort exemplified the way it can work. While some may try to paint a revisionist perspective, there was a sharp divide in early 2010 between activists and the Obama administration about what approach to take on repeal. The administration was opposed to pursuing any legislative repeal until after the military survey was complete, rather than concurrently. While it’s hard to argue what-if’s, I think there is a compelling case to make that direct actions by GetEQUAL and SLDN’s blog-promoted campaign of letters from servicemembers advanced the campaign that made sure repeal happened before the end of 2010.

Regardless of our roles in the movement, we all need to get to a place where we see the difference between “I wouldn’t do that” and “We shouldn’t do that.” There might never be an orchestrator to “conduct” the movement at a meta-level above all of its players. If, however, we can trust each other and play off each other instead of playing against each other, we can truly work in concert toward the LGBT equality we all believe in.

Netroots Dispatch: Blogger/Organization Cooperation (An Effective Case Study)

This post was generated live at Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, MN.

I haven’t posted much here on good ol’ ZFb (I’ve been kind of busy), but I thought it would be a good place to share a few thoughts from my weekend at Netroots Nation. Many of our conversations this week — particularly in the LGBT movement — have been about cooperation between blogs and organizations, as well as the sustainability of independent blogs. I want to share a little case study from this very weekend that I think exemplifies effective partnership. (I’m also happy to share this because it speaks to the amazing work the staff at GLAAD continues to do despite the upheaval in its leadership right now.)

On Thursday, I was going through some of the day’s news and found a story about a lesbian couple who were harassed by a security guard at a Minnesota Twins game. Because the Twins had announced the day before they would be creating an “It Gets Better” video, it seemed important to highlight that videos don’t solve all problems. I was sitting next to my good friend Allison Palmer, GLAAD’s Director of Digital Initiatives, and I mentioned it to her; she hadn’t yet heard about it. We had a great off-the-record conversation (that I got permission to mention here) about the incident as two individuals with unique professional perspectives. Allison had some great ideas and opinions that I definitely incorporated into my post at ThinkProgress; my post was stronger because of my conversation with her.

Shortly after Allison and I parted ways, I got an email from her colleague, Aaron McQuade (GLAAD’s Deputy Director of News and Field Media). Allison had let Aaron know about the story, and he contacted me to share some extra details from his direct interactions with the team and the commitment they’d made to GLAAD to rectify the situation. I incorporated them into the post, which had fortunately not yet been published.

Then, shortly after my post went up, GLAAD published their post, crediting (and more importantly, linking back to!) my post on the story. Obviously, the tone of my post (“It doesn’t get better…”) was quite different from GLAAD’s (“Twins will reach out…”), but in exactly the ways that respect our unique goals as a blogger and an org. For this “small” story, both the blogger and the org were able to benefit from cooperation without compromising.

So, here are the highlights of this experience:

» The blogger and someone from the organization had insightful, off-the-record conversation that highlighted both sides’ perspectives.

» The org provided background info about its response to support the blogger’s story.

» The blogger was given the opportunity to “break” the story first.

» The org linked back to the blog to support the blog’s traffic.

» Though the blog and org approached the story in different ways, the result was a synergistic response to the incident.

At the end of the day, an incident of harassment at a baseball game is not going to be the revolutionizing political story of the year, but here it demonstrates how the “insiders” and the “outsiders” can work together toward the common goal of LGBT equality.

Being The Kind of Blogger One Wants To Be

It is SO weird to think that 26 months ago I started this blog just as a hobby, a little place to synthesize some things that were on my mind and hopefully create some discussion. I never really thought it would become a prominent part of my life and identity, and it seems that now it is very much the defining aspect of who I am.

I spent this weekend in San Francisco communing with 40+ other LGBT bloggers and publishers, as you can see in the photo above. As I felt at Netroots Nation last year, I still had moments where I looked around and still couldn’t believe where I was and with whom I was working. I hope this doesn’t come off as false modesty, but there’s still something crazy about seeing your tweets be retweeted by bloggers that you have always looked to as role models or by mainstream LGBT publishers. I’m still not sure how I got here.

