Coming Out for One of Their Own.
November 17, 2004 12:32 PM   Subscribe

Coming Out for One of Their Own. How an Oklahoma town overcame anti-gay bigotry... to help overcome anti-gay bigotry. (WashPost, login req. Via Pandagon)
posted by XQUZYPHYR (118 comments total)

 
I have to say, that brought tears to my eyes.

Yes, there's a long way to go. And yes, it would be nice if the people at Michael Shackelford's church would accept him the way he is instead of praying that he will change. But it's a step forward to acceptance. A small step, yes, but a step forward nonetheless.

Thx for the post.
posted by widdershins at 12:48 PM on November 17, 2004


That was very moving.
posted by orange swan at 12:49 PM on November 17, 2004


heartwarming. "leave our homos alone" is a precious quote. heh.
posted by atom128 at 12:51 PM on November 17, 2004


The process going on here is somewhat analogous to the process that happened in the early days of the civil rights movement. MLK, along with being a virtuous man, realized that while your average white Northerner may not be racism-free, he would not feel comfortable associating himself with the kind of people who turned firehoses and attack dogs on children. So he maintained the moral high ground, gained support and great strides were made.

In this article, the Oklahomans in question may not have come to terms with homosexuality as much as we'd like, but they don't seem to be comfortable aligning themselves with the likes of Fred Phelps or those who beat Matthew Shepherd. So like widdershins said, it's a step forward.

I also enjoyed this:

"Michael seems to think he's gay."

"Janice," she recalls her mother saying, "I'm a tough old lady. You should have told me sooner."

And that was that.


Old folks have seen a thing or two in their day. We underestimate them.
posted by jonmc at 12:55 PM on November 17, 2004


Every small town like that needs a brave kid like Michael Shackelford. It must be harder to think of gay people as boogeymen when you've got a likeable one in your midst.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:01 PM on November 17, 2004


"Leave our homos alone" really sums up my own experience growing up in a small town.

The people I grew up with might mutter about "they shouldn't be called 'gays', they should be called 'sads'" and the like, but let anybody say anything mean about Miss S. and her "friend" on Jones Street, or the two men who owned the restaurant and antique shop on South Street, and there would be Hell to pay.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:04 PM on November 17, 2004


I love this story.

Now that the whole country is acting like Phelps, but legislatively/constitutionally, who's stepping up for the rest of us? Where are all the cool straight people for the folks in those 11 states that passed amendments?
posted by amberglow at 1:09 PM on November 17, 2004


Pretty encouraging stuff.
posted by dig_duggler at 1:10 PM on November 17, 2004


When my once-upon-a-time Okie sibling gets this, it's going in a frame. I know.

On preview: amberglow, I'm one (don't know about the coolness though)
posted by Cedric at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2004


I suppose I'm naive, but I guess I just didn't realise how hardcore the anti-gay movement is in the US. I still can't believe that anyone would think that they were so perfect as to be worthy of going out and campaigning to tell other people that they're going to hell!
posted by different at 1:26 PM on November 17, 2004


Sand Springs is just right outside of Tulsa (I even biked there a few times when I was growing up). Apparently Tulsa's the closest mid-sized city to Phelps's church b/c for some reason they seem to get the brunt of his shit flinging.

The year after I graduated high school, my HS started an official GSA (there'd been an unofficial one for quite some time). That year at graduation, there was Phelps and his brigade.

The funny thing is, though, it's worked in the exact opposite way that Phelps has intended. It's emboldened a lot of the gay groups in Tulsa and permitted them to stand up and fight while the populace looks on with sympathetic eyes. For it's size and location, Tulsa really is, and has been for quite some time, a pretty gay friendly city.

different: Phelps and his ilk are a very small and very radical (to the point of insanity) group. They're not emblematic of the anti-gay movement in the U.S., nor do they even come close to representing those that oppose gay marriage. They're the most vile of trolls around.

Thanks for the link, XQ. It was a very cool story. As more and more people begin to have personal connections with out people, the gay civil rights movement will pick up momentum, even in the Red States.
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:32 PM on November 17, 2004


There is a game company in Oklahoma that I'd like to work for. They're hiring, and my skills fit their needs.

Except for that whole transgender thing.

My goal is to have this stuff made right before my daughter turns eighteen. That is in 16 years, or four presidential terms. I've got work to do.
posted by andreaazure at 1:36 PM on November 17, 2004


Phelps is so out there he considers Billy Graham an agent of the homosexual conspiracy.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:40 PM on November 17, 2004


I think the key quote is from Janice Shackleford:

"I am going to have to think about all this," she said later.

And that's really all it takes to get over hate and fear. Thinking about things, using your own mind. People should try that more often.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:44 PM on November 17, 2004


After years of watching Phelps and his cultmembers, I've become convinced that they unwittingly do as much good as harm. No one likes a bully, particularly an ugly, mean, outsider bully who makes their town look bad.

Maybe his whole career is actually very long-term thought provoking performance art.

Or maybe he's just a hateful fool.
posted by pomegranate at 1:56 PM on November 17, 2004


I'm kind of astonished that a radical Christian group automatically assumes a 17-year-old gay man is a "sodomite". Anyone would think they'd never heard of abstinence.
posted by Hogshead at 2:14 PM on November 17, 2004


Wonderful. Who knows when the pendulum starts the other way?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2004


Hogshead: or virginity!
posted by zoogleplex at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2004


I love the thing with the brooms. I think I'm going to watch for oportunities to show up with cleaning materials.
posted by hob at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2004


After years of watching Phelps and his cultmembers, I've become convinced that they unwittingly do as much good as harm.

Hell, I'm convicted that they do considerably more good than harm. As far as I can tell, his "church" consists mostly of members of his family. The whole bunch must be sociopaths to fail to realize the counterproductivity of their methods: sane people just don't act that way.

Except on the internet.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:43 PM on November 17, 2004


(convinced, not convicted)
posted by mr_roboto at 2:46 PM on November 17, 2004


As more and more people begin to have personal connections with out people, the gay civil rights movement will pick up momentum, even in the Red States.
The current climate is doing exactly the opposite tho--and will keep people closeted--which is one of the aims of the anti-gay crusaders. It's their fear of us being seen as normal that drives much of what's going on.
posted by amberglow at 2:55 PM on November 17, 2004


Here's a quick, goofy little story about one changed mind: my cousin is gay and he asked me to play in his gay football league. Being an open-minded straight guy, I said of course and jumped on in and loved every minute of it.

My dad's an old-school guy, in his 70s, from a time when men were men and gay men were in the closet. He wasn't actively anti-gay, he would just rather not see or hear it. But he liked watching me play football, so he started coming to the games. And he saw that the guys on my team were incredibly friendly and every bit as competitive as me. In short, he saw that they were like 'us' in more ways than not. Earlier this year he was thrilled when he heard that two of my gay teammates were going to adopt a child. I've always been proud of my dad, but maybe never more so than that day.

Does he still get creeped out by the thought of two guys kissing? Probably. But he knows his discomfort isn't the point. This article was incredibly heartening - I guess we can't expect people to make giant leaps toward acceptance, but it's nice to at least see initial steps. And it gives me hope.
posted by blefr at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2004


On the one hand, it's nice to see people be slightly less disgusting. On the other hand, it's pathetic that you have to wait for someone to be "one of your own" before you get it. And where I come from, you don't get points for doing the right thing. It's the least you can do.
posted by dame at 3:05 PM on November 17, 2004 [1 favorite]


blefr, that's a pretty cool story. I'm feeling pretty cynical these days. Stories like that are helpful.
posted by 327.ca at 3:21 PM on November 17, 2004


amberglow: The current climate is doing exactly the opposite tho--and will keep people closeted--which is one of the aims of the anti-gay crusaders. It's their fear of us being seen as normal that drives much of what's going on.

I don't see it that way. The dreaded "m" word is the last line drawn in the sand, and a supermajority are willing to extend gay couples rights piece by piece as long as the "m" word does not get mentioned.

I guess that I don't see this story as being especially newsworthy, because it literally happens all the time.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2004


If this story happened all the time, you wouldn't have heard about this time. It's not as common as some would like to think, for whatever reason.

8 of the 11 states that voted for amendments also forbade civil unions and every other governmental right being bestowed on gay couples. Where was that supermajority on Election Day? There are NO "pieces" for gay couples in those 8 states.
posted by amberglow at 3:38 PM on November 17, 2004


Thanks to blefr this is turning into a TWO tissue thread. "It's a good thing" (I'm gonna kinda miss seeing MS's TG show)
posted by Cedric at 3:40 PM on November 17, 2004


The dreaded "m" word is the last line drawn in the sand, and a supermajority are willing to extend gay couples rights piece by piece as long as the "m" word does not get mentioned.

Right. And they can ride the bus, just as long as they sit in the back.
posted by sexymofo at 3:42 PM on November 17, 2004


and marriage being the last line drawn in the sand is due to their pathologies, not anything we've done. It's natural for us to want to marry, just like other Americans--we're all brought up to expect that it will be part of our lives.

interesting thing from the Revealer-- When we published the book earlier this year, interviewers asked us time and again: What’s the common denominator of American faith? What is it that most of us share?
We lied every time. We offered up sincere but misleading tributes to freedom of speech as the American devotion. We avoided the answer that had made itself as plain as the two-lane roads we drove on: The greatest common denominator of American belief is anti-homosexuality.
In Alan Wolfe’s sociological survey, One Nation, After All, he writes that he discovered that most middle-class Americans are free of overt bigotries -- except homophobia. The exception to the rule of tolerance in American life, he argues, is the widespread belief that homosexuality is just not ok. Really not ok; whereas most Americans practice a nonjudgmental pragmatism with regard to others, homosexuality comes in for special condemnation.

posted by amberglow at 4:11 PM on November 17, 2004


amberglow, sexymofo (I mean the previous commenter, not just a modifier for amberglow), I completely agree that the resistance to gay marriage is 100% fucked up. On the other hand, I think that what KJS is saying is that things are maybe not as bad as they appear when you're looking at the success of the anti gay marriage amendments. In other words, some people who voted for one of those amendments are probably not as anti-gay as we on the left tend to assume that they are. I think that this is especially true given the success of the right in framing this debate.

