Friday, September 28, 2012

Never Hide...What Four Years of YouTube and Fighting Prop 8 Has Taught Us

"Hello YouTube!".....thats a phrase has been uttered by my family about 345 times over four years. That is exactly how long we have been doing YouTube videos and here we are nearly four years, on the cusp of what could be a landmark Supreme Court decision regarding Prop 8...and we are still making videos. I remember being so angry during the Prop 8 campaign as commercial after commercial on TV told blatant lies about my family and my life. I couldn't believe that stuff like that was even allowed to air on television. The more I saw, the more the polls would teeter on a knifes edge and all we could do was watch as others endlessly talked about my family and my personal rights as if they were things....not the lives of real human beings seeking the same happiness as anyone else.

As those who opposed marriage equality continued to lie and fear monger, I kept hoping and waiting for the commercials to air that would set the record straight. Were were the guys who were going to call out the liars? Where was the compassion, empathy...or better yet, the truth? As our side showed living room conversations with the parents of gay people...and straight celebrities...the question ultimately became, why are they not showing us, as gay people, telling our own stories? Those commercials never came. It was our anger, and frustration with that that led us to one poorly filmed video over a dinner of chicken nuggets that has launched us onto this journey of trying to show what a gay family is...and is not.

I'd like to say that four years later, our side has taken a few notes from the failures of the Prop 8 campaign, but sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case as pro equality organisations are repeating the mistakes of the past for fear of offending people.

 But I think Britney can say it better than me. Take it away girl....

In an article from the Associate Press, author Patrick Condon discusses the strategy of marriage equality groups to place gay people and same-sex families in the background as they continue to poor large amounts of money into TV ads and media sources that largely feature straight people talking about us...or at least the issue of gay marriage as an abstract concept. And as he also notes...this previously attempted tactic has not gone unnoticed by the gay community, who is starting to wonder what the heck is going on. After all, some of the money that is making these ads possible is coming from our wallets too.

To my recollection, the "No on 8" campaign never really said why they declined to show gay people or gay families with kids, it was always kind of understood that they felt that showing us would push away a segment of the population they felt they desperately needed to reach in order to tip teetering poll numbers into a win...but for whom our images  may have been too much for them to accept. A bit of flawed reasoning for sure...but also one that appears to be playing out again:

...But even as gay people and same-sex relationships gain acceptance through pop culture staples such as "Modern Family" and "Glee," the idea is still seen as dicey by media strategists involved in the ballot campaigns, resulting in ads that usually involve only straight people talking about the issue....

And in the words of one of these media strategists, the reason why is because they fear that we are still "too icky" for some....

..."The moderate tough guys we need to flip to win a couple of these races are still the ones who say that gays are gross," said Andy Szekeres, a Denver-based fundraising consultant who has worked on several state campaigns and had access to focus group data. "Pushing people to an uncomfortable place, it's something you can't do in a TV ad," said Szekeres, who is gay.

O.K....I am not a media strategist but I have a few choice words for Mr. Szekers and anyone who believes this tripe. This reasoning infuriates me and it makes no sense.... if the mere act of seeing a gay person on television is too much for this in the hell are they ever going to be inclined to vote for our rights?!  If their constitution...or "values" as we refer to it can not stand to see a gay person...or go the further step of listening to their story and getting to know is that person going to be less offended by us in the voting booth? It just doesn't follow. While on the one hand, the testimonies of straight allies do go a very long way in helping those on the fence see this issue in a different light,  omitting gay people from ads...and by also not refuting outright lies told against us...we are sending the message that we have something to be ashamed of....and who's likely to vote for that?

The same guys who think that "gay is gross" also tend to be people that prefer talking to someone who has a firm handshake, and look them squarely in the eye, and just tell it the way it is. If we can't do the verbal equivalent of that, then we are sending the message that maybe we do have something to hide or be ashamed of...maybe they really are icky. And any person who still hold to those views in spite of us meeting them face to face?....we were never likely to reach those people anyway. Those are not those people for whom the issue is undecided.