Add to that the fact that after I return east from San Francisco tonight, I will be packing up to move to DC this week to start my full-time job as an LGBT blogger. It’s now going to be my occupation—my primary purpose in life—what I stake my reputation on. It just blows my mind.

And I guess what I want to say is… Go for it. I’m not where I am because there’s anything special about me. I’m not being handed anything on a silver platter. While I’ve certainly been mentored, I don’t think I’ve gotten any special advantages as a result of connections that I’ve made. I just committed myself to my writing and to making the difference I want to make.

Commitment, passion, integrity. That’s what it takes.

The unfortunate truth is that there are a lot of folks out there who think it’s all about just drawing attention to themselves. They provoke just to provoke and complain just to complain. They don’t write their blogs or tweet their tweets for anybody but themselves. They think if they can cause a stink that they mean something and that they’re worth listening to.

They aren’t.

The power of the blogosphere is the passion of individuals to communicate ideas for the benefit of others. We can work together to amplify important messages (like the topics of youth suicide we discussed this weekend in San Francisco) to affect the ideas discussed by society when the mainstream media doesn’t. We can challenge each other and engage with each other, but we also trust and respect each other because we have common goals. None of us live luxuriously off our efforts; it is the difference we can make that propels us.

This weekend, as many of us were connecting and sharing important knowledge with each other, some antagonists posing as “gay activists” tried to interrupt our efforts. Motivated only by their own egos, they attempted to hijack our twitter stream and paint us as a group of uber-privileged brats who want for nothing and are secretly out to destroy the LGBT movement. They attacked us, insulted us, smeared us, bullied us, and victimized themselves despite clearly having no understanding of who many of us are, what we write about, or what the purpose of this meet-up was. They also wanted it to sound like this was some secret exclusive meeting, despite the fact we livetweeted the entire event. It couldn’t have been more transparent.

These individuals have no credibility as advocates, activists, or even as writers, but they feel because they have a platform on the internet that their point of view is valid. It is clear when the only effective way to engage with such individuals is to ignore them that they do not have substantive or meaningful contributions to make towards our supposedly common goals.

It is this selfishly motivated approach to blogging that gets folks nowhere. They do not get respect; their ideas do not get traction. They are not worth a single retort because the attention of such a retort is all they care about.

The blogosphere is a community, and the more that we can work together, the better. To those whose approach is to attack, belittle, and (self-)ostracize, there is no reason to invite them to further engage. It is those who aspire to educate and inform and create a more inclusive society who must be highlighted and promoted.

I continue to be honored that I have been welcomed and promoted in this way in the blogosphere. I admire the brilliant minds that I now get to interact with on a daily basis and look forward to all the opportunities yet ahead to work with them to make society a better place for LGBT people. And to all our detractors; keep trying. I’d rather you waste your time as our petulant trolls than bother other people with your nonsense.

Love for Pam Spaulding!

I just wanted to put up a note wishing the best for my friend Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend. Today she is undergoing a hysterectomy, which I hear is not a very fun experience.

I’ve followed Pam for a very long time, but only met her for the first time this Summer. We were very fast friends and had a lot of great conversation. She has also done a lot to create visibility for my writing by promoting my crossposts to her site, which I can’t thank her for enough.

And so while I won’t be praying for her, she is definitely in my thoughts today. This blogger community is smaller than you’d think, and I think it’s super important we all look out for each other, especially because we so rarely get to see each other. Stop by the Blend today and send some love. We hope for a very speedy recovery!!!

What The White House Whine Says About The LGBT Blogosphere

Last week, Brian Bond (White House liaison to the LGBT community) met with state-level LGBT equality organizations. At one point, Morgan Meneses-Sheets of Equality Maryland urged that we need the President to support full equality, full inclusion on ENDA and marriage.

Bond agreed, but expressed frustration at the often intense criticism levied, particularly by bloggers, against an administration that is “99  percent supportive of your issues.”