Once again, still fucked up. But maybe not as fucked up as we fear.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:24 PM on November 17, 2004


There are a lot of Christians in America who really mean it- who don't go for the easy cartoons of zombie-like boundriless jellies of absolute love or of worshippers of some absolute ladder of sins. Articles like this are about our surprise that such people exist and highlight the stereotyped, cartooned, image of Christianity that is the boogie-man of the oceanic states.
posted by loafingcactus at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2004


I keep trying to remind myself, that despite all the set backs in the election, there are many places where gay people can live pretty much free of homophobia. As many isolated red states-- Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Kansas-- continue to hemorrhage population, people like Fred Phelps, who hasten the flight of the young and educated from the heartland, will be increasingly isolated. People in the heartland are very sensitive about being perceived as hicks, and even more sensitive about being abandoned.

I used to really hate Fred Phelps, in tangible, bitter way. Now I almost appreciate his articulation of what goes unsaid by the fundamentalists. I am pretty calm when I see his ravings.

Now my evangelical colleague-- a decent, kind, god fearing Christian living in the gayest city in North America, she really hates Phelps...
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:36 PM on November 17, 2004


LittleMissCranky is quite right. I talked with my best friend's conservative Democrat father last weekend (lives in the woods, loves his guns) and found that one of the reasons he voted for Bush was the "protecting marriage" angle. I was confused, since I know that he has a number of gay friends and lives in a very, very gay-friendly town.

Turns out that he's 100% pro-gay-marriage rights, just anti gay marriage, since he thinks that it should be left as a church matter. I explained to him that that was much closer to the Democratic position and he agreed with me completely -- and said that they probably should have done a better job of explaining it in the election.

Says volumes, don't it?
posted by spiderwire at 5:01 PM on November 17, 2004


amberglow: If this story happened all the time, you wouldn't have heard about this time.

Ahh, yes. Nice little bit of twisted inverted logic here. Of course, the Washington Post has its finger on the pulse of gay outside of Dupont circle. A nice catch 22 there. If you publish stories of minor successes, they must be exceptions. If you don't publish stories of minor successes, they must be non-existent.

It's not as common as some would like to think, for whatever reason.

Nonsense, spend a week out here and I can introduce you to a few dozen. I can also introduce you to a half-dozen gay-positive church leaders (including a few who are out themselves). I hear a lot more examples, of "well, my parents were not happy, but I'm still invited over for thanksgiving," than examples of, "I was kicked out and disowned." I know people who came out of the closet in rural middle schools and survived. People who came out of the closet in the fraternity system and were suprised to get the full support of their heterosexual 'brothers.'

8 of the 11 states that voted for amendments also forbade civil unions and every other governmental right being bestowed on gay couples. Where was that supermajority on Election Day? There are NO "pieces" for gay couples in those 8 states.

Which just goes to show, that you can pass anything by coupling it with a more popular measure. The CBS/NYT poll towards the bottom is enlightening with only 38% of the population wanting no legal recognition at all. Oveall, there seems to be knee-jerk reactions going on with the m-word. Certainly, that's a bad thing. But you know, when I was born, it was still illegal to talk about homosexuality on the stage in NYC. 20 years ago, the president didn't even mention the word. When I came out as bisexual 14 years ago, I never dreamed that it would even be a campaign issue.

sexymofo: Right. And they can ride the bus, just as long as they sit in the back.

Are things wonderful out here? Not really. But in spite of what the Washington Post and others would have you believe, many gay men and women do gain the acceptance of their families, friends, and congregations. In spite of the tone of the article, Fred Phelps is a marginal nutjob, and the Westboro church rarely consists of more than his extended family, and is almost always outnumbered by counter-protest (that is, when he's not entirely ignored). I actually, saw Phelps at a March on Washington for LGBT rights. You risked missing his protest if you blinked while walking. Of course, the news cameras were all over him for "balance" I suppose.

The Janice Shackelfords and Bill Eubanks of the world are far more common than Fred Phelps's.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:05 PM on November 17, 2004


Here is the way I see it. Up until a few years ago when medical issues made my life completely crazy, I did GLBT speaker's panels. We go to a place, usually a class, sit down, and answer questions about what being GLBT means to us, how we came out of the closet, the children issue, etc., etc..

So, I hear a lot of coming out stories, a lot of telling mom and dad stories, a lot of religion stories, stories from rural communities and large cities, stories from all over.

So really the gut sense that I'm getting is that things are getting better. We are not going to be time-warped back to shock and hormone treatment. When I first started, everybody came out in college, now people are coming out in high school and middle school. Not just nice progressive urban or suburban schools, but rural schools as well. One of the most common stories I hear is from people who expected the worst when they came out, and found allies in suprising places.

So yes, I think that marriage is the last redoubt here. The mere fact that in 40 years we've gone from shock treatments to even considering it shows how much momentum the gay rights movement has behind it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:30 PM on November 17, 2004


That's only a story of a minor success if ignore why they rallied around him, and what their attitudes about it still are, even afterwards--it's a story of how a town protected their own when faced with an outsider spreading hate, and disrupting the town (and the pastor). You could say they actually rallied to save face, much more than out of love or affection--or even tolerance for the kid (most of them sound like they think he'll grow out of it, or be changed thru God's love or something). To many here, homosexuality was a sin, but Michael Shackelford was their sinner. And it wasn't Sands Springs people sweeping the sidewalk after Phelps left, but a Tulsa Human Rights group.

I wonder how Janice Shackelford and Bill Eubanks voted?
(75.6 percent of voters in Oklahoma voted for the amendment.) --cite here from story on legal cases challenging the new amendments
posted by amberglow at 5:32 PM on November 17, 2004


Things are getting better all over, but i fear they're about to shrink back--due to these amendments and the continuing demonization of us. We're a campaign issue now for as long as it gets people to the polls.

It's only a success if it actually makes people see us (and that kid) as fellow humans, not damaged sinners. He doesn't need to be fixed, or love Jesus more--he needs to be accepted the way he is, something not visible in that story without reading more into it than is actually there.
posted by amberglow at 5:37 PM on November 17, 2004


amberglow: That's only a story of a minor success...

I think that there is a basic problem of strategy here. A large chunk of the gains made so far came one minor success at a time, one person at a time, one family at a time, one mind at a time. That is the only way that lasting social change will happen. One person at a time, one community at a time.

Your nice happy gay utopia didn't happen overnight. Remember that it was only 40 years ago when the community you called home arrested gay men at bars, and some committed sucicide rather than be exposed.

Certainly, I don't think that Janice Shackelford or Bill Eubanks are all that gay positive, but it's a wedge, a beachhead. It makes things just a little bit easier for the text gay teen to come out of the closet. These minor successes matter. They are not something to be poh pohhed away.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:11 PM on November 17, 2004


UK Government plans for so-called “gay weddings” passed their final hurdle in the (House of) Lords tonight.

Slight hyperbole there - it's not marriage, so the scare quotes are quite appropriate. It's more Civil Union (or Civil Partnership). We're happy enough over here, though many - including me - feel this is a step towards equality, rather than it's achievement.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:17 PM on November 17, 2004


Amberglow: you're exactly right. People need to realize that homosexuals don't need to be cured. It seems to me, though, that the people in the story were taking a first step. A slow step to be sure, not as fast as most of us would like, but movement nevertheless.

I agree with jonmc that this feels like the civil rights movement. And it should. The vocal minority in this country shouldn't hold sway just because they're loud. Gay and progressive straight people alike should be pushing harder. Homosexuals, like blacks marching in the 60s, aren't asking for much - just their basic rights.
posted by blefr at 6:22 PM on November 17, 2004


As far as I can tell, his "church" consists mostly of members of his family. The whole bunch must be sociopaths to fail to realize the counterproductivity of their methods: sane people just don't act that way.

Tell me about it. I saw Phelps on some talk show and he had some younger guy with him who's eyes glowed like a serial killer. He also kept calling anyone who questioned him a "fag." I remember secretly wishing I was there just so I could ask "Excuse me, Reverend, Are you a fag?" just to knock him off balance.


And where I come from, you don't get points for doing the right thing. It's the least you can do.


With all due respect dame, when doing the right thing involves contradicting years of indoctrination and propoganda and exposure to ridicule and scorn, then yes, even small positive moves like this one get a few points from me. It's not the best of all possible situations, but it's a positive move and it deserves encouragement, not damnation by faint praise. We all have prejudices to overcome, every last one of us, and any move to eradicate them is a good thing. Your statement could be read to sound like a parent telling a kid whose grades have improved, "Well,you should be getting A's, brat!" if you know what I'm saying.
posted by jonmc at 6:25 PM on November 17, 2004


The current climate is doing exactly the opposite tho--and will keep people closeted--which is one of the aims of the anti-gay crusaders. It's their fear of us being seen as normal that drives much of what's going on.

I understand your concern, ag, but I think it's not as dire as you seem to think. My gay friends in the area (both in TX and OK), while frustrated by recent legislation (I know, TX wasn't one of the 11 states, ours will be sometime this upcoming Fall, from all sources in the know) are still just as comfortable being out as they were a month ago. They still go to gay clubs and bars and their civic minded action groups are still active, if not more so.

I share their frustration regarding the legislation, but my attitude (and that of most of those around me) is that this is, at best, a pyhrric victory for the anti-gay crowd. Now that the legislation has been passed, they've no legs left to stand on but outright hate and prejudice, which, as has been pointed out countless times in this thread, is how where most of the people that even support such legislation fee.

Last year in Waco, a PFLAG was opened, in the name of a former Baylor Professor and his wife that openly accepted his gay son, something most wouldn't expect from the larget Baptist University in the world. Especially considering his son came out to him in the early 80's. Dallas, Austin, Houston, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City all have gay neighborhoods, clubs, and action groups. This legislation is not going to stop the natural evolution of society towards tolerance and then full acceptance. Are there always going to be members in society that will never come around? Of course. This is why we're still battling, to some extent, racism and sexism. But progress will continue to be made, and, ironically, on a non-legislative level, I think it's an easier task with the legislation in place.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:28 PM on November 17, 2004


congrats dash! mazel tov!

I think that there is a basic problem of strategy here. A large chunk of the gains made so far came one minor success at a time, one person at a time, one family at a time, one mind at a time. That is the only way that lasting social change will happen. One person at a time, one community at a time.
That's not news to me, and no one disagrees with that. Many of the gains tho, haven't extrapolated past that point, and now, in some states, they can't. Many straight people think it's enough just to know openly gay people and be friendly with them, and they wear it like a badge of honor, or coolness--when push comes to shove tho, they weren't there for us in the voting booth. Nor are they speaking with us as allies in our fight for rights. Many straight people, and many gay people think that the personal is enough, but it isn't. Without equality, we're in the back of the bus talking to the folks up front, but still not allowed to be up there with them. Anti-discrimination laws in housing, and employment, and marriage laws are the only things that will give us that equality, not my friendly relations with straight people. It hasn't translated, Kirk. Just as our increased visibility on TV hasn't translated.

