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Confessions of a Recovering Activist: Being That Activist

January 26, 2015 By: jaysays Category: Confessions

Trans-Anonymous for Confessions of a Recovering ActivistAs it turns out, I’m not a courageous person.  Perhaps I successfully managed to create an illusion of courage in my attempts to inspire change.  But courage that is merely illusion or which is necessary for self-preservation isn’t the type of courage needed to be an activist.  That courage exists in only the most resilient hearts. My heart wasn’t so resilient.

Are you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy’d satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade, this smooth and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?

– Walt Whitman

Recently, Mason Hsieh published an op-ed on Huffington Post titled, “Is the Gay Community Scaring Away our Straight Allies.”  In that piece Mason discusses going to an LGBT meeting with a straight friend who asks, “In gay dating, who’s the girl?”  He explains that his friend was immediately and “vehemently” told to “check his straight-cis-male privilege” and told he “should be ashamed.”  Clearly, a safe space was not created for Mason’s friend and it’s unlikely such a space would be safe for a newly out LGBT person or one deprived of “urban privilege.”

In the piece, Mason goes on to suggest ways to improve our relationships with our allies.  A few years ago, I may have disagreed with Mason.  I may have been one of the 280+ commenters on his posting taking a hard-nosed stance and refusing to make room for anyone at the table who would not immediately and quickly call-out a microagression.  Instead, now I feel that Mason didn’t go far enough.  That’s not to say any remark that is oppressive should stand unchecked.  But there are undoubtedly ways in which we can address such microagressions, without being threatening and without ad hominem attacks.

And now for the confession: Mason’s article could have been more accurately titled, “Are Activists Scaring Away the Community they Claim they Represent?”

I have undoubtedly been that activist, and I started to scare myself.  It was impossible to comply with the demands of my fellow activists – don’t eat here, don’t shop there, don’t say this, don’t mention that, don’t ask … don’t tell… don’t… don’t… don’t.  And I was one of the people making even more rules, whether intentionally or not.   I began to dislike myself.  I began to dislike others.  I was at an impasse in activism and had tough choices to make.

I flailed about for a while, continuing to pretend I was somehow making a difference, even though I no longer knew the answers to give to those seeking to inspire change.  I became the person I was most horrified of becoming.  I became “that activist.”

It wasn’t until late in my work as an activist that I began to fully appreciate King’s Six Principles of Non-Violence.  I naively believed that living (or attempting to live) those principles could help me focus my work more directly and limit the “rules” to six. I began reflecting on them and discussing them in more depth with fellow activists, many of whom claimed to have adopted the principles for themselves.  One of those principles stuck out more than others as it applied to our internal and external relationships:

Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.  The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

It was then that I went from being “that activist” to feeling more like Mason’s friend must have felt.  I did not feel safe asking questions or discussing my thoughts, opinions, ideas, life experiences or even what I had for breakfast among my activist circles.  Everything, no matter how innocuous it may have seemed, somehow contributed to the oppression of some group or other, but I was so “first world” starved for a damn Starbucks Coffee.  Was my egg free range?  Did Monsato have a hand in genetically modifying my corn muffin?  Often, a quip intended to bring levity to a serious situation, a technique I used for self-preservation, was met with righteous indignation. Any opinion was almost always met with passionate monologues that rarely seemed relevant to the subject matter. I no longer cared to win the friendship and understanding of even those in my own community, so I certainly didn’t care to win the friendship and understanding of the opposition.  Simply put, I was not strong enough to abide by the principles of non-violence and without them, I felt I no longer had a guide.

So there are many things we can learn from Mason’s story and many things to which folks have already taken offense.  Why should we accommodate those who make such assumptions as gender roles in our gatherings?  The answer, I’d argue, is that we should be working to create a beloved community, not prove ourselves “right.”  Otherwise, we become the evil doer.

Human Rights Lesson from the Murder of Trayvon Martin.