The main tool anti-equality groups have ever had has been fear. They use the fear that we are an immoral force bent on unraveling the bonds of family and country. They use fear bred by ignorance of us as human beings with equal values, hopes, and dreams. The only way to fight that fear is by erasing the ignorance of who gay people really are and what our lives really are really like. Pushing us to the background for fear of offending people does not offer them the opportunity to make that leap in understanding and any gain we make at the ballot box will be temporary at best.

If you are a gay person living in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, or Washington your pro marriage equality org and let them know that you are not something to be ashamed of. Let them know that they are not going to win the battle by hiding those for whom it is fought. Or as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out is quoted, "If we don't show ourselves, people aren't going to get comfortable with who we are."

Look dear readers....we know whats coming from the other side. We have seen this play out often enough that the strategies in the anti-equality playbook are well known. "gays are redefining marriage in a way that we can't quite explain harms marriage is going to force churches to marry and accept gays....and the big one.....Gay marriage is going to force your kids to have to learn about homosexuality and gay marriage in school."  All of this is complete bullsh*t with no ground in fact...or any evidence in states that have already adopted full marriage equality. but the other side doesn't have any other least not any that build the sense of fear that these do. It is these self-same lies that encourage our neighbors to think of us as some sort of invading marauder instead of a human being asking to be treated fairly under the law. Don't believe it? Don't just take my word for it then...

Gay marriage opponents, who also have well-funded campaigns in the four states, plan to begin airing ads soon. In recent interviews, an organizer said the key message is aimed at parents, suggesting legal recognition could result in their kids being told in school and in society that it's OK to be gay.

In light of how we know these initiatives play out, and how they have historically ended...does it make sense to keep repeating the failed strategy of hiding the gay couples who want to marry...or the gay families for whom marriage laws will most effect, because it might scare off a potential voter? I don't believe so. That kind of thinking has already failed and it's time to stop coddling people and state treating them like grown ups who can handle the truth. Unless of course, your these guys...

Gay activists who have worked on the marketing campaigns say that in this battle for public opinion, it's better for gays to stay in the background. 

"The simple truth is that we are trying to win over the people that are not yet with us," said Matt McTighe, campaign manager of Mainers United for Marriage, which is pushing the ballot measure to legalize gay marriage in that state. "I'm a gay man, and the general rule of thumb for me is that an ad that meets my emotional needs is not necessarily the thing that's going to change a typical voter's mind about gay or lesbian people."

This is not about the emotional satisfaction of any gay person watching a potential ad....this is about showing the truth and not sending the message that there is something wrong with us while simultaneously asking that person to vote for our rights. If those people are "not yet with us" then I don't know how they think they are going to be "with us" with out having any idea that we are their firefighters, city councilmen, plumbers, next door neighbors, or the cashier who checked them out at the supermarket. How are they going to understand that gay life is not any more sex driven than straight life is if we don't allow them to see that for themselves? That is not an issue of meeting my emotional needs...that is an issue of building a foundation for acceptance that is built upon truth and real understanding...not he said, she said.

Our family has been putting ourselves on YouTube for four years now to counter this very kind thinking and even if the Supreme Court kicks back the Prop 8 case and California see's marriage equality again, we are going to keep doing what we do because attitudes like these prove that it's still needed. When we started making videos we had hoped to encourage others to do the same because our stories need to be told. WE are the people who these laws will effect...and WE are the people being talked about in our culture as if we are not even in the room. It is us who must stand up and tell those stories....and it is also us who must tell the people responsible for reaching out to a greater community that hiding who are is not only not's not going to work.

Being that kind of transparent is not easy....nor is it always safe. We get that. But with that understanding comes the reality that this is the only way that people are going to stop seeing us as weird perverts or "radical activists". Making that happen doesn't mean living in a glass box, it can be as simple as talking to the people in your life and letting them be able to see the issue, and all the commercials and talking points they will be bombarded with, through the lens of knowing you. That...makes real change.

To know more about the upcoming ballot initiatives...check out and.....

P.S....heres what a good marriage equality ad looks like marketing people...

Until next time dear readers....


  1. I saw The Right to Love today and just wanted to tell you how profoundly moving I found your story to be. I feel so privileged to have gotten this glimpse of your family. Thank you.