John Aravosis and Pam Spaulding responded, “Tough” and “Good,” appropriately so. I very much appreciated this retort from Pam:

I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to see the point of view many of us hold – that promises were made, quite publicly to the community to both garner votes and generate cashflow, and now the bill has come due and we are seeing all sorts of shenanigans by those in charge. The delays and slow-go on DADT repeal that ends in a poor compromise and a freepable, embrarrassing “study”; inaction on ENDA, tossing the hot potato between the WH and Congress as to whose responsibility it is to take the lead; Gibbs having amnesia and feeble follow up skills at the podium. Come on. If you’re 99% supportive, that is a helluva 1% left over.

Mediaite chimed in on the story, but posed the question of whether the White House should care about bloggers’ umbrage:

While bloggers may have an outsized-role with other activist groups that the White House wants support from, there may be little downside in questioning the role of activists/bloggers and touting the administration’s perceived successes outside of the LGBT blogosphere’s echo chamber-like voice.

This seems a bit uppity for Mediate, given that Mediate is, itself, a blog, and one that’s actually geared more toward the media industry. It should not be surprising that LGBT blogs have similar messages; they’re similar blogs. One thing I’ve noticed though is that everyone in the LGBT blogosphere does have a different take on things. In fact, I think we do a good job (myself included, I hope) of offering different perspective and coverage on different issues, even if we sometimes arrive at the same conclusions. Yes, I quoted other blogs (that’s what we do as good bloggers), but now I will add my own thoughts. We’re part of a movement, we have to have some cohesion, and the fact that we do is not cause to dismiss us as an echo chamber that doesn’t ever represent the sentiment of the greater community. To assume that the community has a singular opinion on anything is foolishness anyway.

Quite to the contrary, something‘s working if we have the White House’s attention.

So let’s stop for a second and consider: what can we actually learn about how the White House perceives us from Bond’s comment?

I think any or all of the following could be true based on what he said (even those that contradict each other).

» The White House sees the LGBT blogosphere as a threat to its messaging.

Pam suggested as much by referring to “THE LIST” that is surely kept somewhere. Which blogs does the White House read? They must read enough to be frustrated by what they see.

» The White House appreciates that a significant number of LGBT people read LGBT blogs.

Why would the White House be frustrated that blogs are criticizing the administration if people aren’t reading and spreading that criticism? They wouldn’t.

» The White House cares more about talking points and PR than reality or equality.

Oops! This is me piling on criticism of the White House. Don’t be surprised. In many regards, this administration hasn’t been much different than administrations in the past. It’s the same bone-throwing philosophy we’re used to (gnaw on that for a while). Unfortunately, the blogosphere is no longer interested in bones, and arguably has been an effective force in dismissing the bones members of the LGBT community might otherwise be content to chew on. Job benefits for unmarried partners of federal benefits? A memo against hospital visitation discrimination? Good, but not good enough. Like Pam said, the President asked us to hold him accountable, so the President should be frustrated if we are too.

» The White House does not think or care that a significant number of LGBT people read LGBT blogs.

This would be an easy thing for the White House to believe, especially since the LGBT group with the most access is the Human Rights Campaign. This is a real conflict within the community, as many feel HRC speaks for them and many don’t, but HRC is unabashed in proclaiming that they are the biggest LGBT org (by way of most supporters) and thus do speak for the community. I would argue that the bloggers who regularly criticize both HRC and the Obama administration have speak as much on behalf of the LGBT community as HRC claims too, but the influence HRC has might suggest otherwise to the White House.

» The White House does not really care what the blogs have to say.

If they did, we wouldn’t have been repeating ourselves for the past 18 months. Obama would have spoken to LGBT press outlets. They’d answer our questions directly. We wouldn’t have bad “compromises” about the fate of our equality. They would try to engage us instead of ignore us. Even if we frustrate them at times, we can’t mean all that much to them if they’ve never bothered with us.

» The White House does not care about having the LGBT blogosphere’s support.

This seems to be the most important conclusion. We may be annoying, we may get in the way of their messaging and their tactics, but they don’t see us as vital. Pam’s description of us as “mere gnats on the political landscape” seems apropos, in that it’s how the White House wants to see us. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any political equivalent for citronella oil. They will continue to just work around us. They’re frustrated, but not enough to do anything about it.