March 30, 2012 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Thought of the Gay

While there may be much debate around the circumstances involved in the murder of Trayvon Martin, one thing is now for certain: Racism is still alive and well in the United States.  One has to look no further than comments on news articles relating to the murder or online forums to find such fabulous tidbits as this:

But really, who is surprised? Go ahead and pick an article or forum for yourself and I’m sure you will find similar commentary.

The right-wing majority in this county has been waging war against any non-white, non-christian, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendermale person since the birth of the United States.  Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgender People, Women and more have been wrongfully imprisoned, brutalized and made to fear what will happen if they rock the boat.  In spite of this commonality, those oppressed by the system are entirely failing to unite.

I originally believed this was the result of having been ostracized into our own communities for so long, that joining forces was something else to fear.  Will the Latinos push forward without meWill the “LGB” sell out the “T” againWill Black men stand-up for the ERA?

One anti-human rights organization recognizes that uniting our voices would put a crushing end to their ability to continue to degrade, belittle and intimidate our communities. Recently released Court Documents illustrate that the National Organization for Marriage [NOM] (a voice in opposition to marriage equality), has a TWENTY MILLION DOLLAR plan to make sure the “gays and blacks” remain divided.  According to NOM’s $20 Million Strategy for Victory:

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key democratic constituencies. We aim to find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; to develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; and to provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of the party.

Sadly, even before NOM’s $20 million budget, the plan has been successful.  In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s youngest daughter lit a torch at her father’s tomb to kick off an anti-human rights campaign to prevent marriage equality for LGBT people in 2005.  The purpose was to dehumanize LGBT people so that “human rights” and “civil rights” would not be associated with the apparently “inhuman” gays.  Sound familiar?

I Am Man- Withers

I Am Man - Withers

Of course, Coretta Scott King and many of Dr. King’s children disagree, invoking the teachings of Dr. King to show the need for equality and “tolerance” of LGBT people.

But a similar battle plays out between women, Latino groups and labor unions.  Perhaps the most glaringly obvious division is marked annually with the Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice.  Cesar Chavez was a labor leader and civil rights activist who fought for better working conditions for farm workers.  He, along with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association.  After his death, he became an icon for the Latino community.  While city streets and statewide holidays rightfully celebrate Chavez’s work, Dolores Huerta is all but ignored in spite of her significant contribution.

Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.  You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read.  You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride.  You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. — Cesar Chavez

Currently, a similar wedge exists between Latino Community leaders and the LGBT community.  In fact, the founder of the San Antonio Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, Jaime P. Martinez, is alleged to have provided no assistance in fighting for hate crimes charges against the murderer of his son, Troy Martinez Clattenburg , in spite of his position as a civil rights leader in the Latino Community.

It is not enough for us to claim to support human rights when the rights we purport to support are not across the board.  Gay rights, Transgender Rights, Immigrant Rights, Worker’s Rights, Women’s Rights, etc., should be based solely on our status as human beings.   As Hillary Clinton said in recognition of Human Rights Day:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And with the declaration, it was made clear that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them.

Texas GOP Official Platform Calls for Imprisonment of Homosexuals and Supportive Heterosexuals

June 20, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Discrimination, Featured

Texas GOP calls for imprisonment of homosexualsI’m not a big fan of Democrats right now.  In fact, I’m so upset with their negotiations to be bi-partisan, I actually considered not voting for a single democrat this November and instead voting for an independent or abstaining my vote altogether.  Many LGBT people have made calls for a boycott of the democrats – no money and no votes.  But I live in Texas and that changes things for me.

The Texas GOP has released their “2010 State Republican Party Platform” and its filled with hate and bigotry.  One blogger even likened the platform to being very similar to that of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill – and they are absolutely right!

The anti-gayness of the Republican platform began with their principles.  Principle #6 begins, :

We believe in… Self-sufficient families, founded on the traditional marriage of a natural man and a natural woman.

