Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Handy LGBTQI Checklist

Before We Plan an Action--or Act—We should ask ourselves:

Self-Question 1: Does the Proposed Action have a Clearly-Defined Goal? Does it have a Clear Message? Does it have a Clear Plan so we look like Politically-savvy Activists (and not Disorganized Idiots)?

Self-Question 2: Does the Proposed Action Help Achieve our particular Political Goal? Does it work against our ultimate interests, either now or in the future? (Passing a bill or stopping anti-gay legislation, expanding equality or access, confirming a judge, etc.)

Self-Question 3: Does this Action Help or Harm the Image of Our Movement? Does it Help or Harm efforts to grow that movement and/or appeal to progressive allies to help us in the future?

Self-Question 4: Does the Action Unify Our Movement or Sow Discontent and Inflame Turf Battles? Does it compete with or reflect poorly on (or worse, disparage) other members or groups in our movement?

Self-Question 5: Is the Action happening simply to Articulate/Vent Our Frustration or Hatred of Our Enemies (or Impatience with our Allies), regardless of ultimate harm to our goals or to the movement as a whole?

Self-Question 6: What constitutes a Success or a Failure? How can we measure whether what we are about to do was effective or not?

Self-Question 7: How will we Use the Proposed Action to Grow an Active Membership, to Motivate the new (and existing) Members for Future Actions?

To be clear: the answers to these questions need not necessarily deter or prevent a particular action. But it is wise to enter any political action situation fully prepared and fully self-aware, with a good handle on the situations Three M's: Mission, Message, Motivation: What is the mission to accomplish? How clear is our message? What, honestly, is our motivation??

Please note the above graphic says "our" not "your"--I'm not pointing fingers or mocking GetEqual, a group that I myself am a member of. I'm asking us all to look inward as well as outward, call a truce to the turf war, focus our ire on the real enemies of LGBTQI equality, and unify to work hard to win those very real battles to come.

Remember the Past, Build the Future

Can we please call a truce in the GetEqual/HRC turf war and get back to work fighting the real enemies of LGBT equality?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

And The Beat Go On

LGBTQI Movements For Dummies:
An Historical Primer

Stage 1: A diverse group of LGBT folks and allies comes together with the shared goal of acceptance, tolerance, diversity, and inclusion. They preach acceptance, tolerance, diversity, inclusion.

Stage 2: Once goals are established, mission and focus must be defined and actions planned. Camps form due to tactical disagreements, differences over messaging, focus, strategy. As the victims of oppression, their personal baggage begins to poison the clarity of mission. We are, after all, only human.

Stage 3: One camp urges a conservative approach, another urges bold blunt action, another camp tries to reconcile and re-unify. Fissures in the movement begin, and--ironically--acceptance gets tested by turf battles, tolerance replaced with ideological purity tests, diversity ideals invert into internal argument or unintended offenses caused by white privilege drives away people of color, and exclusion starts to supplant inclusiveness.

Stage 4: Cooler heads try to conduct civil discussion, but because this is identity politics--and thus the issues are very personal--feelings are as involved as brains. Disagreements fester until turf battles become public attempts for one "side" to destroy and supplant the other, sapping energy and focus, squandering political capital as the movement looks less and less reliable to political leaders and groups outside the movement. Panic causes some members to recommend purging anyone who isn't perfectly ideologically aligned with said group or groups, and constructive criticism or dissent is met with emotional rancor or accusations of being "as bad as the homophobes."

Stage 5: The negativity not only harms recruitment, but folks of varying levels of commitment to the cause start to peel off, discouraged by the experience or the emotional gridlock interfering with effective action, until only the Die-Hard activists remain, people who have not only poured their life into not only the cause, but also entrenched a personal stake in their activism. Again, feelings start to trump thinking, tempers flare, tantrums errupt. Internal name-calling is but one tell-tale sign of this period of political friendly-fire.

Stage 5: With a crucial bill up for a vote or candidate up for election, the fractured movement is unable muster enough unified effort for effective action. The bill or candidate fails. The finger-pointing begins, as each camp blames another for the loss. The public turf war often eventually abates, possibly with the destruction of part of the movement infrastructure, and a lot of demoralized and discouraged folks go back to their lives.

And we wonder why the Mainstream Political Community rarely gives the LGBTQI movement respect we insist we've earned.

Stage 6: The movement goes into a sort of coma, until the next crisis or political weather-change demands mobilization for response and action, and folks come together to work for Acceptance, Tolerance, Diversity, and Inclusion and... we return to Stage 1.

See: 1970s--Gay Liberation Front versus Gay Activists Alliance; 1980s--NGLTF, ACT-Up; 1990s--Queer Nation, the DADT/DOMA debacles; 2000-present-- NGLTF, HRC, GetEqual...

Graphic Art of Activism

Getting Busy Getting Equal

After getting sucked up into the echo-chamber of Facebook, I've been far too quiet on this blog. Much is happening in the blogosphere, especially among the LGBT activists and community. It's time I start weighing in outside my circle of FB friends. I'll be posting more in-depth essays in the days to come, as well as crosslinking stuff I find online. More to come, soon...