And you have to be able to measure that success too--This community of Sands Springs, hasn't yet changed, nor do they think they need to. It's no success if the best you can say is they're not beating him up, but they're still telling him he's "wrong" and can change. These people have learned more from the kid that forced the high school to let him form a gay/straight alliance than this kid and his travails.

They've learned that they protect their own, but don't fully accept them if they're different. You can't be friends with people who want to change you, or think you're damaged. That small thing hasn't even been achieved. And i'm not minimizing the steps this kid, or the town, have taken when i say all this--i've seen it my whole life, and done it.

Getting to the ground floor when you have to start in the basement is a victory, but not enough for this kid to have a happy life in his town, or for him to live to see equality in his lifetime.
posted by amberglow at 6:36 PM on November 17, 2004


Amberglow, buddy, obviously I can't feel this issue as close to the bone as you do, but I still see even small developements like this, and the fact that presidential candidates are at least publicly talking about issues like gay marraige to be good signs. We just gotta hang on, encourage even the smallest steps, fight the wrongs and not slip into despair.
posted by jonmc at 6:49 PM on November 17, 2004


I remember when Fred Phelps and his band of shits came to my high school. It's an urban school in Portland, Oregon, so they were definetly preaching to a hostile crowd.

There were probably four hundred students on the front lawn on one side of the police line, and Phelps and five or six lackeys on the sidewalk on the other. Phelps came boudning out of his van and shouted "You fag lovers will all burn in hell!" or some other such nonsense.

And there was one brief, shining moment when I was proud of my peers. Everyone (or at least, everyone up in the front who heard him) laughed. Just laughed. The whole situation was so ridiculous that there was no other possible response, and every student there immediately understood that.

After that, it devolved into a shouting match. But the first couple minutes were one of the most awesome things I've ever been a part of.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:00 PM on November 17, 2004


I don't have despair, but when you can't even count on those friendly others (many of whom know gay people in their daily lives, and consider them coworkers, and neighbors, and sons and daughters) who still vote to deny us rights, well, i just don't know.

When the most visible gay people in the country besides tv people are closeted GOP officials, and visible straight supporters in positions of power who stood up (like the mayor of SF, etc) are being blamed for the election loss, and even former President Clinton told Kerry to come out in favor of the anti-gay amendments, things aren't looking good.

When you look back at other rights movements in the country (say, suffragism, civil rights, etc), it was a coalition of people coming together, some directly affected, and some not, and courageous people in positions of power, and the court decisions--all these elements working together to make life better. I don't see anything close to that here and now.
posted by amberglow at 7:04 PM on November 17, 2004


Well, maybe, strategically speaking, that's where gay organizations need to focus their efforts. Politicians of any stripe usually don't do shit until there's significant pressure put on them by a large section of the electorate, that's just their nature sad to say. And all those other movements that you mentionedafter they spread through the directly affected communities, had to start somewhere in the public at large. Events like these are a beachhead. Maybe that gay minister who runs that church in Dallas needs to visit Oklahoma. I dunno. I've got theories out the wazoo, but I don't have any magic wand.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 PM on November 17, 2004


Many straight people think it's enough just to know openly gay people and be friendly with them, ...when push comes to shove tho, they weren't there for us in the voting booth. Nor are they speaking with us as allies in our fight for rights.

Amberglow,
Count me in as being there for you, with my wallet as well as my ballot. The only thing that has brought me to the U.S. in the last 31 months has been my friends' gay wedding in MA. You should see some of the reaction here when I discuss it. But I was actually quite pleasantly surprised at my in-laws reactions. Well, they've already shown themselves to be pretty liberal by accepting my marriage.

I see a HUGE amount of homophobia here, among Americans who don't feel the need to hide it in this culture, because the conservatism and the language barrier act as a shield for their views. In a company meeting at my last job, one guy said "personally, I'd just as soon throw them out the window," before going on to say that homosexuality shouldn't prevent us from dealing with a potentially lucrative candidate.

I've decided to return soon to the U.S. because this issue, and others dealing with lost liberty in the U.S., are too important to run from. America may have lost the moral high ground to Europe in a lot of areas, but the U.S. still has a lot of weight to throw around, if we can get it on the right side of some issues. I'll be in NYC in a few weeks time, and looking to get much more politically involved. Hope to see you around.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:15 PM on November 17, 2004


definitely, bashos : >
posted by amberglow at 7:23 PM on November 17, 2004


Your statement could be read to sound like a parent telling a kid whose grades have improved, "Well,you should be getting A's, brat!" if you know what I'm saying.

No, I don't really. Because I got A's. And you know why? Because it was my fucking job. My mother went to work everyday and did her best. I went to school and did my best.

And I don't care what you have to overcome to do the right thing. I just don't. Lately more than ever. Because I have suffered my own slights and losses for it, and none of those matter—I did the right thing because it was right and I knew it. And most people do know what is right. They don't do it because it is difficult. And that is a shitty excuse. In smaller cases it's forgivable; we aren't perfect. But consistenly treating people like second class citizens—for whatever reason—is wrong. If you don't know that, you are so morally defunct that you shouldn't be let near children, much less a voting booth.

Comparing this to civil rights is illuminating; though not perhaps for the pat yourself on the back reasons other people think so. Civil rights took away the obvious, de jure injuries, and another half-century on we have done next to nothing to make up for the economic destruction that is the true legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. As a matter of fact, now white folks have the whole "we removed the restictions, so if you can't make it, it's because you're a fuck up" excuse to fall back on. So that victory was a little pyrrhic no? I'd hate to see this go the same way. (For different reasons and in different ways due to circumstances, etc.)

I know this is vitriolic. And, to plenty of people, unfair. But I don't fucking care. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of articles like this. I'm tired of begging assholes for favors. I'm tired of flattering people's prejudices. I'm tired of trying to convince people that treating other people like shit because of who they fuck—and that blowing up people halfway around the world—is wrong. It kills me every fucking day. And I'm tired of it.

So excuse me for not applauding when some assfuck finally realizes a gay boy is human.
posted by dame at 8:19 PM on November 17, 2004 [1 favorite]


The greater moral: an extremist for a cause is the worse salesman for a cause. There is nothing worse you can do four your cause than to become a zealot.
posted by jmccorm at 8:26 PM on November 17, 2004


With all due respect, of course, Jon. I'm angry with the situation. Not with you. Or anyone else in this thread.
posted by dame at 8:29 PM on November 17, 2004


amberglow: Ok, I'll guess I'll ask the big question. What do you suggest we do?

I don't see the proposal of retreating to a handful of queer ghettos to be much of an answer in general. To start with, I know a little too much about the history of the gay rights movement to accept the claim that the queer ghettos just happened to develop in naturally tolerant locations. The same battles currently fought in Sand Springs were also fought in NY and San Francisco.

I guess, wow. I know you are angry but it sounds like a heck of a lot of your anger is going in the wrong direction.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:04 PM on November 17, 2004


It's all in the sidebar, of course, but it's worth pointing out that this piece is a followup to a four-part series of feature stories called "Young and Gay in Real America," by Washington Post reporter Anne Hull. It's a remarkable set of stories, and well worth the read.

Part I: In the Bible Belt, Acceptance Is Hard-Won

Part II:A Slow Journey From Isolation

Part III: Braving the Streets Her Way

Part IV: Using Her Voice to Rise Above

Also illuminating is the washingtonpost.com "Live Online" discussion transcript, in which Hull answers questions submitted by readers about the series.

Hull was nominated for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting for her series Rim of the New World, which reported on young immigrants coming of age in the American South.
(St. Petersburg Times feature writer Tom French also interviewed Hull about the "Rim of the New World" series for The Poynter Institute.)
posted by Eldritch at 9:09 PM on November 17, 2004


Religion still sucks.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:31 PM on November 17, 2004


gesamtkunstwerk, I agree with you wholeheartedly. As someone who's seen Phelps in action more times than I can count, I sincerely feel that if you were to believe in a Divine Plan, he was born to make people repent. Not the ones he wants to, but the ones who are forced to see in his face the most virulent possible caricature of what it means to hate gay people in the name of God.

It's strange, now that I'm older, to see college students do as I used to, yelling back at him with equal fury. I always thought the most powerful response would be something along the lines of a shunning. A crowd of people silently turning their backs, arms crossed, depriving him of the negative attention he so desperately feeds on.

However, this response was the one that's made me happiest, and it's one many others have had success with.
posted by melissa may at 10:05 PM on November 17, 2004


I guess, wow. I know you are angry but it sounds like a heck of a lot of your anger is going in the wrong direction.

I dunno about that. Even a couple of days ago, I might have thought so; I don't know that I believe we—you and I or Jon and I—are quite on the same side. In a fundamental way, yes. But in a more specific way, I am not sure.

I don't think we want the same things. You want to gently persuade people. You want to help people over. In so many ways, that is repectable. If things were different, I might be arguing for the same thing.

But the DLC is fucked. Just like Clinton was. They move to the right, then call it a victory for the values they abandoned on the way. Every loss is because we didn't flatter prejudice and cowardice enough. Gay people declaring they deserve the same rights under the same name is scary and icky: let's slow down.

Well, I don't want your suasion anymore; it's hardly working. I want ten years of standing up and stating a vision that begins with the fundamental dignity of a human coupled with the assertion that the opposite is unacceptable; twenty years of whimpering for people to end there has brought us here. Most of the improvements you (and I mean the general you, here) tout for the progress of America were brought about in the sixties and seventies—when a real liberal vision existed.

We—I—need to stand up for what is right over and again. We don't need to apologize to cretins who refuse to see it. Not now. Give me ten years of creating vision and fashioning real policy suggestions to give it some spine, and then maybe I'll think about reaching out again. The Dems (who only represent me by default) aren't going to get their precious little Congress back, and if they do, they wouldn't even know what to do with it.

But it isn't even about the Dems in the end. It's about something so much bigger: the courage to be right and unpopular for however long it takes to create a compelling image of a just and dignified world, and to build a real solid base under that vision. Then you reach out and sway people to your side. That's how real change is gonna come. Not by coddling people for whom I cannot begin to wright a non-insulting epithet. Not by chasing pusillanmity or worshipping headwounds.

And if you argue for the latter approach, then you're not exactly my ally anymore. You certainly aren't my foe, but I don't think your tactics are so great. And please don't think there isn't some reget in this last bit; there is. I hope it doesn't stay this way forever.
posted by dame at 10:19 PM on November 17, 2004


crying
posted by jasenlee at 10:57 PM on November 17, 2004


Am I the only one who was really annoyed by the way the article was written? In his shoddy attempts to write about real events that he didn't witness as if he's a novelist creating the events himself, the author greatly detracts from a story that, left to stand on its own as a three or four paragraph piece, might have been vaguely heartwarming and inspiring.