That principle concurs with roughly 76% of Texas voters (which was the percentage that voted to support an amendment to the Texas Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, or anything even similar to it).

But it gets far more frightening.  Under the bold, uppercase heading, “Strengthening Families, Protecting Life and Promoting Health” the Texas GOP outlines why I should be legislated back into the closet and how they intend to do it:

Family and Defense of Marriage – We support the definition of marriage as a God–ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman, which is the foundational unit of a healthy society, and we oppose the assault on marriage by judicial activists. *** We further call on Congress to pass and the state legislatures to ratify a marriage amendment declaring that marriage in the United States shall consist of and be recognized only as the union of a natural man and a natural woman. Neither the United States nor any state shall recognize or grant to any unmarried person the legal rights or status of a spouse.

You’ll note that the Texas GOP is asking that marriage rights in other states be revoked as well.

Family Values – We affirm that this section is a response to the attacks on traditional family values. These include well  funded, vigorous political and judicial attempts by powerful organizations and branches of the government to force acceptance, affirmation and normalization of homosexual behavior upon school children, parents, educational institutions, businesses, employees, government bodies and religious institutions and charities. These aggressive, intolerant efforts marginalize as bigots anyone who dissents.

You’ll notice that the shoe fits.  They are attempting to legislate me.  They are attempting to deny me fundamental rights they enjoy based upon, as evidenced by this proposal, their belief in an intolerant and uncaring “God.”  Here’s the definition of bigot to make it clear that they are what they claim not to be: “One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.”

Thus, I am a bigot too because I’m intolerant of the belief that I am inferior as a human to the Texas GOP.  I accept and embrace that fact.  The only difference between my bigotry and theirs is that I don’t tell them who they should marry.

But wait, it gets worse and here’s where we start sounding very Ugandan:

Marriage Licenses – We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.

That’s right.  If you are a heterosexual clergy member who decides to perform a marriage ceremony for a same-sex person, you go to prison.  You don’t have to have gay sex anymore to go to prison in Texas (as you did in the past), now you can go just for supporting a life commitment between two people of the same-sex.

The Texas GOP then goes on to ignorantly declare that homosexuality:

  • tears at the fabric of society,
  • contributes to the breakdown of the family unit,
  • leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases, and
  • is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.

But wait, it gets worse… still:

Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle in our public education and policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, refuse to recognize, or grant special privileges including, but not limited to: marriage between persons of the same sex (regardless of state of origin), custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.

They then “demand” that Congress withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy – in other words, because the federal courts said people can’t go to prison for oral sex, Texas Republicans are pissed.  They want people who have oral sex to go to prison.  They are, again bigots, like me.  Only, I don’t want them to go to prison for having vaginal to penis sex.  I couldn’t care less about their missionary position.

I am a Texan, for those that do not know.  I live and work in Texas and have lived in Texas the bulk of my life.  It’s always been “home” to me in spite of the conservative nature of Texas politics.  It has, however, become clear that Texas may soon begin to invade my home, arrest people like me, my friends and my loved ones.  From the tone set by the GOP, they may decide it’s OK to open fire on homosexuals in the street.  There is no stopping this level of hatred.  They aren’t trying to stop us from marrying, they are trying to make us extinct.

So what should I do now? Find a friend in another country and find out that country’s laws regarding political asylum and make arrangements with that friend for when we are forced to flee from the land of the free and the home of the brave?

There is one principle of the Texas GOP that I support:

Americans having the right to be safe in their homes, on their streets, and in their communities, and the unalienable right to defend themselves.

This is my home – and I will use my “unalienable right” to defend it.

Anti-Equality Messiah, Maggie Gallagher, Wants Her Equal Protection and to Eat it Too!

