Monday, February 8, 2010

Standing Up For What you Believe In.

More often than I care to these days , while  musing about the status of the struggle for gay rights I ask myself..."Whats Next if it all goes south?" What happens when ballot initiatives ban our ability to marry the ones we love in all but a couple of states? What happens if the Federal Supreme Court rules that upholding those bans is constitutional? What happens if we never see an employment protection act or a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" repeal? What do we do if it all goes to hell in a handbasket and LGBT citizens become official second class citizens with our status as such codified by law?

If you listen to the rumblings of teabaggers (who's name always makes me snicker) then you would be lead to believe that the people of America are headed for eminent revolution. But how real is their saber rattling?...Who knows...but  That brings us the essence of this thread. How far is too far to be pushed? And what will we do if we get to that point? Is it when we are forced to come to the realization that lawmakers are never going to fight for us out of their own good will ...or that theoretical day when police are again regularly raiding gay bars, Handcuffing  us to telephone polls, and printing our pictures in the paper to shame us?

Well...GLBT students at John Carrol University, in Cleveland found their line in the sand. Angered over the schools intentional decision to omit LGBT people from its anti-discrimination policies they decided it was their time to take action:

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Now...Colleges are no strangers to protest rallies. Hell at U.C. Berkeley you get a protest when the wind blows the wrong direction. Also, as sit ins go...this was practically a nap in the shade on a warm summer day. I do however, applaud them for making a stand and for being a thorn in the schools side. Will it be enough to cause the School to rethink its policies? Probably not. It usually takes many events like these and some media coverage before the administrators realize that the issue is not going to go away. But it took guts and you could plainly see that it pissed off the school officials that were trying to convince them to leave. I found myself wishing that some of the watching crowd, or the basketball players had joined them in solidarity.

Is this our only option(besides emmigration) should all legal routes to equality fail?

Civil disobedience itself takes many forms and has a long history in the U.S. I am no history buff, but even I can name severall different examples of what it means to resist an entrenched establishment. Rosa Parks set the example by simply refusing to get out of her seat on the bus. Martin Luther King made a statement with massive marches, rallies, and leading by inspiration. Both of these individuals set the bar for what would become a much wider social change and help create the protest generation of the 60's. Say what you will about flower children...but they were the very face of peacefull protest in everything from the Vietnam war to equal rights for women. They wrote the book. When one see's an image of a burning one mistakes the context of the image. All of these are examples of peacefull forms of resistance.

But there is another side to protest that isn't so peacefull...or passive. Malcom X advocated that African Americans stand up for themselves in any manner that was appropriate...violence included. The very thought of this man makes many teabaggers howl with idignation...when while they allude to the same kinds of actions that he did. Overlooking for a moment  Malcome X's  extremist claims that white people were "white devils", how is espousing self-protection radical?

I DO NOT advocate violence....let me make that clear...I would always chose the peacefull path and encourage others to do so as well until violence was a last resort. But where do we draw that line? If we revert to the days of regular police raids? And sas not Stonewall an act of violent resistance? And what of the "White Night riots"? Most of us regard those moments in history with pride as the beginning of a gay identity that would not be pushed around any more.

A vintage pic of the vigil for Harvey Milk on the night of the White Night Riots:

As you can see, the gay community is no stranger to resistance either. But do we still have it in us today? I hope we find it when we need it.

A moment I will never forget in all my life was the night that it was announced that Prop 8 had passed. Jay and I were so angry we didn't know what to do with that much emotional many of us were. Then we heard about the march down Market Street in San Francisco. Immediately we were in the car and on our way. When we got there, there was a modest crowd collecting downtown. Then we got underway marching down Market toward the Castro. News helicopters circled the skies keeping close watch on us. And cars unable to go anywhere because of the march ..honked in support. ....It didn't settle on me though what was happening until we got to a section of market about halfway to our destination when we could see pretty far up the street in both directions. I kid you not when I say it was a sea of candle lit faces as far as I was able to see....front and back. Our crowd had snowballed to an unimaginable number....I couldn't believe it.

As we turned down the Castro and went up the street about level with the Castro theater, across the street, at the top of a building was a barechested man Waving a giant gay pride over the crowd. It was a stirring moment and I can't think of a better way to end that experience. A couple days later saw a similar event here in my home town. As usual, when both events where broadcast in the news the number of those in attendance was severely downplayed...just like the equality march was glossed over in the news.

Those events served to put the public on notice that we were upset at the events surrounding Prop 8...and rightfull so. We had been wronged. When another protest was announced to meet halfway between L.A. and San Francisco, it was met with some nervous concern in the news. But....then it all stopped. The State Supreme Court took up the trial and all the zeal for protest drained away.

My feeling is...that if legal methods fail to provide equal protection....if the worst case scenarios come to pass, protests like the ones mentioned above need to happen everyday until people get the message that wishing us away won't work. That America belongs to more than just one group of people who feel they are entitled to own all of it. And neither will we go quietly back into the closet. Those days of living in shadows are long passed.


  1. Bryan:
    AMEN -Never, ever be quiet and never, ever go back into the closet!!!!

    With ALL of you in thought, spirit and love.
    Mare - a straight 66 year old wife, mother and grandmother.

