It’s been a long time since I’ve written here at ZFb, because I find my role as LGBT Editor at ThinkProgress provides me the venue to say most of what I feel needs to be said. Today is an exception, as I feel the need to write a personal response to an attack I received […]
The long-lost episode! This was originally recorded August 13, 2012, but was the first lost when Zack’s blog was in disrepair. Now it’s back and ready to be listened to in case you missed it! Peterson and Zack are back to have a conversation about the intersection of faiths. Peterson is getting ready to head […]
Peterson has wronged Zack; can Zack forgive him? In this fairly sober episode, Zack and Peterson dig into the idea of reconciliation and building bridges between the queer community and those who oppose it. What does it look like to build a bridge between conflicting groups? What kind of sacrifices and compromises need to be […]
Glen previously joined the podcast for a discussion about gay-for-pay porn actors, but now he’s back to tell us all about his just-published memoir, The Jack Bank. In it, he chronicles growing up gay in Apartheid South Africa and participating in the revolution that led to sexual orientation becoming a protected class in that nation. […]
Well, despite all the crazy weather happening across the U.S., I got to Minneapolis without any complications. I’m very excited to be here for Creating Change, the National Conference on LGBT Equality. While my experience at CC over the next few days will give me plenty of food for thought, it will keep me from […]
Peterson has wronged Zack; can Zack forgive him? In this fairly sober episode, Zack and Peterson dig into the idea of reconciliation and building bridges between the queer community and those who oppose it. What does it look like to build a bridge between conflicting groups? What kind of sacrifices and compromises need to be made to build it and by whom? There are those who seek to develop a bond of understanding between the groups, but what factors ensure the success of that effort? Once you listen, please feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment or email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Glen previously joined the podcast for a discussion about gay-for-pay porn actors, but now he’s back to tell us all about his just-published memoir, The Jack Bank. In it, he chronicles growing up gay in Apartheid South Africa and participating in the revolution that led to sexual orientation becoming a protected class in that nation. He shares an excerpt from the book (despite an interruption by cats) and fields questions from Zack and Peterson not only about the content of the book, but the process of writing it and the importance of memoir as a genre. Order your copy of The Jack Bank today!
The retort is: “Yeah, well maybe I’m afraid of being seen as a Target shopper.”
Believe it or not, the American Family Association is (I think—who can tell?) still boycotting Pepsi and Home Depot, and probably a few other companies who have done anything pro-LGBT. I guess that demonstrates that the AFA is all bark, no bite.
But part of the power of a boycott is its visibility. It’s not always just enough to not shop at a certain store or not buy a certain product. For example, I don’t buy peanut butter or eat at Long John Silver’s, but not because I’m boycotting either.
I actually have been boycotting Target, though. And I’ll be honest, I haven’t been the best at it. Sure, I’ve not purchased anything at Target in a good 10 months, but I haven’t been vocal about it, and I certainly haven’t stood in front of Target protesting or written letters to the editor or done any of the things effective boycotters should do. For me, it’s just been a matter of personal principle.
There are a lot of folks in the LGBT community who shrug their shoulders at boycotting Target, and I can appreciate their reluctance. I used to think Target (tar-zhay) was the gay store. It was the anti-Wal-Mart and anybody who was anybody had one of those chic medusa lamps in their dorm room. And Target has long been lauded by HRC as being pro-LGBT. Target’s donations last summer challenged that image, and just because we can understand why Target would support a pro-business PAC doesn’t forgive them for supporting an anti-gay PAC, nor for continuing to support anti-gay candidates since that debacle. Lady Gaga’s calling off of her deal with Target should’ve suggested we haven’t seen the last of the store’s anti-gay antics.
