"There on the hill outside of Juarez [Mexico], the taste of dust in my mouth, I found myself face to face with the latest manifestation of a virulent capitalism in which masses of humanity become pawns for massive profits for a few. What does this mean, I thought, to gay people?" -Mab Segrest, 1993
If you're gay, keep moving. Hit the 'back' button, click on a recent RSS link, visit one of your bookmarks; this isn't for you. It is, rather, for the 90 or so percent of readers who are, shall we say, homosexually challenged.
Tonight, for the first time on commercial television, the Democratic candidates for President, save Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, will gather to speak on issues of interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. It will be the American political system in full force. Candidates, press, political leaders, bloggers, and the bevy of spinmeisters and consultants who make a living at these sorts of things will all be there.
The most important thing we need is you....
No one needs to convince politically attuned folks in the LGBT community to watch; they will tune in. The candidates and politics will draw them to LOGO, the MTV channel with programming for the gay community. For others it will be the presence of Melissa Etheridge on the panel or the well-known leader of the Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, who will attract them. Very little work will need to be done to bring LGBT folks to television screens (and webcasts) across America.
I'm worried about the potential lack of attention that straight America will be paying to tonight's discussion.
We need you to care enough about your neighbors and their right to work enough to listen to what these candidates have to say about job discrimination. We need you to care enough about parentless children who would be placed in loving homes, but for the misguided fears of politicians placating extremists. We need you to care enough about the plight of people with HIV and AIDS and what these candidates have to say about health care in America. We need you to care enough about our nation's armed forces in a time of war to hear what these candidates say about our right to serve in the military and what they will specifically do to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. (Lip service is good, but until one of the sitting US Senators running for president actually introduces a bill to repeal DADT I don't really want to hear it from them.)
Trust me. Aside from a few (well, OK more than a few) closeted anti-gay Republicans, gays are convinced. Gays are for job protections and equal treatment the right to serve in the military. Gays are for marriage equality and the right of all people to adopt kids. This is why we need the rest of you to pay attention tonight.
In her 1993 A Bridge, Not a Wedge plenary speech to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change conference, North Carolina civil rights activist Mab Segrest spoke of the need for progressive causes to join together. "There on the hill outside of Juarez [Mexico], the taste of dust in my mouth, I found myself face to face with the latest manifestation of a virulent capitalism in which masses of humanity become pawns for massive profits for a few. What does this mean, I thought, to gay people?"
In her wide-raging remarks, Segrest touched labor issues, immigration, the environment, racism, classism, sexism and other forms of discrimination. She explained why it was important to fight NAFTA and how progressive movements are inextricably linked. Segrest understood how movements cannot operate alone. If you care about race, class, immigration, the environment, labor or any of the host of issues uniting the left, drop by tonight. After 43 years of living in a world you dominate, it will be nice to welcome you into a small part of our world.
When she headed the Human Rights Campaign, Elizabeth Birch was fond of explaining that the struggle for LGBT rights is waged and won at kitchen tables across America every day. Today that playing field has been extended to interactive television and flat panel monitors. Spend a few minutes; give yourself the tools to help you respond to misinformation. In a time where legislative battles are fought and won in the media, we need the 90 percent of you out there to arm yourselves with the information we need to win.