Maybe it's just because I'm from Kansas, and I got bored with Phelps a long time ago.
posted by bingo at 4:52 AM on November 18, 2004


(*applause*)
I really, and I mean really needed this today. Thanks for the post and the marvelous discussion.
posted by fluffycreature at 4:59 AM on November 18, 2004


So excuse me for not applauding when some assfuck finally realizes a gay boy is human.

Well I, for one, will applaud the assfuck. Perhaps he doesn't deserve the applause, but to me it's irrelevant whether the applause is deserved or not. Because I'm largely pragmatic, and maybe even a bit Machiavellian, and I know you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

So I salute you, Sand Spring, for your one small step away from homophobia. May there be many more in your future.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:48 AM on November 18, 2004


what dame said.

Ok, I'll guess I'll ask the big question. What do you suggest we do?
that is the big question.

I think there are many things we need to do--i'd start with applauding and celebrating and supporting and being happy for not just those ignorant and hateful straight people who stop bashing us (which goes along with what dame's been saying), but for those allies that take a principled, courageous stand even if it costs them. Take Newsom, or the clerk in Oregon who actually stopped issuing all marriage licenses because he saw the hypocrisy and fundamental unfairness of it all. Call that the LBJ approach, if you want (he signed civil rights legislation knowing it would hurt his party, his own career, and against the loud advice of people telling him to wait or slow down).

We need to continue coming out all over this country. And to realize that just coming out, while a big and proper step, essential for our wellbeing and the enlightenment of those around us, shouldn't be the end of our actions, and can NOT be the end of them. We have to all learn to continually remind those people that legal and governmental things hurt us directly and in many ways, and that what they automatically take for granted is denied us, in many ways.

We need to let the world (and "friendly" politicians) know that our fight for rights--not to be fired, or thrown out of housing, or denied the rights other couples get, etc--doesn't stop or get put on hold just because the political climate changes. (The Wash Blade article i linked to above tells of how almost all our organizations are telling couples in those states with new amendments NOT to fight them in court, which is a strategy that, besides hurting couples who need those rights denied them, also sends the message that it's not that important a fight, which is horrendous and wrong.)

We need to threaten politicians/parties who should be on our side, who we've supported for decades, who have courted us as a voting bloc, etc, that they better grow some balls in terms of our rights--and that a fight for fairness and equality for us will help them with straight people too. We can sit home on election day, and they better learn that. (See Kerry and his wobbling, and Clinton's betrayal of our previous overwhelming support for him in advising Kerry to say he approved of the amendments, something thankfully that Kerry refused to do.) If they're going to give their seal of approval to our secondclass status, we're not going to give them our vote (and we vote in higher numbers than the pop at large). Let our senators and congressmen learn that we count, and that we'll reward the people that do stand up for us, and hurt those that don't.

more to come....other people can jump in with more.
posted by amberglow at 5:49 AM on November 18, 2004


Well, dame, I think we're also talking about two different breeds of homophobe, you and I. As far as rabid "kill the queers" types* go, I agree with you, there's no reason to bow and scrape before those people. They need to be met head on. But as far as passive, go-along-with-the-program types who may not actively persecute gays but have yet to question the systematic prejudice that does, well there we might have something to work with. And I think we should. Obviously. legal manifestations of homophopia have to be removed, but hearts and minds need to be worked on as well. Bigotry harms the bigot (and society at large) as well as the target of the bigotry, if that makes any sense.

Malcolm X once said that instead of joining crusades in the black community, non-racist whites needed to go to their own communities and do what they could to break down the prejudice there. That's what I'm talking about doing here. And it's not like there isn't room for both of our approaches on this issue.

*although we spend not inconsiderable amounts of effort as a society trying to rehabilitate wife beaters, murderers and other criminals, why not homophobes? Or racists, or misogynists? I'm honestly asking. It's not like any human being on the planet can claim complete innocence when it comes to prejudice, so we should at least make the effort.
posted by jonmc at 5:54 AM on November 18, 2004


this is very good, on all this.
posted by amberglow at 6:09 AM on November 18, 2004


I don't think we want the same things. You want to gently persuade people. You want to help people over. In so many ways, that is repectable. If things were different, I might be arguing for the same thing.

Actually, I think we do. We want homophobia eradicated as much as possible. But it's a battle that needs to be fought on two fronts. Removing legal dicrimination is great and important but society will only be so healthy until that is accompanied by internal changes in how people think and feel.
posted by jonmc at 6:10 AM on November 18, 2004


Also, homophobia is a stranger prejudice than the racial and ethnic prejudices that plague us in that it's more psychological than political and economic is both it's orgins and manifestations.

I'm not saying that racism dosen't have it's psychological components but the reason it was exploited and spread so well by the powers that be has an awful lot to do with money and power. Nobody fears gays moving into the neighborhood because of lowered property values or because the gays are going to steal their car stereo. They're worried that it's somehow "catching" and that it's going to "infect" them and their family.

So some kind of different approach is required.

Ok, I'll stop rambling, now.
posted by jonmc at 6:18 AM on November 18, 2004


dame: I dunno about that. Even a couple of days ago, I might have thought so; I don't know that I believe we—you and I or Jon and I—are quite on the same side. In a fundamental way, yes. But in a more specific way, I am not sure.

The sense that I'm getting of the last few weeks is the fact that in your zeal to napalm all of the cretins in places like Oklahoma, that you are willing to write off the lives and work of the out gays and lesbians who live there. And that is not acceptable to me.

I don't think we want the same things. You want to gently persuade people. You want to help people over. In so many ways, that is repectable. If things were different, I might be arguing for the same thing.

What is the alternative? Do you think that you will get gay marriage by using baseball bats and axe handles against the supermajority of Americans who don't believe that gay marriage should exist? I don't see how we can get to gay marriage without a mass political will that it should exist. And I don't think that NY and CA alone have enough mass political will to make it happen, even in their own borders.

We—I—need to stand up for what is right over and again. We don't need to apologize to cretins who refuse to see it. Not now.

I think that if you see me as apologizing to cretins, then you really have not been reading me. I'm not saying that gay men and women should be apologizing for what they are, or for what they want. What I am saying is that every little battle matters. Every time a gay teen comes out of the closet and refuses to go back in matters. Every time the people around him or her are forced to confront their heterosexism and change their attitudes matters. And yes, we need the legislative and judicial battles as well, but we also need to fight the small skirmishes in neighborhoods, towns, schools, clubs and churches.

We won't get there by some kind of an urban gay ghetto separatism. (I do think that it serves a valuable purpose for some people, but I think you can get only so far that way.) I think it will require by having gay men and women come out as members of their community and say, "look, you may agree or disagree with my sexual orientation, but I'm not going anywhere."

amberglow: We need to threaten politicians/parties who should be on our side, who we've supported for decades, who have courted us as a voting bloc, etc, that they better grow some balls in terms of our rights--and that a fight for fairness and equality for us will help them with straight people too. We can sit home on election day, and they better learn that.

Well, that is a hot issue that pulls up the whole 3rd party Nader/Cobb debate. I'm not certain I want to go there, but there is no "kick me sign" like suggesting that the greens might have a good position on gay rights, and that the Dems lost my presidential vote on key issues.

I think the article you posted was a bit off in that the civil rights battles were not just fought in the legislatures and courthouses. They were also fought (and are being fought) mind to mind as African Americans worked their way into traditionally white institutions and said, "I'm here, I'm not going anywhere."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:10 AM on November 18, 2004


As a resident of the only state with gay marriage, I say give it time. It's a year since the court decision, and it turns out that the people still worried about it are far between. Gay people got married in most of the municipalities of the state (even the bulk of them with less than 1,000 people), and the people who were against it are coming to the realization that it hasn't affected them at all. There's whispers that the proposed referendum won't even make it out of the state government because no one cares enough anymore.

It will take years for the concept that it doesn't matter to trickle to the center of the country. But it will get there. A further influx of gay people who can afford to move here will only help move the state's economy along, and money talks. The other states with economic sense are going to have to follow suit, and their backwards neighbors will give in eventually.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:50 AM on November 18, 2004


Well, having fought about this a bit more.

I'm remembering that there are a heck of a lot of little battles, and plenty of room for different types of tactics to fight those battles.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:05 AM on November 18, 2004


Curley, there's a gigantic difference bet. Mass and those states that passed anti-gay amendments tho. You had the court decide, and now people are realizing it's not horrendous thing, or that big a deal to their lives. But--those marriages aren't yet recognized in any other state, too, which is another gigantic battle yet to be fought. These 11 states (with more to come), will never have that court option open i don't think. No state court in those states can now do what was done in Mass.

People (incl. Kirk) say that you have to sway public sentiment first, but that's not at all what happened in Mass. And if you had waited to sway public sentiment, Schools never would have desegregated, interracial marriages would never have been legalized, sodomy would never have been decriminalized either, etc... It's a fallacy that the people have to be ready for fairness and equality--as Mass. shows, having it thrust upon them works better, sometimes. We don't leave civil rights or equal justice problems to legislatures for a reason--they're not the best way to remedy injustice. We don't leave it to Congress, either. Nor to the popular vote.
posted by amberglow at 9:06 AM on November 18, 2004


Our opponents have already learned that, but we apparently haven't. They knew that hateful, discriminatory state amendments, and the constitutional amendment, is their only hope to stop the rising tide of fairness and equality.
posted by amberglow at 9:09 AM on November 18, 2004


I think the Mass. way is the way to go, actually. If we wait for the public to vote or whatever, it'll never ever happen.
posted by amberglow at 9:15 AM on November 18, 2004


I'll address the other stuff once I've had some coffee & done some work, but this

The sense that I'm getting of the last few weeks is the fact that in your zeal to napalm all of the cretins in places like Oklahoma,

is so absurd I hope it's performance art. I don't want to napalm anyone (you know, cause I don't belive in killing people). I just don't want to share a country with them anymore. Not that that is ever going to happen. But understand, unlike some fucks, I can dislike people, even be disgusted by them, without wanting to kill them. Because, you know, I'm not insane.
posted by dame at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2004


amberglow: People (incl. Kirk) say that you have to sway public sentiment first, but that's not at all what happened in Mass. And if you had waited to sway public sentiment, Schools never would have desegregated, interracial marriages would never have been legalized, sodomy would never have been decriminalized either, etc...