The same goes with Chick-Fil-A. A lot of people really like Chick-Fil-A and don’t want to stop enjoying their tasty chicken. I am fortunate, I suppose, that thanks to geography I’ve never really had Chick-Fil-A. (Ironically, the one time I’ve ever had it was on the campus of a university who ended up not hiring me as a social justice educator because they weren’t “ready” for someone so outspoken about LGBT issues; unsurprisingly, that campus has not had much debate about the presence of a Chick-Fil-A in its campus center.) But plenty of folks will continue to eat there, regardless of how anti-LGBT the company might be. After all, it’s just chicken, right?
In the case of Target, we learned this week of their lawsuit against Canvass for a Cause, and as I wrote about over on The Wonk Room, they seem to be targeting this group exclusively because of its support of same-sex marriage. While the complaint speaks of CFAC’s harassment of customers, the trial saw no first-hand testimony confirming these allegations. But Target’s own filed complaint (PDF), corroborated by its employee’s testimony, confirms that Target is concerned customers will “never shop at Target again,” “ensure their friends and family do not shop at Target,” and “return everything they bought at Target” because they “believe Target promotes the same sensitive political message” as CFAC.
And while CFAC promotes a number of issues, that particular “sensitive” message is support of gay marriage marriage equality; it’s the only issue mentioned in the whole case from the documents I’ve seen, and they mention it a lot. Daniel Brown, the employee who provides the only testimony hearsay (PDF) about the complaints, said that some customers were “offended” and that “many mothers with children have complained about the sensitive nature” of the messaging.
For decades, the LGBT community has been fighting the meme that queer people are dangerous to children—that we’re going to molest them, recruit them, and teach them all about anal sex while they’re in Kindergarten. And here is a supposed “friend” using that same old stereotype to defend itself in a gratuitous lawsuit against a grassroots group being defended by a volunteer lawyer.
Target doesn’t want to be known as supporting marriage equality because gays are dangerous to children. That’s the takeaway. It’s in the public record.
So the decision comes back to the LGBT community. Do we still patronize these companies—companies that actively demonize us and work against our equality? While my personal answer will continue to be No, I think the larger community needs to have a serious conversation about it.
If the recent poll on marriage equality tells us anything, it’s that we have more allies than ever. If we really wanted to mobilize a huge block of people to support us, I’m betting that we could. The problem, I think, is that we’re too comfortable. We like shopping at Target and eating at Chick-Fil-A and we don’t see their actions as that big of a deal—at least not big enough to change our habits. We want equality, but it almost seems as if many of us would rather wait than make any sacrificial efforts in the meantime.
Maybe AFA is the lesson for us. Maybe boycotts don’t work in 2011, or don’t catch on, or aren’t worth it. Maybe bad press is enough to get the job done, along with a certain quota of negative tweets. Or maybe we’re desensitized to our inequality; we’re willing to tolerate it, such that it takes something as big and visible as Prop 8 or DADT to really get us off our asses.
But gosh, I’d love to see us try. I’d love to see pickets in front of Targets and Chick-Fil-As (Chicks-Fil-A?). I’d love to see all the big orgs really visibly condemning the corporations and every single blogger actively promoting the boycott. I don’t think we’ve tried it on the national stage, at least not anytime recently. And certainly we saw a lot of success—or at least visibility—from the boycotts of Prop 8 supporters like the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. So the only thing stopping us is ourselves.
At the end of it all, when we finally get all the equality we deserve in this country, I hope we don’t look back and say, “We could’ve gotten it a lot sooner if we’d just acted more like we wanted it.”
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.
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.
All of this got me thinking about the very gradual approach—the long haul—toward LGBT equality. In the scheme of the movement, this DOMA decision was not that big. It was two years overdue. It doesn’t undo the damage done by the anti-LGBT DOMA briefs. It doesn’t even necessarily expedite federal recognition of same-sex couples.
If anything, the call for heightened scrutiny is a much bigger deal, but no one’s talking about that.
But this one little decision has spurred a deluge from the right. Treason? Impeachment? Loss of all credibility? All the big guns for just this one little policy change.
The afternoon started with a simple but depressing act of direct action. Two same-sex couples entered the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, PA to request an application for a marriage license.