June 17, 2010 By: jaysays Category: Featured, Marriage Equality

National Organization for Marriage - the Anti-Gay NOM NOM NOMAssuming yesterday’s closing arguments are any indication of which way Judge Walker will rule in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Prop 8 case, it looks like an obvious victory for marriage equality advocates.  In a statement on the National Organization for [Heterosexual Only] Marriage’s website the group’s messiah, Maggie Gallagher, seemed to admit this defeat, stating:

Americans have a right to vote for marriage. Ted Olson doesn’t seem to understand the argument, and judging from today’s exchanges neither does Judge Walker. I expect Judge Walker will overrule Prop 8.

But what makes marriage different from other things on which Americans don’t really have the right to vote, like for president in the landmark case, Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000)?  In that case, the Supreme Court negated the recount of votes (cast by Americans) which effectively secured the previously certified win of George W. Bush in Florida and gave him the necessary electoral votes to be President (like it or not).  Why was that ruling “ok” but a ruling to grant civil rights to a suspect class of people that were taken away by voters not “ok?”  I’m sure Attorney Cooper would answer with something about the natural creation of children – as that’s about all he could come up with in the closing arguments for any question posed by Judge Walker.

The real parallel of the two cases is the rationale used by the Supreme Court in determining George W. Bush was the winner.  In its decision, the Court declared, in part, that the method for recounting ballots used in Florida was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states, “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  That clause was included within the Constitution of the United States in an attempt to prevent violations of the well known standard, “all men are created equal.”  The Supreme Court decided that there was no “equal” standard for counting votes in Florida so votes in one county might be counted one way, while votes in another county might be counted another.  This logistical problem was enough to invalidate the right to vote based upon the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution (as least in the Court’s opinion at that time).

In the Prop 8 case, we clearly have a much more blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause than we saw in Bush v. Gore.  There is no hypothetical “it might happen” in the Prop 8 debacle, there is an “it did happen and will continue to happen.”

ENDA: Call to Action NOW

December 06, 2009 By: geekgirl Category: Featured, LGBT Action Alerts

eeocIn 29 states, it’s still legal to fire someone because they’re LGBT; in 38 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgender. ENDA will make it illegal to fire a person based on their sexual orientation or genetic identity (as usual, some restrictions apply). Here is a  Summary of legislation and cosponsors.

ENDA, the Employment Non Discrimination Act, has been delayed by House Committee Chairman Gordon Miller. It is important to take action on this bill immediately. It is so close to passing and will take so little to make it pass.

We recommend that you focus your energy on committee members who can stop the delay.
If you do not know the phone number of a Congressperson, call (202) 224-3121 to reach the main switchboard.
Contact the following Congresspersons as they are believed to have the most influence in moving ENDA forward.

  • House Committee Chairman Gordon Miller 202-225-2095
  • Rep. Lynn Woolsey, CA 202-225-0855
  • Rep. Jared Polis, CO 202-225-2161
  • Rep. Robert Andrews, NJ 202-225-6501
  • Rep. Rush Holt, NJ 202-225-5801
  • Rep. Yvette Clark, NY (use House switchboard number)

What to say? They will ask you if you live in their district. Tell them that you are requesting that bill H.R. 3017 is delayed and you know the representative is on the Committee. Tell them you would like the bill to not be delayed. Be specific, know the bill number and name, be brief and polite.

It doesn’t matter if you are in their district. As committee members, they represent all Americans and have the power to push for ENDA.

The delay was prompted by the desire to do some minor tweaking in the bill. In a conference call today led by Dr. Jillian Weiss, who posts at the Bilerico Project and is a law professor, she said these tweaks are very minor. We cannot delay ENDA. A delay means that it will be bumped behind other legislation.  Worse, as mid-term elections come closer, some members may be afraid to vote for this measure.

This delay can be avoided if three committee members ask that the bill not be delayed.