I'm willing to wiggle a bit on the idea that it must come first. But I think it definitely must come also. A judge pounding the gavel is not going to stop anti-gay harassment, discrimination, and violence in the same way that Brown vs. Board of Education has not fully desegregated school systems, or stopped discrimination in the classroom. Gay marriage is not going to stop gay teens from killing themselves quickly through suicide or slowly through drug abuse and alcoholism. And yet, what I'm hearing in this discussion is that those battles don't matter.

Marriage is not the only battle to be fought, and apparently if you are a gay teen in Sand Springs that just got a visible organization to address gay rights in the education school, it's not the most important battle.

Our opponents have already learned that, but we apparently haven't. They knew that hateful, discriminatory state amendments, and the constitutional amendment, is their only hope to stop the rising tide of fairness and equality.

Which is interesting. The success of the Chistian Coalition has been built on grass-roots networking and persuasion to create a base of action in every community. They know that grass-roots and community based activism works. They proved it, so why am I being pasted as apologetic for suggesting that we need grass-roots activism in every community? That we need gay-straight alliances in every community? That we need activist gays in Tulsa OK just as much as we need them in NYC and Boston.

The problem with relying on the judiciary is that in many states, the judiciary is also elected. In addition, the judiciary only lasts as long as the there is some level of political will that prevents those judges from being replaced by other judges.

dame: is so absurd I hope it's performance art. I don't want to napalm anyone (you know, cause I don't belive in killing people).

It was so obviously a metaphor that I didn't feel the need to point out the fact that it was a metaphor to an elite urban sophisticate such as yourself.

But to unpack that, the feeling I repeatedly get from you is that your desire for separatism is more important than supporting gay activists in the areas you dispise.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:49 AM on November 18, 2004


"absurd"

Maybe so. But, the debate is so poisonous, and your language so angry, that many people who heard you (and didnt know you personally) would assume that you were, at the very least, rhetorically calling for violence against "the cretins".

I certainly did.

Face it - your language is just as hateful and vitriolic as Phelps and co. As an added bonus, you are just as convinced of your own moral correctness as they are. By your definition, you and I aren't exactly allies because I don't share your zeal for telling a majority of the population to fuck right off because they are stupid bigots who really don't deserve to breathe the same air as your morally superior self.

on preview... what kirkjobsluder said. Also, see mr_roboto's comment above about doing more good for the other team when you take such a hard line.
posted by Irontom at 9:57 AM on November 18, 2004


Yes, and the point is, it was a crap metaphor. Because it implies some sort of active scorched earth policy, which is pretty fucking far from what I actually think.

Further, Insultotron 3000, I am hardly an elite sophisticate. Again, that's kind of my point. I'm not special for thinking what I think or being who I am. I'm kind of the lowest benchmark. I'm a lazy selfish fuckup, yet I know better. So what does that say about people who don't? (Or pretend not to?) But I can't keep doing this because I want to spend some time addressing real points, as opposed to arguing with someone who has made it clear that they don't get it.

You're right on one thing: I don't support anyone who wants to live in Oklahoma. Living too far from the ocean is unhealthy.
posted by dame at 10:06 AM on November 18, 2004


Which is interesting. The success of the Chistian Coalition has been built on grass-roots networking and persuasion to create a base of action in every community. They know that grass-roots and community based activism works. They proved it, so why am I being pasted as apologetic for suggesting that we need grass-roots activism in every community? That we need gay-straight alliances in every community? That we need activist gays in Tulsa OK just as much as we need them in NYC and Boston.

Maybe because you're continuing to think that we're denigrating coming out? You're saying that's how we get rights, through this one-to-one, and community outness. I'm saying we've just been proven wrong, and even if every gay kid or adult comes out, it still won't get us equality--in housing, employment, or marriage, or anything. We have to use the courts. Look at sodomy---in the 80s one state court case made it ok for us to be arrested in some states for having sex--just recently the supreme court overturned it, making sodomy legal in all states. Do you see? That would never have happened, no matter how many gay people came out. Ever!

The Christian Coalition has not really achieved what they wanted, even tho they're in charge of the Republican Party. They haven't achieved their positive (in their minds) aims--they haven't gotten abortion made illegal yet, nor have they made us criminals, nor have they gotten every school in the country to stop teaching evolution. They've achieved the negative in terms of us, but it doesn't help them achieve their goals. They still don't have enough support for a federal constitutional amendment against us, and even if they did one-to-one and community activism forever, it wouldn't sway enough people. Does that make sense? We're an easy target. They've failed to achieve their real goals, while at the same time doing enormous damage to our goals. There's a difference there, that i'm not sure you're getting. They knew the courts are where we will be getting our rights, not in state legislatures, or from community groups. The courts. That's why these state amendments are popping up.
posted by amberglow at 10:15 AM on November 18, 2004


And you guys are willfully misreading dame's points. She's absolutely right--we can't ever ever ever rely on the haters and the ignorant to somehow magically wake up and bestow rights on us, or to not vote against our rights.
Whether we all come out or not.

(not every word out of dame's mouth is a slap to the south or midwest, you know.)
posted by amberglow at 10:21 AM on November 18, 2004


I'm hoping and praying a marriage case makes it to the Supreme Court before Bush can pack it with haters.
posted by amberglow at 10:23 AM on November 18, 2004


dame, kirk, amber: ultimately you all seem to want the same thing: an end to homophobia and discrimination. You have different ideas about how that will be accomplished, but your ideas and methods are not antagonistic. Why the hell are you fighting eachother?

This divide and conquer shit the right uses is working even within the forces of good. Sad.
posted by jonmc at 10:40 AM on November 18, 2004


What Eldridtch said. The original Washington Post piece that got Phelps all hot and bothered is a long, but enlightening read. Even someone who is an unapologetic gay activist can learn from, or at least see the earnest conflict within, someone like Janice Shackelford.
posted by pzarquon at 10:41 AM on November 18, 2004


well, jon, it's normal and to be expected. Our differences are in emphasis only, really.

On the other hand, you're slacking--most of you cool straight people are (except dame, of course). : >
posted by amberglow at 10:47 AM on November 18, 2004


Of course I'm slacking. That's what I do. But let's give KirkJobSluder a bit of a break. He definitely means well, and the challenges in his comments are just that, challenges to rethink cliched ineffective modes of thought, not attacks.
posted by jonmc at 10:51 AM on November 18, 2004


I love my gay-marriage, gay-Congressmanned, gay, gay, gay state! And don't forget, it's the home of the fantabulous Hat Sisters!

My husband said this morning, "Do you realize that it's been a whole year now since our marriage was 'made a sham'?" And I said, "I've been plotting every day about how I could leave you and marry some other woman. Hooray for 'selfish hedonism'."

See, it's funny because not only do we not mean it, but we can't believe that any sane person actually does. And, as we know, Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate of any US state! Hooray for us!
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:51 AM on November 18, 2004


On the other hand, you're slacking--most of you cool straight people are (except dame, of course).

Yeah, b/c the gay scene doesn't have any apathetic or disenfranchised members.

I think (and I'll speak for myself and not Kirk here, although I think is kind of where he's going too) living in this part of the country the people that are involved and sympathetic to the cause are more focused on support for troubled gay youth and recently out-of-the-closet members, etc. The gay movement is a bit behind in this part of the country, you know, so while we're not seeing overt demonstrations of homophobia on a daily basis (outside of Phelps and his ilk), but there is still a lot of stigma for some who want to out themselves. Building suppport for our friends and family is pretty much point number one, especially since the legislative aspect isn't going to be making this particular circuit of courts anytime soon. And progress is being made.

That doesn't many any means imply that I've given up on the legislative side of things, or don't support it, or anything like that. It's really more of a pragmatic approach to *this* community. Imagining that you coasters don't have to deal with such personal issues to the same extent that gay people in this part of the country do, I applaud the efforts to take it to the next level. But don't cut the rope that the stragglers are gripping on to just because we're a few steps behind.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:09 AM on November 18, 2004


"Civilizations are not built by rapping people on the knuckles. They are built up by the confrontation of ideas, by the blood of the spirit, by suffering and courage.'' - Albert Camus, during the French Resistance to the Nazis

Being forced to ride the back of the bus should no longer be considered acceptable or moral.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:25 PM on November 18, 2004


After years of watching Phelps and his cultmembers, I've become convinced that they unwittingly do as much good as harm.

I know I'm jumping in really late here, but speaking as someone who lived in Kansas for 10 years and dealt with Phelps often as a queer activist on the local level, and now as someone working at a national LGBT nonprofit -- where I often have to provide advice to people who have just heard Fred's coming to their town and are completely freaked out -- I really, really disagree.

I think Fred Phelps's rabidly homophobic sideshow provides a really easy cop-out for your average run-of-the-mill homophobe. Having someone that loony and extreme allows those people to comfort themselves with the rationalization that they aren't THAT bad. Sort of a "Hey, I might not want to hire a gay person, or I might have voted for that marriage amendment but I'm not a bigot, because that guy is a bigot -- so I don't need to question my own views or actions" sort of thing.
posted by apollonia6 at 12:43 PM on November 18, 2004


amberglow: I don't know. On the one hand we seem to agree:

We need to continue coming out all over this country. And to realize that just coming out, while a big and proper step, essential for our wellbeing and the enlightenment of those around us, shouldn't be the end of our actions, and can NOT be the end of them. We have to all learn to continually remind those people that legal and governmental things hurt us directly and in many ways, and that what they automatically take for granted is denied us, in many ways.

And then you flip around and say things like:

I'm saying we've just been proven wrong, and even if every gay kid or adult comes out, it still won't get us equality--in housing, employment, or marriage, or anything. We have to use the courts.

Sorry, but I don't buy the argument that the courts alone can create social change. I'm thinking in specific about Brown vs. Board of Education where I'm most familair. The promise of Brown has not been realized. In the nice progressive blue state of California, non-white schools are several times more likely to have rats in the building, and structural problems. Several times more likely to employ uncertified teachers or not have enough teachers to meet minimal state standards. (This is LA county BTW.) The pattern holds true all over the United States.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:48 PM on November 18, 2004


welcome apollonia6 and Alex: i think you're very right, apoll...it gives them an out since at least they're not as bad as Phelps.