  2. OMG!! Bryan!!!! Thanks so much for showing this. John Carroll is in our back yard!!! We have friends who are John Carroll alumni. It is a VERY expensive liberal arts college here in the Cleveland area....
    I wanna be 20 again..I would be on that floor too..hell ya!!!

  3. I'd seen that protest video too and thought wow those kids are so brave. At least right now I would *never* do that (this of course can and probably will change)

    I've always been brought up to be rather peaceful and non-controversial. So I always identified with the MLK/Ghandi style of civil resistance. However, later on my views of ethics changed dramatically in college, and now I respect both the more militant Malcom X style as well as the non-violent/legal forms of protest

    I think what makes the MLK/Ghandi styles of resistance more effective is the existence of more extreme styles like Malcom X's where an indifferent majority can actually appreciate the former. The 2 kind of complement each other by being opposites and the people can sort of appreciate the more legal ways of demanding rights when it's put with a backdrop of how a subjugated minority could be acting

    Long post so making 2 different entries

  4. I think when a marginalized social group should attempt to gain rights through legal, civil, and peaceful means first. However, if the government and/or people fail to take care of the self-interests of all its people in a justifiable and reasonably equitable manner, then that means that group is ethically free to make their voice heard in other ways--even if that means more base approaches. Many bullies don't understand kindness or aren't sway by sympathy or morality. And there's no mistaking that those who are trying to discriminate against homosexuals purely on the basis of their sexuality are just that--bullies

    In the past when I got bullied (not for being gay, just by douchebags), I would try to be nice so as not to offend those individuals and have them stop treating me poorly. I felt if I don't offend that individual, they'd have no reason to be a jackass. Eventually, I learned those people have their own issues (insecurity, positioning, mean-spirtedness, etc.), and I just happen to be a target. Then I started fighting back. And strangely, that was way more effective. Being mean back, cutting them deep, insulting them, giving them the middle finger, etc. were much more effective in gaining their respect and getting them to stop bothering me. Weirdly, in a way I realized I was communicating with them on a level that they understood. Some people actually understand people better through violence, or pain, or anger. When you're being nice or peaceful sometimes they misinterpret that as weakness, being spineless, or just not understanding how much they're hurting you. People walk all over people who don't fight back or stand up for themselves

    I think a diversity of resistances and approaches is best

  5. Hey Bryan just leave! I will marry one of you and Jake will marry the other. Then we can live as a sham for a few years and then viola you can live anywhere in Europe.

    PS I bagsy marrying Jedi.

  6. Noooo, I wrote a comment, Bryan, then had to log on, comment vanished. I will try again. Im gonna watch Malcolm X if I can find, had always wanted to see it but never did. But you bring up important points, is it valid to be more aggressive in the gay movements approach (assuming it is ONE movement lol). When you can get bullies to back of like u3q2v mentions he learned his aggressive approach worked, and when then speaking the same language, they get it. Ive noticed on your youtube channel, approaching homophobic bullies with the similar behaviors to them in my comments to them, it seemed to work better than when being understanding and nice. I dont like to be insulting etc, but I feel it earns more respect for me (gays) and get them to back off. Not sure if Im correct with this analysis though, as I cant check with them. But I do think showing them they cant walk over you, it will garner respect whether they are aware of it or not themselves.
    Im interested to take a look into how Malcolm X did it, I dont know much about him and his approach though but am curious. I do think to a certain extent, that if you can make clear to people that what they do to you is turned back on them (eg when someone insults you and you only say 'that was insulting'-it wont be enough, you actually have to insult them back so they get the feeling is bad/hurt, so they can understand their words hurt) you have better chances of getting the message across.

    Recently a coworker of mine, who is fundamentalist Christian (yep, I hardly encounter them personally in Holland lol), and also very intelligent and likeable person, told me the way she feels about homosexuality is what bible says and I explained to her how her views can damage gay people, she didnt really get it because I tried to use examples and explain to her the offensiveness of her beliefs.
    But then at one point I insulted her and it was *then* she got it. This doesnt mean she may have changed her opinion on homosexuality, but the feeling of insult she will remember and that that is what she does when she says you can be gay but not act on it. I wouldtn say I was aggressive toward her though because I wasnt, but the direct sorta 'payback' approach did work. I like this coworker a lot and the advantage here in Holland is, she cant touch my rights, and I told her so :). Its funny though my muslim coworkers dont have issues with homosexuality, but my christian ones happen to be fundi's lol.
    Anyway, gonna see if I can find Malcolm X and will get back to your topic. x

  7. I need to add, I wasnt going out of my way to insult her, but was trying to find ways that would resonate with her and her getting the meaning of her ideas about homosexuality is quite offensive. At one point I said something that offended her (and I didnt like doing it) and then I said to her it was that feeling that I get when she says you can be gay, but not act on it (That that is her belief, she never said to me she believed I shouldnt act on my being gay directly). She got what I meant. And that was my point.

  8. You know...their are people out their in the world that only respect a show of strength. Kinda like the Klingons of Star Trek. They will never take you seriously until you are able to push them back as hard as they push you. Its the only way to earn their respect.

    The people you really have to watch out for are the ones that are smiling at you and being polite...but you can see the crazy in their eyes.

  9. This

    And strangely enough, without me saying anything about this to my parents, my dad just rented a movie about Malcom X today