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What I’ve Learned Thus Far – The Nationwide DOMA Protest (cont.)

January 12, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Community Outreach, LGBT Action Alerts

After my last  post describing my adventures in downtown San Antonio while attempting to gather signatures to the Open Letter to Obama, I took to the streets again.  It was about 10:30 p.m. when I, along with three others, pulled into the parking lot near a local gay bar.  The crowds were coming at full force and we could have used several more people to try to obtain everyone’s signatures.  It was windy and cold, but our reception was warm and tender… for the most part.

We split into two groups of two people, each with pads of signature pages, the letter and pens.  As people walked toward the clubs, we would stop them and ask for their support.  Many were anxious to get inside into a warmer climate, but those that took time to hear us out were grateful for our involvement and some offered their stories.  One kindly gentleman took a look at the letter and advised me that it hit very close to home for him as he had lost his job due to his sexual orientation.  He told me about his lawsuit and how difficult it was for him.  We discussed the Tennessee man who was recently fired for his sexual orientation as well.  I learned that, in spite of my very comfortable and supportive employment, I wasn’t immune from the reality of sexual orientation discrimination in my own employment.  After our conversation, he thanked me for what I was doing.  It was a very touching experience and I learned that in my zeal to make a difference, I must not forget compassion.

I then spoke with two ladies who were members of our military and serving under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (“DADT”).  We discussed the policy and the efforts to revoke it – and the likelihood that the Obama Administration will do away with the discriminatory policy [at 4:15].  I then inquired as to the murmurs I’ve heard from other military personnel that DADT protects LGBT soldiers from discrimination and aggressive acts by other members of the military.  They were stunned by the representation and completely disagreed with the argument.  They did state, in summary, that lower ranking military members may feel that way, but the truth of the matter was that the DADT was not a protection but a discriminatory policy.  I learned that we must continue to work to repeal DADT and hold the Administration accountable should it remain in effect.

Many LGBT people have made several comments that the African American community is not supportive of LGBT rights and issues.  While working the streets downtown, we approached three African American ladies in a group.  They had a small child with them.  They listened to us and reviewed the letter.  As one of them read the letter, she saw the portion which requested that DOMA be repealed and said, “That’s what I wanted to see.”  She grabbed the pen, pointed it out to her friends and they all anxiously signed the letter. Overall, the “group” that was seemingly the most responsive and most interested in the issue was the African American population.  Not one African American we approached refused to sign the petition.  One of the ladies was wearing a shirt that said, “All we need is love.”  That is what I learned from them.

I noticed that many of the younger people had no interest in signing the petition, even young LGBT people at the clubs.  Most were in too big of a hurry to meet up with their friends inside or stated things such as “I’m not political”.  The older generation (late 20’s and above) seemed much more receptive and had many stories to tell about things that have happened to them.  I learned that, until it happens to you, you probably won’t care too much about it.  I also learned that I miss the ignorant bliss of youth.

Many of the LGBT people I spoke with had never heard of DOMA and required a bit of a history lesson on the subject.  I learned from them that we have a lot of educating to do of our own community.

Some of the more trivial things I learned were: that when it is cold outside, you should wear gloves even if you don’t think you need them; when people have to “pee” you shouldn’t ask them to sign a petition, even though you have no access to a restroom and have had to go for over an hour; that you can never have too many pens; and that people wear too much cologne to the clubs.

Perhaps the most defining thing I learned was that I am s till frightened.  I thought I had overcome my fear of reactionary people and what they may do to me as a gay man, but instead of being the strong, self-assured person I thought I was, I was shaking inside everytime I approached a heterosexual couple and asked them to support LGBT equality.  In that I learned that I was “heterophobic” by the strictist definition.

How I Scare Lesbians – The Nationwide DOMA Protest

January 10, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Community Outreach, LGBT Action Alerts

The National DOMA Protest was conducted today.  I made it to the rally point and met up with the handful of people that showed up.  With letters in hand we took to the streets of San Antonio and began asking for signatures.

After approaching many presumably heterosexual people and a few people who declared their homosexuality, I noticed a lesbian couple (complete with hand holding) and approached them and asked whether or not they would sign the petition to support gay rights and repeal DOMA.  I was flabbergasted when they told me firmly, “no.”  I was so flabbergasted that I didn’t even say my typical, “thank you anyway, have a beautiful day” or any other nicety.  I just stood their – staring blankly.  Two of the people obtaining signatures with me were standing nearby.  I turned and saw their puzzled looks as well.

The night before, I took to the streets handing out fliers near the local “gay” district.  As I approached a group of presumably lesbian women in front of a local gay bar, I attempted to disarm them with a big smile, a pink piece of paper, the lesbian friend nearby and a huge “Hi!”  They scattered.  I turned to one and said, “Would you like to participate in the DOMA protest tomorrow to support gay rights?”  She rolled her eyes at me and said, “no… thank you,” in what was likely the most condescending tone anyone has ever spoken to me in.  The one remaining woman was likely humoring me with her “interest.”  Ultimately, it became clear she had no intention of attending.