It won’t hurt to contact other committee members and sponsors of the bill. This bill has 192 sponsors, which is a lot of sponsors, and has 222 House members on board, with another possible 30. It takes only 218 to pass the House. In the Senate, 56 Senators are on board with another possible 9 senators. This legislation can pass. But it has to stop going to the back of the line. The subcommittee members are:

Democrats (13) Republicans (8)
Robert Andrews, NJ Chairman Tom Price, Ranking Member
David Wu, OR (202) 225-0855 John Kline
Phil Hare  25 Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
John F. Tierney MA (202) 225-8020 (978) 531-1669 Peabody Office Joe Wilson
Dennis J. Kucinich OH 202) 225-5871 Brett Guthrie
Marcia Fudge Tom McClintock
Dale E. Kildee Duncan D. Hunter
Carolyn McCarthy David P. Roe
Rush Holt NJ
Joe Sestak
David Loebsack
Yvette Clarke
Joe Courtney

You can also call one of the main sponsors of the bill, Tammy Baldwin, WI (202) 225-2906

People lose their jobs every day.  Full equality now. Not tomorrow. Not some time next year. Not when it is convenient. Do it now.

jaysays.com contributor geekgirlgeekgirl: Jude is a straight woman, a mom and has been married for 32 years to the same wonderful man. She believes in Buddhism and attends the United Church of Christ. She is a molecular biologist, her best friend is a lesbian, and she believes that every human deserves equal rights, respect and a life free from hate, fear and discrimination. The only thing she hates is pickles. Her science blog can be found at LGBT Latest Science.

Restore Equality 2010: When They Fight, They Give Us Hope

November 16, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Headline, LGBT News, Marriage Equality

Restore Equality 2010Perseverance may will pay off in California next year.  Restore Equality 2010 officially launched its petition drive along with a social networking site, today.  The statewide group is a coalition of organizations committed to repealing the unconstitutional Proposition 8 which narrowly passed last November, damaging thousands of families in the state and destroying what could have been the election’s most prized lesson: prejudice and discrimination are a thing of America’s past.

Restore Equality 2010 has not been without critics, including some within the LGBT community.  Many large, well-funded state and national groups have taken the position that a 2010 ballot initiative won’t give organizations and activists enough time to prepare.  However, the passion, enthusiasm and promise of the people behind Restore Equality 2010 remind this blogger that “…there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.” — Harvey Milk

According to Jeffrey Taylor, spokesperson for Restore Equality 2010, “This is the moment activists across our great state have been waiting for. Restore Equality 2010 is thrilled to mobilize in support of SignForEquality.com and Love Honor Cherish’s inspiring and unwavering stand for the immediate restoration of marriage equality in California.”

Proponents of the ballot initiative have until April 12, 2010 to gather approximately 1 million signatures.

Ft. Worth City Council Passes Inclusive Non-Discrimination Policy

November 11, 2009 By: texasman Category: Discrimination, Featured, LGBT News

Ft Worth EqualityThe Fort Worth City Council listened to several hours of comment on the recommendation of the Diversity Council to add transgender language to the city’s non-discrimination policy.

The GLBT community was present with well over a hundred representatives. Many spoke in support of the new change in law, including transgender people, parents of transgender people, gays, lesbians, and even straight allies.

In opposition were several people from the community including several lawyers, conservatives, and Christians. While most contended that they were not hateful of gay people they feared the new ordinance, it’s language, and its affect on the youth of the community.

Finally, after all the public spoke, the council voted to approve the measure in a 6 to 3 vote. The debate was strong on both sides, but the city of Fort Worth voted to protect the rights of transgender people, as well as gender identity and gender expression. Under the new ordinance all public places will have to ensure that they are not discriminating in this manner.

The city will begin to place this in new contracts and is hoping to ensure that those doing business with the city will also protect the rights of the GLBT community.

There are several items that are continuing to be carried forth by the city including, diversity training, education of the public about the law, and working to hire more GLBT people.