The bottom line is this: the administration wants control. They want to determine their LGBT strategy. They want to act like they know what’s best for us. They want to reserve their political capital. It’s all a power thing. If there’s one thing to be learned from Brian Bond’s comment, it’s that we do have an influence. We don’t go unnoticed.

We just have to up our game.

The (Apparent) Power of the Word “Cowardice” (And Why I Write Critically)

Yesterday, I used the word “cowardice” to describe my interpretation of Equality Pennsylvania’s decision to not counterprotest the National Organization for Marriage and to do discourage others from counterprotesting as well.

From my point of view, it was an accurate word to use. The definition is “lack of courage to face danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.” Here is an organization committed to being “the preeminent LGBT advocacy organization” in PA and to establishing “a comprehensive network of individuals and organizations united in securing equal rights for the LGBT community.” Yet they are backing away from an opportunity to be and do just that in a way which other state organizations have been quite successful with. (Including a picture of One Iowa’s rally was quite intentional on my part.) They also went the extra step of discouraging other interested individuals from counterprotesting. These are tactics that I not only disagree with, but which seem counter to the organization’s mission statement. Whether it was a concern for PR or otherwise, I see that choice as a lack of courage to stand up for stated goals, and so I used the word “cowardice” to accurately describe my disappointment.

Since that posting, I have been accused by various individuals that it amounted to “name-calling,” that it was “petty” and “hateful,” that “we shouldn’t be eating our own,” that I had no “principles,” that I am “counter-anything,” that I poked people in the eye, and of course, that I was “attacking” EQPA.

These are fair critiques. But what are they critiquing, exactly? It seems to me that they describe my tact (and my tact alone). They seem to reflect an impression that my tact was perhaps harsh, biting, unfair, out of line, disrespectful, taunting, weak, and/or unnecessary. They reflect a defensive point of view, certainly. What they do not speak to is the accuracy of my statement.

Why would I write challenging things about a local organization? I want what’s best for it. I want to hold it to a higher standard. I want it to represent me. I don’t want it to get away with speaking on behalf of the community. (I don’t want members of the community following its word like blind zombies out of some sense of loyalty or solidarity.) I want it to be accountable. I want it to have to explain itself. I want it to know that not every one of its actions pleases everybody. I want it to be able to take constructive criticism. I want it to be the best organization it can be.

I am not anti-EQPA. Far from it. If I didn’t stress it enough in yesterday’s post, I think the event they are planning this week is a good event. It’s education. It’s awareness raising. It’s coalition building. It’s a great event! I’ll be there. I’ll probably write about it (probably quite positively). And I will support EQPA in the future.

But while the movie/panel event uses NOM to raise awareness (and lest we forget, money), it does not actually respond to NOM. It does not respond to the message reinforcing discrimination. It does not provide the community with resolution or catharsis. It does not address the real need of members of the community to stand up for themselves and defend our integrity from NOM’s smears. And to not only ignore but discourage those needs out of concern for PR is, I think, a failing and represents a lack of courage and wherewithal to be the organization EQPA aspires to be in its mission statement.

But, if there’s a problem with my tact, I’m going to take that under serious advisement. I don’t want to be known as the schoolyard bully or some raving blogger who has it out for everybody. I want to be respected for my point of view and I want my critiques to be valued. If tact is going to be a measure of my contributions as much as content, then I have to earn that respect; I have to learn and grow to be that kind of blogger and activist.

And so, I apologize for using the word “cowardice” in association with Equality Pennsylvania. While I still contend that it was an accurate word, I did not intend for the hurt that it caused some individuals and do not wish to stand by that hurt. Intention only protects us so far; we are still accountable for perception. I hope that those who had concern about the tact of my piece can forgive me for where my tact was deficient and yet appreciate the concerns that I raise.

My concerns persist, but allow me to try to frame them more positively. EQPA has a new board, a new mission statement, and a new Executive Director, an individual that I proudly call a friend. It is, for all intents and purposes, a new organization. Here are some hopes that I have for it.