Kirk: So does that mean that Brown didn't matter? That's what you're not acknowledging...even a court decision is only the beginning of a larger process, just as coming out is the beginning of a dialogue with your family and friends and neighbors. I'm stating the limitations of coming out as a tool for legislative and legal change which is vital for social change--the kind of change that's absolutely essential for our equality. I'm not denigrating it as a tool for personal and social (on a small level) change. School desegration is still a problem, but at least there's law and legislation to back up the demands for equality, not just talk. We can talk til we die--it won't stop someone from being fired for being gay, or thrown out of their apartment, or not rented to at all, or prevented from visiting their partner in the hospital. We can all come out (and do so, often at great cost--cost that would be lessened by anti-discrimination laws and judgements)
posted by amberglow at 1:09 PM on November 18, 2004


amberglow: I'm not saying that Brown didn't matter. I have not, nor have I ever said that court decisions were not an essential part of getting equality. What I am saying is that court decisions are not enough, and I'm not convinced that they are even a start. How many pro-segregation decisions were handed down by the court before Brown? Courts are just as much a tool of political will as the legislature. A court that rules in our favor this year can be stacked to rule in someone else's favor next year.

I'm suggestiong that we need to work on all fronts. Anti-discrimination laws are good, but bigots can figure out a loophole through most anti-discrimination laws.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:31 PM on November 18, 2004


Y'know it is a good thing to work on changing both laws and minds.

I'm just saying.
posted by jonmc at 1:39 PM on November 18, 2004


Y'know it is a good thing to work on changing both laws and minds.

51% of people have shown they simply have no interest in listening. Whether it is slavery, lynching, beheading, bombing, assasination, or tying people to barbed wired and letting them die, these people would be happy to look the other way.

Unless you make it clear there are serious legal consequences to this kind of behavior, the status quo will remain, or worse, Nuremberg-like laws against sexual minorities accrete into the US Constitution.

The law has not always been consistent on social/economic/physical violence against minorities and so great injustices remain. With the current administration its difficult to see how this situation will improve.

As a new citizen I'm hopeful this country will not throw away its egalitarian ideals to appease a fundamentalist minority that has taken over the government. But given prior history, its clear that freedoms are hard-fought to be won.

Communication is one thing. Simply letting the fundamentalists have their way in the name of so-called "communication" or "getting along to get along" is just unacceptable.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:15 PM on November 18, 2004


what Alex said.
posted by amberglow at 2:31 PM on November 18, 2004


Face it - your language is just as hateful and vitriolic as Phelps and co. As an added bonus, you are just as convinced of your own moral correctness as they are.

Yes, and the difference is in the content, which is the entire point. I haven't bought the stupid conservative arguing tactic that says, "My anti-Xism is just the same as your anti-Yism." It isn't. Arguing that people ought to be treated with basic human dignity regardless* is obviously correct. And frankly, it's incredibly sad that I have to argue that to someone who claims to be my ally.

By your definition, you and I aren't exactly allies because I don't share your zeal for telling a majority of the population to fuck right off because they are stupid bigots who really don't deserve to breathe the same air as your morally superior self.

For the last time, my real point is that we shouldn't go around pretending that we aren't morally superior while begging small glimpses of decency. Instead, let's ignore those fuckers for a little bit, and get together and imagine a real complete vision for a future founded on human dignity. Then, lets shout about it awhile and flesh out some full policy proposals. Afterward work on persuading the persuadable.

Instead of shooting for the stars and settling for the moon, progressives these days are aiming for the other side of town and settling for the end of the block. Instead of giving their ideas the full force of belief while secretly be willing to compromise, they are giving the full force of their ideas to compromise. What a recipe for ending up with nothing.

If the situation were different—if there was nothing but ideas and reaching out was at zilch—then I would say, let's reach out. But it is the opposite, so I say the opposite. Let's have the courage of our convictions.

Also, see mr_roboto's comment above about doing more good for the other team when you take such a hard line.

Which is why the hard right wing is doing so much worse than the "how may we compromise with you today" left. Why are we so scared of saying we're right? Do you not think we are? Is it because it seems so unbecoming? Because you're afraid someone's gonna think you're an asshole?

Someone is going to think you're an ass no matter what you do if you have even an iota of personality. I'll settle for being an asshole who happens to be right. Then I'll settle in and try to make something big.**

but your ideas and methods are not antagonistic.

I think this thread makes clear that they are. I think the attacks on me make that clear. For whatever reason.

*although we spend not inconsiderable amounts of effort as a society trying to rehabilitate wife beaters, murderers and other criminals, why not homophobes? Or racists, or misogynists? I'm honestly asking. It's not like any human being on the planet can claim complete innocence when it comes to prejudice, so we should at least make the effort.

We should try to rehabilitate people, Jon. But you'll notice that we are agreed on the immorality of murder and wife beating and we don't have presidents who argue that murder is right.

*And that is genuinely what I believe. For all sides. While I think that vast majority that disagrees with me is wrong and ought to be stopped, I don't think they ought to be stopped at all costs. Because they are human too. I don't think their families should be sundered; I don't hope for them to be made miserable; I don't hope for tragedy to befall them (though I suspect they might wake up a little faster if it did). That's why the "napalm metaphor" pisses me off to no end: it assumes I want something more than for them to stop treating other people like shit.

As I have said in other threads, I don't treat people like shit. I will engage with anyone (given that I'm not just feeling anti-social) regardless of where they are from, what color they are, etc., until they prove to be sucky people. Then I disengage. That's it. And that's all I'm arguing for here: a little disengagement instead of supplication.

**By big, I do not mean a total system like those that littered the previous century. Rather I aim more for a society in which the richest nation in the world provides a base standard of living necessary for true autonomy. After that, I just want people to pursue their own freedom and truth without intereference or injury from others.

posted by dame at 3:33 PM on November 18, 2004


What dame said too, excellently. Now is not a time to retreat--the ball is already rolling down the hill--either it'll break thru the wall recently erected/elected or be stopped by it.
posted by amberglow at 3:48 PM on November 18, 2004


amberglow: What dame said too, excellently. Now is not a time to retreat--the ball is already rolling down the hill--either it'll break thru the wall recently erected/elected or be stopped by it.

I'm still a bit baffled though. When I ask about what alternatives you propose, you say the exact same thing I'm saying. When I say that we have momentum on our side, you dismiss it and then turn around and say that we have momentum on our side.

So I'm asking you, how is what you advocate different from what I advocate. How is this following quote different from what I have been advocating:

We need to continue coming out all over this country. And to realize that just coming out, while a big and proper step, essential for our wellbeing and the enlightenment of those around us, shouldn't be the end of our actions, and can NOT be the end of them. We have to all learn to continually remind those people that legal and governmental things hurt us directly and in many ways, and that what they automatically take for granted is denied us, in many ways.

dame: Arguing that people ought to be treated with basic human dignity regardless* is obviously correct. And frankly, it's incredibly sad that I have to argue that to someone who claims to be my ally....

The primary reason why people are arguing with you is because you seem to be more than willing to sell out your allies in places like Tulsa, OK if it will serve your separatist agenda. The argument is not about whether people ought to be treated with human dignity, the argument is that you don't live by your own rules.

That's why the "napalm metaphor" pisses me off to no end: it assumes I want something more than for them to stop treating other people like shit.

Well, I thought the metaphor was obvious. But I'll explain it to you. Napalm is a blunt weapon that hurts everyone in the target area: friends, foes, and bystanders. Many of your statements are rhetorical napalm. In your zeal to attack everyone who lives in the wrong zip code, you don't care who you treat like shit. No, I don't think that you are advocating violence against those who disagree with you. I do think that in trying to make this a regional issue rather than a ideological issue, that you don't care if your attacks harm your allies as well as your enemies.

As I have said in other threads, I don't treat people like shit. I will engage with anyone (given that I'm not just feeling anti-social) regardless of where they are from, what color they are, etc., until they prove to be sucky people. Then I disengage. That's it. And that's all I'm arguing for here: a little disengagement instead of supplication.

Right here, right now, it certainly looks like you are treating people like shit, depending on where they are from. I mean, how the heck are gay rights activists from the red states you dislike supposed to engage with this?
You're right on one thing: I don't support anyone who wants to live in Oklahoma. Living too far from the ocean is unhealthy.

For the last time, my real point is that we shouldn't go around pretending that we aren't morally superior while begging small glimpses of decency. Instead, let's ignore those fuckers for a little bit, and get together and imagine a real complete vision for a future founded on human dignity. Then, lets shout about it awhile and flesh out some full policy proposals. Afterward work on persuading the persuadable.

You know, this seemed almost like a good idea until I remembered something:
About 10 years ago, my best friend tried to off himself by alcohol poisoning because he couldn't tell his family he was queer. You may have the luxury of ignoring the fuckers for a little bit. You may have the luxury to sit and flesh out some full policy proposals. I don't think that gay and lesbian teens and young adults have that luxury. The suicide rate for gay and lesbian teens is just as big a problem as the AIDS crisis in the gay community. It needs action NOW.

We need gay and lesbian activism in every state, community, college and high school in the United States. We need support groups, activist groups, and gay-straight alliances. We need people to demonstrate that being gay is not a bad thing, and to insist loudly that harassment, discrimination and violence is wrong. We need them in places like Sand Springs, Tulsa, Joplin and Casper.

Instead of shooting for the stars and settling for the moon, progressives these days are aiming for the other side of town and settling for the end of the block. Instead of giving their ideas the full force of belief while secretly be willing to compromise, they are giving the full force of their ideas to compromise. What a recipe for ending up with nothing.

You know what. I fully agree with this.

What I don't agree with is with refusing to support groups that are doing this in the places you don't want to live.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:09 PM on November 18, 2004


Face it - your language is just as hateful and vitriolic as Phelps and co.

Bullshit.
Bullshit.
Bullshit.

Not even close.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:18 PM on November 18, 2004


On more reflection:

amberglow: I think that what we have is a problem that we can't agree to agree. I'm having a hard time identifying important differences between our positions.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:29 PM on November 18, 2004


From what I see, and I am obviously biased, the difference is that some of us think there is a point where wasting your energy is counterproductive. Nobody is trying to undermine gay rights groups in the red states, but some of us don't want to waste our time trying to compromise with people who are content to be our enemies.

I see people working in the red states, to try and bring around ignorant people who don't want to change, or even open, their minds. If that's where you want to direct your efforts, fine - best of luck to you. I'd rather take that same energy and use it to make more solid, lasting gains - like laws.

To use a military analogy, laws are like forward bases. You can try to control territory without forward bases, but it will be wasted effort. Laws give you leverage, laws can be weapons to punish bigotry. Without laws, the people you manage to persuade will have no greater effect than in their immediate circle. Every gay rights supporter would have to personally bring around thousands of bigots before you would see any societal effect.