MarlinMarlin: You may remember Marlin from an earlier episode of Closet Talk. Since then, he’s been keeping us up to date on the happenings in Ft. Worth after the fateful raid of the Rainbow Lounge. Marlin is a former pulpit minister turned activist.

Closet Talk: Ami and Ruby – Are We Married?

October 30, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Closet Talk, Community Outreach, Featured

Closet TalkAmi and Ruby were married in a ceremony that was not recognized by their state; however, once marriage was allowed in California, and knowing that Proposition 8 was looming, the couple headed south and tied the knot. Now, they are trekking around the country through many states that don’t recognize their marriage with the goal of visiting all states that do (including the District of Columbia).

Ami and ruby shared some stories from the road and it was a great pleasure to have them tell these stories. You can hear what they had to say using the player below:

Yes We Do – Help in WA, ME and MI

October 29, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, iQreport, Thought of the Gay

noon1You’re help is needed now more than ever in the quest for equality.  It’s time we start taking action.  Obama told us “Yes we can,” but first, we have to DO.  I’ve signed up to help in Washington already, and moments after posting, I’ll be heading over to sign up to help in Maine.  But one person isn’t enough.  Send everyone you know the following information, courtesy of Equality Texas and fight along with me for equality for ALL!


Washington:

Who we are: Approve Referendum 71 is the campaign to preserve domestic partnerships in Washington State. By voting to approve, voters retain the domestic partnership laws that were passed during this year’s legislative session, including using sick leave to care for a partner, adoption rights, insurance rights, and more.

What we need: We need phone bankers to get our supporters out to vote. Washington is an all mail-in ballot state, and we need to ensure our supporters put their ballots in the mail. Also, youth turnout is a critical component of our campaign, and youth turnout historically drops in off-year elections. So we need a lot of help to turn them out.

How you do it: Sign up here to make remote calls for Approve 71. We’ll then contact you for a training, and you can make GOTV calls.


Maine:

Who we are: The No On 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign is working to protect Maine’s recently-passed law legalizing marriage equality for same-sex couples. Our opponents have put the issue on the ballot for Nov 3, 2009. Because of Maine’s early voting election laws, people are already voting at the polls, so we need help immediately to turn out our side at the polls.

What we need: We need you to devote a few hours to Call for Equality. Call for Equality is a virtual phonebank set up so that you can call Maine voters wherever you are. Much of Maine is rural, where canvassing isn’t effective, so we need to reach these voters- along with other supporters- by phone. All you need is a phone and internet connection. No experience required! We’ll provide the training, and all you need is a a few hours to help get a win in Maine.

How you do it: Click here to sign up for a training and your shift. There are lots of times available for your convenience.


Kalamazoo, MI:

Who We Are: The Yes on Ordinance 1856 / One Kalamazoo campaign is working in Michigan to support the City Commission of Kalamazoo’s twice approved ordinance for housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for gay and transgender residents. Opponents forced a public referendum on the ordinance so dedicated local volunteers, led by former Stonewall Democrats Executive Director Jon Hoadley, are working to ensure voters say YES to fairness and equality and keep Ordinance 1856.

Why The Urgency: In the final weeks, the opposition has gone all out with aggressive disinformation and misleading red herrings to try to defeat the ordinance. This includes signs that say “No to Discrimination” (even though voting No actually supports continued discrimination of GLBT residents), transphobic door hangers and fliers, and now radio ads that falsely suggest that criminal behavior will become legal when this simply isn’t true. The Yes on Ordinance 1856 supporters are better organized but many voters who want to vote for gay and transgender people are getting confused by the opposition.

How To Help:

1) Help the One Kalamazoo campaign raise a final $10,000 specifically dedicated to fight back against the lies on the local TV and radio airwaves and fully fund the campaign’s final field and GOTV efforts. Give by clicking here.