I hope that it puts the community first, even if there is the possibility of risk to its self interest. I hope it never discourages individuals from speaking out or engaging in activism. I hope it encourages individuals to get involved with activism not connected to EQPA. I hope that it never promotes its own message in such a way as to exclude other perspectives in the movement. I hope it does not ever try to speak on behalf of the community, and if it achieves the “preeminence” it seeks, I hope it does not ever try to act on behalf of the community. I hope that it supports and partners with other organizations and helps new ones get started. I hope that it maintains transparency and stays attentive to the grassroots instead of imposing top-down leadership. I hope money, lack of money, or opportunities to fundraise never dictate its actions. I hope that it raises great LGBT awareness across the commonwealth, particularly in rural parts of Pennsylvania. I hope it finds its own footing and doesn’t rely on other organizations for its outreach. I hope it brings new players to the table and provides extensive opportunities for individuals to get involved across the state. I hope it achieves equality in Pennsylvania and that even then it continues to do good work promoting and defending the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Pennsylvanians.

I have high hopes for Equality Pennsylvania. I’m challenging it this week because I have reason to be dismayed, but I challenge because I have hope.

Some Ups and Downs From Netroots Nation

Greetings again from Vegas! It’s officially day 2 of Netroots Nation!!

If you haven’t been following my twitter, you should be. It’s the best way to track what’s been happening here at the conference. In this post, though, I want to talk about some ups and downs of the conference. I have a few more grumbles than you might expect, so stick with  me. Redeeming positives are further below.

I really think that, in general, Netroots Nation really needs to be better at modeling. There have been a number of things that have made this conference slightly frustrating in ways that I think could easily be improved.

For example, the wireless internet access has sucked. To use the internet in your hotel room is ridiculously expensive and the service is really not reliable at all. (It was quite arduous just getting this post up this morning.) The Netroots folks have set up a free wireless system in the convention area, but it has been rife with problems. It was down more often than not yesterday and even when it was up, it was not always consistent. There were a number of times I was sitting in a panel trying to follow my Tweetdeck and getting nothing while folks next to me had service.

This seems to me to be bad form. To many, the quality of the internet connection you have while in Las Vegas would be negligible, but we’re here at a conference about using the internet! If I were part of the conference planning group, my first priority in selecting a venue would be confirming that they have quality, reliable internet and don’t charge guests an arm and a leg for it. It’s hard to be a good Netroots activist without the Net!

Surprisingly, that hasn’t been the only technology fail. I’ve been in several panels already where the presenters were struggling with media in their presentations. In some cases it wasn’t their fault, but I still think the result was that it undermined their presentation. If you are here at Netroots to show your eagerness to interact with the blogosphere, you should at least be competent at using your own computer. I don’t mean to sound petty or whiny; I think there’s a credibility issue here. If your words are saying “I want to engage with people through technology” and your actions say “I don’t know how to engage with technology,” the presentation kind of feels disingenuous.

And, by far, my biggest complaint is the level of engagement. Most of the sessions throughout the day are “panels.” There are a few trainings and caucuses, but panels predominate. I went to four yesterday. The topics of those panels were great. I attended two that related to scientific literacy and education standards, one about marriage equality, and one about using social media. Sounds great, right? But the panels themselves betray the very values the Netroots presents for itself.

This thought occurred to me during the social media panel. The panelists were talking about the importance of reaching out to others in the blogosphere rather than expecting others to just come to us. As I tweeted from the panel: Treat online people like people and allies, not sheep. This expectation of community participation is at the core of Netroots activism; it keeps the playing field level by expecting everyone to participate actively.

The panels accomplish the opposite. They are groups of four or five who talk at us and then expect us to just ask them questions. It’s not really conversational, and it just seems to go against the very culture we seem to be trying to promote. Granted, I’m also biased as an educator and a performer; my top priority is always to keep people engaged and participating. The folks on these panels are brilliant and can speak eloquently to their issues, and there are certainly times when a panel format is ideal. I just think it’s odd that such a format is embraced as the primary format of engagement throughout the conference.