  2. By now, many of you know me well. And one thing you know about me is that there are few things in this world that give me more pleasure than sticking it to a homophobic bigot. At one time I posted a mini screenplay when I was being funny. The following is the set and the script to a new pro marriage equality ad for use in this election season. You want an ad that doesn’t cater to the tender sensibilities of straight voters? You’re in for a real treat here…. The following ad is inspired by the style used in anti-drug PSA’s. “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Fasten your seatbelts. The following imagery WILL be powerful.

    This commercial is animated, and it begins as follows:

    “This is a family with a gay son.”
    (Graphic shows a straight mom and dad who are and look to be in their mid-50’s, and 3 children. A son, age 30, a daughter, age 27, and another son, age 25. The family members are standing right next to each other in a row. The familial labels and ages are posted under the graphic of each person. The children are arranged in correct order of birth, with the oldest on the left and progressively younger spanning to the right.)

    “This is their gay son.”
    (The word gay then appears underneath the “son” and age “25” labels for the sibling farthest to the right. As the casting director, I have exclusive creative control over these characters! The gay son will NOT be played either by a fem or twink, because bigots think of them first when they think “gay.” The gay son will have a very masculine look and will have a mustache and beard and have a rather burly look to him.)

    “The gay son has a partner, who he loves very much and wants to join their lives together in marriage.”
    (A graphic of the gay son’s partner appears, who also is bearded and very masculine. The partner is standing close to the gay son on his right.)

    “This family loves their gay son’s partner very much.”
    (The family graphic changes to them standing on both sides of that partner. The mother and father are immediately to that partner’s side and each have an arm around him.)

    “This is the upcoming November election.” (Entirely new graphic showing a calendar with a big “X” on election day this November.)

    “These are knives.”
    (Pictures of two large chopping knives, each bearing in clearly legible script “VOTE FOR ROMNEY”)

    “This is what happens to that family’s gay son and his partner when they vote Republican this November. Any questions?”
    (New graphic: the gay son and the partner are facing each other with their sides facing us. They are looking directly into each other’s eyes. They are holding both of each other hands as though exchanging marital vows and they each have those same kitchen chopping knives bearing “VOTE FOR ROMNEY” wedged in their backs. Those words are still easily visible.)

    This act portrays a vote for Romney and other national Republicans as the shameful act it truly is when you have gay family members, friends or other loved ones who you know stand to be harmed if the Republicans win the White House and greater control in the House and Senate.

    1. This same ad can be adopted to any anti-equality vote for whichever State Constitutional Amendment. Just change the wording appearing on the knives and the last line of dialogue: This is what happens to that gay family's son and his partner when they vote the wrong way.

  3. I'll tell you why they're running 'straight' people. It's identity politics. They think they can sway more people with that than by putting up a loving gay couple with kids.

    It's ridiculous I know. But you guys are doing a good job on YouTube dispelling the myths about gay parenthood.

  4. This reminds me of things I've thought about for awhile now, and that comes up again every election year.
    There are two kinds of political campaigns.
    There is the kind that most Americans are used to. Treat the voters like a bunch of children, kiss their asses, lie to them, tell them what they WANT to hear. Tell them that America is the "GREATEST" country on Earth, that things are basically fine, that our problems are small, tell them that it's smooth sailing from here on in.
    The second kind we're not so used to, because it takes GUTS.
    Treat the voters like people with brains. Tell the TRUTH. Tell them what they NEED to hear. Tell them that America could be a great country. But first we have HUGE problems to solve and things are probably going to get worse before they get better. It's an EDUCATIONAL kind of campaign. It's an activist's kind of campaign.
    The way to win, as some good campaign strategists realize, is to motivate and mobilize your BASE, your HARDCORE supporters. They in turn are inspired to go out to convince the periphery, the fence-sitters. After all, in our system we don't need a majority (though the majority is pro-equality), we only need a majority of the people who actually bother to vote.