2) If you live nearby and can physically volunteer in Kalamazoo sign up here. If you know anyone that lives in Kalamazoo, use the One Kalamazoo campaign’s online canvass tool to remind those voters that they need to vote on November 3rd and vote YES on Ordinance 1856 to support equality for gay and transgender people. Click here to contact voters

LGBT Heroes Project: Laura Gentle and the Atlanta Eagle Raid

October 28, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Featured, LGBT Heroes Project

Laura GentleLaura Gentle was the first straight Co-President in Lambda’s some 35-year history and was also heavily involved in women’s rights as the founder of the University of West Georgia’s first feminist organization that fostered straight, lesbian and bi-sexual feminist ideology.

After moving to Midtown, she lent support to many LGBT and civil rights organizations, including: the Stonewall Democrats, Georgia Equality, AID Atlanta and YouthPride through  financial contributions and volunteering.

Later, she took a step back from her activism work, but after the Eagle bar was raided by Atlanta police and over 60 patrons were detained without cause, she went back to work and helped organize many protests and community events to fight back against such discrimination.  She states:

I felt I needed to stand up as an ally to draw the straight community into this issue as I feel it effects everyone who loves Midtown and doesn’t want it change for the worse.

But Laura Gentle’s work hasn’t been without consequence, including controversy from the very community she is attempting to help.  Jeff Schade, a Georgia resident who has worked closely with Ms. Gentle since the Eagle raid, has written the following about his experiences with Laura.  I’m sure you will see, as I have, that she truly embodies the purpose and spirit of the LGBT Heroes Project:

Laura Gentle. That name has become suddenly synonymous with conflict. A name that often stirs up a love or hate reaction. Here, in Atlanta, in our already fractured LGBT community, Ms. Gentle has become a lightning rod of controversy for her staunch commitment to LGBT activism while being, as she will say “a heterosexual ally”. Some, who generally know little about her or her motives, rightly view Ms. Gentle as an outsider. They view her as a threat to their perfectly fostered “activism”, the old-style politics that has existed since the Act-Up days, since Stonewall. Her radical approaches to community organizing represent a threat not only to them, but to their tightly controlled views on what is and what is not an appropriate action. After all, what could a twenty-something straight girl know about equality? What could Laura Gentle, the heterosexual, possibly understand about Stonewall, AIDS, and the LGBT community?

Ms. Gentle will tell you of her days in Lambda Legal, when she marched for LGBT equality. She will tell you of the times that she was yelled at, called vile names, and made to be target practice for the football team. She will tell you these stories, and often times you can see that so many years later it is still difficult for her. Those experiences, the realness, despite the fact that she was marching for a cause to which she did not belong, it was a cause for which she did (and still does) strongly identify. As she has recounted this story to me, I can look in her eyes and see a passion that overtakes her already fiery personality.

This passion pervades every interaction I have had with Ms. Gentle. While I knew “of” her and “of” her work previously, I first became involved in her following the raid by the Atlanta Police Department on the Atlanta Eagle (a local leather bar). Ms. Gentle and I along with several others organized a series of community rallies and meetings in order to keep the LGBT community informed, and put pressure on the police department to answer to their actions. Even as she has had to answer questions as to her motives, and faced accusations as to her status as an outsider, Laura has pressed on. For someone with little to gain in this fight, that passion has continuously amazed me.

I have always said that until every person, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, is seen as equal, then I will continue to fight. I see that same drive when I look at Ms. Gentle and it inspires me. I know there have been times I’ve contemplated giving up and just going back to my quiet life, but in the short time I’ve known her, Laura has made it pretty clear that I won’t ever be able to do that.

JeffSchadeAfter receiving a nomination for Ms. Gentle as an LGBT Hero, I began researching her work in Atlanta and stumbled upon a facebook note written by guest blogger, Jeff Schade.  He outlined why he supports Laura’s work in spite of all the controversy surrounding her. I asked that he provide the above for a first person perspective and he graciously agreed.  Thank you Jeff for helping recognize our LGBT Heroes.