In every successful human rights campaign in history, there has been a similar pattern:
1. Oppressed people begin to rise up.
2. A group of open minded people from the 'majority' join their cause, without much persuasion necessary.
3. This coalition fights violently, or non-violently for changes to the law.
4. The law is changed.
5. The close minded majority is forced to accept the situation, and eventually begins to come around. This phase takes the longest time.

If you try to put step 5 before step 4 you will wait decades, and get nothing for your efforts, because the law will be on the side of the bigots.

Steps 3 and 4 make many people uncomfortable, but that is the whole point. I believe that active disengagement from the central areas of bigotry will also cause discomfort, and therefore will more effectively cause change.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:50 PM on November 18, 2004


Laws give you leverage, laws can be weapons to punish bigotry. Without laws, the people you manage to persuade will have no greater effect than in their immediate circle. Every gay rights supporter would have to personally bring around thousands of bigots before you would see any societal effect.
yup--exactly. and now we're having trouble with 2 (we're more insular and selfish as a society, which might be part of it), and we're doing 3, and trying to continue to do 4, without help anymore from many mainstream GLBT orgs. You're advocating 5, kirk.

kirk, the big difference is that I don't stop there, with coming out and local things--we have to have lawsuits and courts and we have to figure out a way to wake up straight people, and get them on board, and we have to throw our weight around, little as it may be.

And don't think anyone's discounting how hard it is to grow up gay or lesbian--we've been thru it, believe me. I think you don't acknowledge that what i've been talking about will help them too, and is necessary--even more necessary, i would say. There were no support groups or articles about gay teens or openly gay people on tv or gay/straight alliances in schools or even openly gay legislators on any level when i was in high school. I survived but many did not. That's still true, even with the supports in place today, and the greater visibility that we have in the media. Where we haven't gained, tho, is in protecting those kids that will grow up to be you and me as adults, and as fully equal members of society, except in the courts. That's where the focus has to be, for their sake and ours, and for those not even yet born.
posted by amberglow at 8:01 PM on November 18, 2004


we have to figure out a way to wake up straight people

This seems to be the greatest source of disagreement. Some people advocate waking them up by cooking a nice breakfast and letting the smell of ham and eggs waft into the bedroom, while others, like myself, want to use a REALLY, REALLY LOUD alarm clock, and a pail of ice water.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:08 PM on November 18, 2004


i'm with you, bashos. I did think, tho, that all the remarkable, happy, joyous, loving pics out of SF would have helped too--but they didn't translate into anything concrete (at least in those 11 states). I tend to underestimate the power of fear and demonization--something i am (and others too, i believe) rapidly wising up to, post-election.
posted by amberglow at 8:17 PM on November 18, 2004


bashos_frog: From what I see, and I am obviously biased, the difference is that some of us think there is a point where wasting your energy is counterproductive. Nobody is trying to undermine gay rights groups in the red states, but some of us don't want to waste our time trying to compromise with people who are content to be our enemies.

I see people working in the red states, to try and bring around ignorant people who don't want to change, or even open, their minds. If that's where you want to direct your efforts, fine - best of luck to you. I'd rather take that same energy and use it to make more solid, lasting gains - like laws.


I think there are two issues here. First, IME, there are a heck of a lot of people out here who are just open-minded enough to change over time. I think yes, you are correct in that we shouldn't waste our time on people who will resist change. IME the active resisters are a minority. A very vocal and core minority, but still a minority. A much larger number is willing to change.

The second issue is I'm not seeing where the "compromise" comes in. I'm not suggesting any form of compromise other than to make our case in a firm and steadfast but civil manner. I'm not going to accept any less than zero tolerance for harassment and violence in the schools. I think we should be fighting for anti-discrimination laws and marriage.

Meanwhile, gay and lesbians are facing epidemic rates of violence, harassment, suicide, and drug abuse. We need to create support networks everywhere. We need a visible presence everywhere.

To use a military analogy, laws are like forward bases. You can try to control territory without forward bases, but it will be wasted effort. Laws give you leverage, laws can be weapons to punish bigotry. Without laws, the people you manage to persuade will have no greater effect than in their immediate circle. Every gay rights supporter would have to personally bring around thousands of bigots before you would see any societal effect.

How do you get those laws?

You see, there is the big hole I see in this argument. You need political capital to make those laws happen. You need people who are willing to write their congress-critters often about these issues. You need people who are willing to make gay rights an issue in the primaries and in the elections at all levels of government.

This seems to be the greatest source of disagreement. Some people advocate waking them up by cooking a nice breakfast and letting the smell of ham and eggs waft into the bedroom, while others, like myself, want to use a REALLY, REALLY LOUD alarm clock, and a pail of ice water.

In research study after research study on this issue, knowing a person who is gay has proven to be the best alarm clock, and the best vector for changing attitutes. We need out gays in the schools, in the stores, on the chamber of comerce and the pulpit.

amberglow: You're advocating 5, kirk

To quote bashos frog, bullshit. I think when we get down to it, we are advocating the exact same thing.

kirk, the big difference is that I don't stop there, with coming out and local things--we have to have lawsuits and courts and we have to figure out a way to wake up straight people, and get them on board, and we have to throw our weight around, little as it may be.

Woa, woa, WOAH! Where the HECK did you get the idea that I'm stopping at the local battles? Read back what I've been saying. Throughout the entire discussion, I've been saying that yes, we need those lawsuits, and courts, yes, they are essential, yes, they would be a big help.

Where we haven't gained, tho, is in protecting those kids that will grow up to be you and me as adults, and as fully equal members of society, except in the courts. That's where the focus has to be, for their sake and ours, and for those not even yet born.

I'm always worried whenever the "focus" word is brought up, because it is almost always code for, "drop whatever you are doing and follow my agenda.

Again, how does the activism you advocate differ from the activism I advocate?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:50 PM on November 18, 2004


amberglow: And just for the record, here is what I've said about the court battles:

I'm willing to wiggle a bit on the idea that it (pro-gay law) must come first. But I think it definitely must come also.

I'm not saying that Brown didn't matter. I have not, nor have I ever said that court decisions were not an essential part of getting equality. What I am saying is that court decisions are not enough, and I'm not convinced that they are even a start.

I'm suggestiong that we need to work on all fronts. Anti-discrimination laws are good, but bigots can figure out a loophole through most anti-discrimination laws.

Come on here, can we come to a consensus that a pro-gay legal environment is essential? That creating a base of support is essential? That the creation of activist networks all over the United States to fight local battles and provide support for coming out is essential?

Part of the reason why I'm baffled by your insistance on putting the "focus" on law is that I think there are plenty of battles to fight, with more than enough specialization to go around. I know squat about how to persue a court case for gay marriage. I DO know what works to change people's attitudes and to provide support for people coming out. You push the court cases, I'll work on supporting GLBT students, and changing straight students.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:05 PM on November 18, 2004


amberglow:I did think, tho, that all the remarkable, happy, joyous, loving pics out of SF would have helped too

I think this is where the remarks about cities being insular really hit home. You and I thought those pictures were wonderful, happy and joyous - but a large part of the country saw them as immoral, decadent, and disgusting.

kjs:knowing a person who is gay has proven to be the best alarm clock

I agree 100%, but it doesn't scale. There aren't enough gay people and allied straight people for this to happen. (Actually, I believe there are enough in the U.S. as a whole, but there aren't enough in the states where it matters.)

I think there is a large amount of overlap in what everyone is advocating, but a coherent strategy requires more than everybody just making efforts all over the place willy-nilly. It requires focus, for lack of a better word. It is better to seize a small advantage and hold it, than to grab at every opportunity, winning and losing, and in the end achieving nothing.

One reason that the right has done so well is that they have implemented a great strategy, over the last 30 years. They did not try to convert people to their way of thinking, instead they seized undefended school boards, and small town elected positions. Each time they grabbed a little power it was leveraged to grab more. Their election strategy was brilliant: They attacked Kerry's strengths with the Swifties, as a diversion. Simultaneously, they spread hateful propaganda to like-minded people, under the radar, so there would be no opportunity to counter it.

The left needs to learn strategy. That means studying war, which many on the left find distasteful. This is an example of how things must change. The French lost at Agincourt because they lacked a unified command, and they were goaded into an ill-timed attack by Henry V. The effort expended crossing a muddy field contributed to their demise. There is a lot to be learned from just this single battle, and the so-called intellectual elite could get a good start just by reading Shakespeare's account.

My take on a good strategy against the right is this:
1 - cut off the enemy supply lines: economic and cultural disengagement.
2 - establish forward bases: pass laws at any level, no matter how small.
3 - invade: target specific communities and businesses with lawsuits, while also reaching out to the populace. Frame it as an issue of fairness.
4 - conquer: use aggregated political power, and the new laws, to bring down particularly bad officials.
5 - rebuild: be good neighbors and citizens, and work to make the community better. This will change minds.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:46 PM on November 18, 2004


bashos_frog: I agree 100%, but it doesn't scale. There aren't enough gay people and allied straight people for this to happen. (Actually, I believe there are enough in the U.S. as a whole, but there aren't enough in the states where it matters.)

I think you would be amazed at what happens when someone has the courage to start a pflag or gay-straight alliance in a communty where there was not one before. What happens is that gay and supportive people who previously thought they were alone and isolated in their communities discover fellowship and political alliances they didn't know existed.

Part of the problem here is that you are talking is such vague and fuzzy abstracts that it's not exactly obvious what you are advocating for or against. The phrase "willy-nilly" seems to just be either unnecessarily divisive, or ignorant of how activist jujitsu done in communities, congregations, schools and workplaces. In your strategy links, I take a look at that and I think, ok, how is that different from what got us here so far.

Part of the problem here is that you use the "law first" argument in regards to Civil Rights, in a way that promotes a view of history that is just plain wrong. Blacks did not sit around and wait for the law to give them useful tools to fight their oppression, they built their own tools and forced the law to catch up. They created their own educational systems, cinema and media. They created support networks in every community.

And fundamentally what I'm arguing is that we can't depend on courts giving us that big stick. I take a look at the legal environment and I don't think we are going to get equality or marriage through the court system this decade. I will be happy to be proven wrong, but there is an old tactical maxim of "watching your back." Should we push the court cases forward? Yes. Should we reach for gay marriage? Yes. But even if we get that magic court decision. Even when we get that magic court decision. We need support networks in easy reach of every community in the United States.

I think in a large part that you are arguing against a straw-dog idea of "conversion." When I do speakers panels, I'm not saying, "please, please, don't hate me." I'm saying, "I'm an out bisexual man who lives in this community." I'm not offering any compromises, and I say a lot of things that might piss some people off.

1 - cut off the enemy supply lines: economic and cultural disengagement.