  5. You are so correct Bryan. The winning key to this whole culture war is just to be out honest and open. Unfortunately so many of us are still trembling in fear in the closet. We have said this before but if every LGBT person turned pink for one day the whole "war" would be over.. Our fellow citizens would see coworkers, relatives friends and neighbors. The lies that the haters who paint us all as the "boogeymen" or "child molesters" would be exposed..
    I can't tell you how many people have come up to my partner Dave and I and have said.."thanks for being really have made me think!" We have to change minds and hearts even if it is one person at a time...

    1. Speaking of changing minds, Jay’s “Obama I’ve Got Your Back” video where he explained why he was changing from Independent to Democrat inspired me to do the same today and I voted early today, for Obama of course and, wherever there was an opportunity on the ballot to drop a bomb on a Republican head, I never missed an opportunity to drop that bomb. The only way to surpass a Republican’s capacity to hate and oppress is to be an Islamic terrorist. I’d encourage any of you reading here to help yourself to the backstabbing imagery of my PSA above and drive home to your family members and straight friends what vile, loathsome creatures most Republicans at national levels of power are and if those people in your life vote for those homophobic, bigoted maggots, they might as well have stabbed YOU in YOUR back. Voting for them now is as reprehensible as voting to continue slavery.

    2. So agreed Dave! The Republican party has morphed into something REALLY ugly. I feel bad because my Dad was a big Republican but the party was sooo different back then. They have embraced social issues from the 60's and the crazy Tea Party... After the election they need to "punt back and think" You cannot cross off so many voter blocks..women..Hispanics..gays..African Americans..and expect to win.. (OOps..I forgot Ohioans..Mitt wanted GM to fold?) Dave and I would be living in a hovel if that had happened here... Let's see...

  6. You guys are so right, the lack of actual gay people making the case for marriage equality in Washington United For Marriages ads is not something that has escaped and it is something that I am less then pleased about, especially since we need to put a face on this issue of who it affects. I also am annoyed by the fact that they are not betting the anti equality crowed to the punch by pre-countering their "protect the children" fear tactics.(and put them on the difenceiv) Heck the main strategist behind this flat out admitted to a Seattle times reporter that they can expect to see such adds!!

  7. i have a bunch of stuff running through my head and my not ex has me kind of ambivalent, plus a promotion and the screening and the trying for some semblance of a life outside work (that is about life not just sticking a hole), i dont deal with change well, still apparently. damn, i thought that was the crazy-suicidal-there-is-only-darkness talking, so i dont really have the words to respond to bryans blog right now, i love it and am in full agreement though.

    i did want to respond to the commercial, marketing is a strong suit. i am totally blown away, its amazing! also the guy is a sin. i am sending that to my campus peeps.

    1. Drago,

      Is this the first time you've seen this commercial? It's been out several months now, and many Gay news/blog sites, such as, have carried it.

      And what's this about a "not-ex"? Surely you're not talking about Ant, are you? We'll need to talk privately about what that's all about.

    2. I have great medical news. The biopsy to chest lymph nodes are negative of any cancer, so that suggests I can go ahead with the sinus surgery and be thinking in terms of a cure after all.

    3. So happy to hear Dave...Now lets power on and kick this cancer in the ass

    4. Thanks Bryan.

      You and others on my so-called “Notify List” have just been set an email as to a new surgery date for me. For everyone else, “Get That F***ing Thing Outta My Head Day” will be held Thursday, October 11th. Notify List people will get news of the outcome that day privately and Steeldrago will be posting that same news here.


    5. as you know yes i was talking about ant. its a bit of a clusterfuck and im genuinely tired of this crazy train. he and chard both saved my life, repeatedly and ant gave me back my self so i will always love them but i dont see any other option right now than to walk away. its not like they had not made that decision themselves in regards to me. theyve had a rough year but i have always believed that when times are tough you cling to family. i considered them a part of my family but their actions stated that they did not consider me a part of theirs. and thats ok too i spose.

  8. I can't find an email address, so I will just leave this message in the comments. I though you and/or your readers would be interested in this open letter that certainly concerns a lot of gay couples:


  9. Here is an example of a campaign commercial that might meet with your approval. It's made by "New Left Media" for The Four campaign.

    what do folks think about it? Don't tell me comment and rate the video.

  10. great post, and well said.