The woman working in the Register of Wills gave the couples a curt rejection, stating simply that Pennsylvania does not allow same-sex couples to apply for marriage. When asked if she would someday be able to offer an application, she dispassionately replied, “If that was the law.”
An hour later, the couples and their supporters joined up with the Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network for their annual Valentine’s Day marriage equality rally.
Flanking all four corners of the busy intersection of Front St. and Market St. in downtown Harrisburg, a crowd of 40 braved harsh winds to spread a message of love and support. Many of the passers-by, stuck in rush hour traffic, cheered, shouted their support through their car windows, and started chain reactions of raucous honking.
Though the rally is held annually, several participants commented that they had never received so much enthusiastic support.
Others who passed by were not as enthused by the signs calling marriage a civil right and a union based on love and commitment. One driver confused the ralliers by honking and then offering his middle finger. Another woman made a cross with her fingers as if anyone who supported marriage equality was a vampire. (She had apparently not considered that the rally was occurring outside in the daylight.)
Well, despite all the crazy weather happening across the U.S., I got to Minneapolis without any complications.
I’m very excited to be here for Creating Change, the National Conference on LGBT Equality. While my experience at CC over the next few days will give me plenty of food for thought, it will keep me from writing much here on the blog.
That’s why you should totally be following me and the conference hashtag on Twitter (#cc11). I will be tweeting up a storm, and you will get a good sense from me and others of all the fabulous things happening here.
As I write this, I’m sitting next to Rikki, a young man who is here for his first-ever Creating Change. He’s not sure what to make of it, but I told him it will be a transformative experience. To exist in a totally queer space for four days is a unique and incomparable experience, and I’m excited and honored to get to experience it again.
After last year’s Creating Change conference in Dallas, I wrote about how many celebrations of religion there were yet there was nothing that so much as recognized atheists might have even been in attendance. Since then, I’ve had numerous conversations with folks in the movement about the phenomenon, and the consensus has been that this embrace of religion is new, and a swinging of the pendulum away from what used to be a very toxic environment for any discussion of religion to an environment eager to reconcile with religion.
With the Creating Change conference as our case study, it seems that the pendulum has not reached its highest point; in fact, this year’s conference unabashedly embraces faith with a whole subconference called Practice Spirit, Do Justice.
The conference’s Spiritual Needs Subcommittee offers a Spiritual Diversity Ethics Statement (p. 20 of the Program Book), suggesting the following principles:
What we can affirm and agree on is:
» The inherent worth of every person; that every person is worthy of respect, support, caring, and invitation.
» The intention to work towards a culture free of discrimination and oppression based on any identity.
» The ethic that everyone is welcome to participate in this conference without the need to become like us in order to be acceptable.
» That the way we behave towards one another is the truest expression of [what] we believe.
I agree with all these principles. Still, the preponderance of religion-focused and faith-centric sessions seems to communicate an expectation that communing with faith is an essential part of LGBT work, which I inherently disagree with. I expect that there will be several occasions this year, as with last, when I will be in a situation when a religious practice is taking place around me.
First, there are a number of spiritual gatherings (p.25), which I actually appreciate as part of an inclusive conference, including Muslim Friday Prayer, Shabbat Celebration, and a Sunday morning interfaith gathering. The Calling of the Names continues to be part of a plenary session, but as long as it is not dominated by rhetoric like “lifting them up,” I think a group remembrance can be very meaningful for people of any worldview.
Faith in America is holding a reception Friday evening to discuss the way people justify stigma and hostility against the LGBT community (p. 37). I continue to be nonplussed by FIA, an organization that defends and challenges faith at the same time. Members of the Episcopalian, Unitarian, and Metropolitan Community Churches are having receptions as well (p. 38).
The Practice Spirit, Do Justice subconference has its own day-long institute on Thursday to address intersectional movement building for both veterans and newbies of faith organizing and movement building (p. 43). There also several PSDJ sessions as part of the Task Force Academy for Leadership and Action (p. 51).