What exactly are you suggesting here? I mean, this sounds all nice and abstract, but I have no idea what the specifics look like. It the context of this article, and this discussion, what I fear it means is that we leave gay and lesbian youth in places like Oklahoma out to hang. And I may be a bleeding heart on this issue, but I don't find that to be acceptable.

2 - establish forward bases: pass laws at any level, no matter how small.
3 - invade: target specific communities and businesses with lawsuits, while also reaching out to the populace. Frame it as an issue of fairness.


Well, yeah. But I don't think of forward bases just in terms of laws, but also policy. When schools and employers adopt non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, it does make a difference. It is a wedge in the door.

And again, the whole issue of how do we get laws without some degree of grass-roots political capital is left as a black box.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:16 AM on November 19, 2004


You know, the "disengage and invade" line really bothers me.

Why should GLBT people disengage from communities where they have a large number of emotional, cultural and economic ties?

Why should GLBT people invade communities where they are already members?

I can support pulling up stakes and moving to better pastures as an individual choice. But there are a lot of people who don't really have the choice, or the desire to become natives of NYC or San Francisco.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:43 AM on November 19, 2004


1 - cut off the enemy supply lines: economic and cultural disengagement.

Many people are speaking of economically boycotting those states, like we did in Colorado way back when. Our business and tourism dollars won't go to states that pass such hateful laws that directly damage us. And if we can persuade others, like with Colorado, it'll have an effect.

Others are talking of boycotting "Red" companies that have donated predominantly to the GOP, wherever they're located. Their goods and services would not be purchased, and we already have many like-minded straight people on board for this.

Some are talking of targeting advertisers on right-wing media that has so helped to demonize us--Rush, FOX News, Sinclair, etc--and pulling our patronage, while also rewarding those that don't support those thugs. This is also tied into a larger progressive population of not just us. The Sinclair boycott is being broadened, and we're part of that.
posted by amberglow at 5:05 AM on November 19, 2004


Yes, and the difference is in the content, which is the entire point. I haven't bought the stupid conservative arguing tactic that says, "My anti-Xism is just the same as your anti-Yism." It isn't. Arguing that people ought to be treated with basic human dignity regardless* is obviously correct. And frankly, it's incredibly sad that I have to argue that to someone who claims to be my ally.

It is and it isnt the point. I agree with you. I believe you have the morally superior viewpoint. However, what you are missing is this: you scare/revolt/disturb/disgust them in exactly the same way they scare/revolt/disturb/disgust you. And they know, know, know they have the morally superior position - just like you do. This makes the two poles of the discussion indistinguishable from one another in tone and tenor, and making the gap between them unbridgable. And that does nothing to help your cause.

And this makes most of the people you try to wake up HATE YOU. And, in some cases, KILL YOU. To quote a crusty old senior enlisted guy I knew in the Navy: "If somebody has their head shoved up their ass, then kicking them in the ass only shoves it farther in."
posted by Irontom at 6:18 AM on November 19, 2004


a view of history that is just plain wrong.

Well, the way I see it, from the abolitionist movement forward the pattern has been: struggle -> laws -> progress -> acceptance. The struggles were mainly to get laws passed. Emancipation, voting, education, etc. After 100 years, societal acceptance made it onto the agenda.

You and I may disagree about the nature of that struggle, but I feel it was a lot more than community outreach. It was extreme. It got bloody.

amberglow has got it right about disengaement. What I mean is: don't provide resources to your enemies. If you want to give money/time to a LBGT center, fine. But when it comes to other businesses and institutions, adopt a presumed-guilty stance. Don't patronize red state business until they have proven their support of good values. Don't move there. Don't work there.

I did some work for Callen-Lorde medical center at one point. I would love to see a place like that in a red state, while at the same time I would like to prevent my tax money from paying for other health care expenses. If you voted Bush, you should pay your own medical expenses, and not depend on liberal, blue state money to help you.

I used "invade" as a metaphor - it means go on the offensive. You don't make gains by playing pure defense.

Obviously, the points I made were targeted towards people who are living in blue areas, who want to effect some change in red areas. For people already in the red areas, they are 'behind enemy lines' in a manner of speaking. They can work from the inside to sabotage discriminatory businesses and bigoted practices. They can act as the eyes and ears of a much larger group willing to wage economic war. You probably know of some businesses in your area that deserve my dollars, and some that deserve a boycott. Share the info, and don't be afraid to be called a troublemaker.

irontom: There is an unbridgable gap in many cases. But how does it help my cause to say "Maybe you have a point, maybe I should get AIDS and die," to those people?

Accept that the gap is unbridgable. Accept that the other side won't come around voluntarily. Start thinking about how you can compel them to treat you with respect. Some things have to be done by force. Whether that force is physical, economic, or just the force of righteousness, depends on the situation.

Trying to find common ground with the Germans and Japanese was not an acceptable solution in 1940, and trying to find common ground with the Fred Phelps, Rick Santorums, Michael Savages, and Pat Robertsons today is not an acceptable solution either.

The neo-conservatives have no problem with "might makes right," so why do liberals have such issues with "right makes might?"
posted by bashos_frog at 7:53 AM on November 19, 2004


Trying to find common ground with the Germans and Japanese was not an acceptable solution in 1940, and trying to find common ground with the Fred Phelps, Rick Santorums, Michael Savages, and Pat Robertsons today is not an acceptable solution either.

Well said.
posted by AlexReynolds at 9:44 AM on November 19, 2004


I mean, how the heck are gay rights activists from the red states you dislike supposed to engage with this?
You're right on one thing: I don't support anyone who wants to live in Oklahoma. Living too far from the ocean is unhealthy.


As a joke meant to tweak the well-intentioned nitwit who ignores my actual points in favor of an argument we've had 8000 times before. You know the same one who turns imaginative hyperbole into my animating philosophy.
posted by dame at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2004


bashos: You and I may disagree about the nature of that struggle, but I feel it was a lot more than community outreach. It was extreme. It got bloody.

Well certainly, that is not under debate. My suggestion is that if you look at the actual history of civil rights struggles, you would see that there was a heck of a lot going on in addition to the legal battles that led to Brown. The NAACP for example was also working within unions in the 30s and 40s in addition to within the legal system.

I did some work for Callen-Lorde medical center at one point. I would love to see a place like that in a red state, while at the same time I would like to prevent my tax money from paying for other health care expenses. If you voted Bush, you should pay your own medical expenses, and not depend on liberal, blue state money to help you.

And to me, this just sounds like class warfare. Punish the less fortunate because of the voting habits of their neighbors. Yeah, right. And haven't we beaten to death the fact that the red/blue state is a myth, an artefact of our antiquidated EC?

A big problem I see with this is that the demographic groups that depend on medicare and medicaid are also the groups that supported Kerry in 2004. So when you argue for cutting social services spending based on geography, I'm suspecting that you are going to hurt your allies in those states more than your enemies.

If you really want to target groups that discriminate, I think that the San Francisco model of giving preferential treatment to companies with non-discrimination and domestic partnership policies does what you want, without contributing to what is already a serious problem.

But how does it help my cause to say "Maybe you have a point, maybe I should get AIDS and die," to those people?

I think a key problem in this discussion is a flawed assumption about how common, "those people" are. I don't see anyone arguing that we should find common ground with Phelps, or Robertson. The die-hard bigots should be isolated, ignored and protested.

But I've found that the vast majority of people out here can be nudged to one side or the other. The old model of the Innovative Adpotion Curve is pretty close to what I experience. Ignore the laggards, and continue putting pressure on the late majority. And again, I think that the way you put pressure is by encouraging gays and supportive straights, the equivalent of early adopters, to be out and visible.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2004


The innovation adoption curve postulates a huge chasm between the early adopters and everyone else. The same marketing (or in this case arguments) that work with early adopters are much less likely to work with everyone else. You cannot 'nudge' someone over a chasm.

The large market in that model is pragmatic and conservative, and these people are not going to respond to arguments about what is good and right. They will respond to things that effect their wallet.

And to me, this just sounds like class warfare.
Culture war. Rich and poor don't matter to me. Right and wrong do. There is a growing culture of hate and fear in this country and I see nothing wrong with warring against it. I don't hate those on the other side, but I do fear their effect. I want to marginalize or eliminate that way of thinking, much as anti-Irish or anti-Italian sentiment is marginalized today.

So when you argue for cutting social services spending based on geography, I'm suspecting that you are going to hurt your allies in those states
Well, I am not for cutting services, but for reallocating them. So, by your logic I will be making gains in the cities. There may be innocent people hurt by these policies, but hopefully the pain will be short term, as opposed to long-term suffering under bad policies.

a flawed assumption about how common, "those people" are
Well, I may be wrong, but I have personally met many people whose only difference from Phelps is how they express their views in public. Their beliefs are just as hateful, they just put a better face on them. I could be wrong about my estimation, as could you. Even if I am wrong, though, I think the country could use an example of right thinking people strongly, and unwaveringly, backing up their beliefs with any and all means available to them, except for the instigation of physical violence.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:16 PM on November 19, 2004


bashos: The innovation adoption curve postulates a huge chasm between the early adopters and everyone else. The same marketing (or in this case arguments) that work with early adopters are much less likely to work with everyone else. You cannot 'nudge' someone over a chasm.

Not at all. Seriously, reading some Rogers and the research supporting Rogers on this issue would help a lot. Early majority will jump on if they see momentum. Late majority people will jump on if they see that the sky is not going to fall around them.

Well, I am not for cutting services, but for reallocating them. So, by your logic I will be making gains in the cities. There may be innocent people hurt by these policies, but hopefully the pain will be short term, as opposed to long-term suffering under bad policies.

Um, hello! "Reallocating" social services spending based on the fact that a majority in the area favor a particular political party is a bad policy. Here is a hint. Cutting social services spending is a conservative agenda item. You won't do anything to hurt conservatives, but you will do a lot to hurt your allies. We are not just talking about "innocent people hurt," we are talking about "innocent people die." The very fact that you would play games with the lives of your alies because you don't like the EC votes their state delivered is appalling to me.

There are plenty of ways that one can exercise economic clout that do not put the health and welfare of millions at stake.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:48 PM on November 19, 2004


Buy Blue--spread it around. It's just starting, but there's already a groceries rundown.

More on boycotting Bush-supporting companies here.
posted by amberglow at 11:14 AM on November 20, 2004


"Reallocating" social services spending based on the fact that a majority in the area favor a particular political party is a bad policy.

What about "reallocating" social services spending based on the fact that a majority in the area voted to support a lack of social services spending.

If you want to call the tune, you've got to pay the piper.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:10 PM on November 20, 2004


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