But, not all was lost.  An adorable couple and their little girl (roughly 5 or 6 years old) stopped to sign the letter and talk with us.  While her parents were reviewing the letter, the little girl was asking all sorts of questions to her parents about what we were doing.  She was trying to read the letter her mother was holding and said, “Is that so gay people can get married?”  Her mother responded with a yes and the little girl says, “FINALLY!”  My heart glowed with joy.

In a conversation with another couple (also adorable) I began my speech about the first section of DOMA and how it violates Article IV Sec. I of the U.S. Constitution and that even its author, Bill Barr, supports its repeal.  After talking for several a couple of minutes, the young lady looks at me and says, “Can you dumb this down a bit?”  We shared a laugh and I advised its generally in support of “gay marriage” and hate crimes legislation.  Her husband (or boyfriend) said, “If I sign this does it mean I have to marry someone of the same sex.”  I quickly advised him, “No.  But if your interested I do know some people.”

Over all, the experience was positive – for me, it was an excercise in confidence.  Each time I approached someone I was essentially coming out of the closet all over again.  The most negative response received that I’m aware of was “God doesn’t like homosexuals.”  I wasn’t there at the time, but I’m sure I would have simply asked, “Does God like chocolate?”  Just to find out if they knew the answer.

Giving Up Hope for a Gay Tomorrow

December 31, 2008 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay

Staying motivated is often the most difficult thing when it comes to LGBT activism and human rights generally.  The odds are against us, yet we cannot lose.  Losing is not an option in this battle because every time those that propagate hatred against us are victorious, they gain power.  We may loss battles, but we cannot lose the war.  Why?  Our lives are at stake.  This is not an issue of marriage, it is not an issue of Due Process or Separate But Equal clauses.  We have our lives to lose and I believe that my life, and the life of those around me, is worth fighting for.

Yesterday, my hope and motivation faltered.  Sometimes, even I lose focus and wander into the land of despair.  I start to have terrible thoughts like “we’re going to lose” or “where is everyone else.”  I start to feel alone, tired and scared.  Especially when the very leadership I call upon doesn’t respond.

Yesterday, you likely heard a loud thud noise.  My hopes and dreams of equality slammed to the ground while I browsed local HRC websites in South Texas looking for information on the National DOMA protest for January 10th. I checked every local LGBT organization I could think of – all of their websites – NOTHING.  I emailed San Antonio’s HRC over two weeks ago.  No response.  I contacted the “organizer” in one city (two weeks ago) offering to volunteer – no response.  I contacted her again thinking she’s likely busy and missed the email, no response.  I also checked Austin’s Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce website which has a calendar of LGBT events – January 10th, nothing listed.  I checked San Antonio’s Gay and Lesbian Community Center’s website – not listed.  I emailed San Antonio’s Gay and Lesbian Community Center, the email was returned undeliverable.  We are relying on these local organizations to lead us – but perhaps it is time that we learn to lead ourselves and to play by our rules.

I was devastated.  I looked inward for the answers to the questions that are already starting to roll out into the blogospheres “when, where, how is the DOMA Protest going to work when there is so little information available?”  Today, I spoke with a dear friend who I haven’t spoken with in a couple of weeks and she reminded me of the importance of human rights and human dignity.  She reminded me that being tired or frustrated is fine, but that if I give up, I lose.

So, as we ring in the new year, I challenge each of my readers to download the letter to Obama and the signature pages [link].  Start obtaining signatures today!  Don’t wait for January 10th. Send it to your friends, your neighbors, your family and have them sign it and start getting signatures as well.  Have them send it on to their family, friends and neighbors.  It is time we each step forward individually and swallow our fear and make a difference. It is time for us to stop waiting for someone to speak out for us and start speaking out for ourselves.

Stand up my LGBT brothers and sisters.  Stand up and be counted.  Run with me toward victory because victory is our only option.

Instructions for the letter to Obama:

1) Download the letter;
2) Sign the letter;
3) Get others to sign the letter;
4) Scan it and submit it to the upload page (to be provided by JTI circa January 10) JTI has since stated they want the hard copy of the letter, please mail the original signatures no later than Monday, January 12, 2009 to:

Join The Impact
PO Box 141491
Columbus, OH 43214

If you are a blogger, post this information to your blog.  If you have a website, a gay friendly business – anywhere on the web… circulate the information via link or write your own.  If you use Digg or Reddit – put this information there.  Print multiple copies and take them to your friends.  We don’t have to wait until January 10th to gather signatures or sign the letter or to have others sign the letter.  We can do this, we can win, we must be victorious!

Remember, a full address is not needed but a zip code is required.