Here are some of the other workshops that relate to faith or that are part of the Practice Spirit, Do Justice track:
Beyond Transgender Inclusion to Transformation (p. 71)
Faith Based Models that futher Self-determination, Sovereignty and the Preservation of Sacred Sites (p. 72)
Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims (p. 72)
Making the Christian Case for LGBT Equality: Message Training (p. 73)
Join the Movement, Keep the Faith (p. 76)
Messology of the Black Church (p. 77)
The Pulpit of the Press: Making the Religious Case for LGBT Equality (p. 77)
(LGBTQ) Justice, (LGBTQ) Justice Shall You Pursue (p. 78)
Changing Minds of Conservative/Evangelical Christians (p. 79)
Media Savvy for Media Strategies (p. 81)
“God Hates Fags” (p. 82)
Race and Power: An Examination of Intersectionality (p. 84)
Working with Asian & Pacific Islander (A&PI) Congregations to Become Welcoming (p. 85)
Homo-Interior: Religious Design for Your Queer Soul (p. 88)
Telling Our Stories (p. 89)
Transgender: A Question of Faith (p. 89)
Lifting As We Climb: An Exercise (therefore you might sweat) In Rethinking How We Do What We Do So We Can Do It Better (p. 89)
Case Studies For Denominational Engagement (p. 89)
Mobilizing Pro-Equality Catholics on LGBT Issues (p. 91)
Of Faith and On-Line: Tools to Get Going (p. 91)
It’s All About The Frame (p. 94)
LGBT Synagogues and Organizations: Surfacing Our Diversity and Fitting the Mosaic Together (p. 94)
Spirit and Desire: Framing a Discussion About Our Spiritual and Erotic Lives (p. 95)
Building the Response to HIV and AIDS Across Communities (p. 97)
Humor, Hospitality, and Heliotropes as Tools for Social Change (p. 97)
Majority Minority – Case Studies in Advancing Equality among People of Color and People of Faith (p. 98)
Strategic Storytelling (p. 99)
Uganda-the Armageddon of the Culture Wars (p. 99)
Building a Statewide Interfaith Network for Equality (p. 101)
Fighting Islamophobia and Homophobia: Building Solidarity in Oppressed Communities (p. 101)
The Possibilities of Faith Work In An Aging LGBTQ Community (p. 103)
Building Bridges to Wholeness – Next Strategies for LGBT Jewish Movement Building (p. 104)
It’s All About Me: Queer Spirituality (p. 105)
Pagan and Queer (p. 106)
Queer Muslim Caucus (p. 106)
Strength for the Journey: A Reflective Workshop (p. 107)
That’s a whole lot of faith.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of these workshops. I’ll probably go to some of them. Still, it’s a healthy chunk of the conference dedicated to discussing (and often reinforcing) faith and spirituality. What’s important to note is that such a focus isn’t just unwelcoming of nonbelievers, it can also be contrary to the perspectives many bring to this work.
Certainly, many of these workshops are about working with people of faith or responding to people of faith, which doesn’t necessarily require being one. However, there is only one session at the whole conference that recognizes the existence of nonbelievers or those who might not have the same interest in promoting or reinforcing faith and spirituality.
And guess who’s hosting that atheist caucus Friday night?
I think this pendulum swing of our movement’s approach to religion is something worth discussing. I hope folks will come to the caucus to have that conversation, because I honestly don’t know how welcome it will be in the sessions I just listed above.
Is religion a good thing?
How do critical dialogues on religion impact efforts for LGBT equality?
What challenges do we face when we come out as atheists?
How can we best utilize the support of LGBT allies who are nonbelievers?
What responsibility does the LGBT community have to be allies to the atheist community?
These are some of the important questions I’m hoping to address this week. Perhaps I should be optimistic that so many other folks are as enthusiastic to discuss religion as I am.