So, those are my primary complaints. They’re not really big ones, but they definitely give me a context for how to think about the rest of the conference and how to get the most out of it.

I have to say, Twitter is a pretty amazing tool for connecting with others. It can be annoying as hell when the hashtag search is full of retweets, but it does wonders for shared experiences. I’ve actually met a lot of people here at the conference through our exchange of tweets. I think it’s easy to think of Twitter as just a social tool, but it also is, itself, a great venue for delivering information. I won’t be blogging as much about the content of some of these workshops because Twitter is taking care of a lot of it. A number of people have actually come up to me and told me how much they appreciate my tweets, which makes me feel like it’s not all in vain!

It’s also been amazing to meet my readers. Honestly, before I got to this conference, I wasn’t sure many folks out there were really following this little ol’ blog, and it warms my heart to know you appreciate what I’m doing here. I hope I don’t sound as egotistical as that blowhard Ed Schultz (from MSNBC) who spoke last night. It’s just been an incredible confidence booster to feel like I’m not just wasting my time.

I’m certainly doing my best to sell myself here (though not in that way—I know this is Vegas, but seriously!). I continue to meet incredible people at every turn; there’s no doubt this weekend will have been a life-changing experience. I feel like a little kid at Disney World or something. I’m super excited to see others willing to promote my work! Pam Spaulding linked to my post from earlier this week; Joe Jervis has a picture of me on his site; and I even did a video interview with Minnesota-based The Uptake.

I really and truly feel like a part of this community, and I love it. I must continue to extend my thanks to all the amazing people who have made it possible for me to be here and who continue to be great mentors!! Exciting change can happen when we all work together toward our shared goals.

I have to get ready to get back into the fray! Go back to following my tweets for more updates throughout the day!

And in case you’re wondering, I played one dollar on a slot machine. I now have one less dollar. Cheers from Vegas!

Reflecting on the Netroots LGBT Precon

Whoo! Netroots hasn’t even officially started yet but I’ve already had a great day with the LGBT Precon today. It was an odd sensation to be looking at the feeds I read every day and then look around and the bloggers whose sites I read daily were right there. For the whole morning, Pam Spaulding was sitting on my left (we were tweeting together if you were following the #lgbtnn10 tag), Mike Jones of was on my right, and Joe Jervis and Jeremy Hooper (who took the pic below) were right behind me. And that’s just naming 4 of the 60ish folks who were there.

The focus of our day was really about bridging gaps in the movement. How can the organizations and the bloggers work together to move forward? Even though as citizen journalists we have an obligation to hold our leaders (both political and activist) accountable, we do ultimately have the same goals of seeing equality where it’s currently lacking. Everyone from HRC to GetEQUAL to Lambda Legal to GLAAD were on hand to talk about not just what they are doing, but how they can work with us to accentuate their efforts and spread their message.

I’ve been using the word “fledging” to describe my blog because in a lot of ways, I really don’t feel like I’m connected to things the way a lot of the folks I was around today are. It was really great to sit there and talk to orgs about how great it would be if they could send me the resources I need to do my best work here on the blog. The mere fact that I’m here at Netroots Nation speaks, I hope, to the idea that my blogging is worthwhile, but it’s incredibly validating to know that what I have here really can be a force for change.

As we discussed issues like immigration, marriage, employment nondiscrimination, and HIV/AIDS, it was inspiring that we didn’t just talk about how to use new media, we made commitments to using it together. We said, “This is a good idea, and we are going to work together to employ it.” It makes perfect sense for HRC and Pam Spaulding to cooperate on highlighting stories of people who have lost their jobs because they are gay. It makes perfect sense for Jeremy Hooper and I to work together on opposition research for anti-gay religious groups. It just takes us being in the room together and putting it out there and making the commitment. That’s the Netroots in action.

I must confess that my jetlag is catching up with me, and if I don’t nap now, I’ll have no evening of fun. I am in Vegas afterall. This is the first of many posts from Netroots Nation. If you are interested in what there is to learn here, please comment on the posts with your questions or shoot me emails!