Okay, I admit it. I have an agenda.
Like the rest of us in the GLBT community, I never got my rainbow-colored leather-bound copy of “The Gay Agenda.” The damned thing is still on back order. So what’s an activist to do? I had no choice. I had to create my own agenda.
I know it’s a shock to those of us who have screamed that there’s no “gay agenda.” Huh? Whudyameantheresanagenda? Relax, friends. It’s not that earth-shattering of a revelation. And no, it’s not time for the “See? I told you so!” crowd to gloat either.
Any activist role requires clear goals and clear methods to reach those goals. We can never be successful in bringing about change if we’re just making noise or waving signs. And most importantly, we must have a vision for a future without bigotry, and a vision for bringing that possible future into our present.
Finally, true activism is having our finger on the pulse of a collective desire for change. Activists don’t create change, they echo the voice of the oppressed who demand it in the silence of their despair. They are the voice in the wilderness. They are the forerunners. They are the radicals.
Now, about that agenda:
First, I will promote equality and tolerance through education, legislation, and excellence. Second, I will work toward building a mutual respect for all people, regardless of their race, religion, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Some specifics are:
- Sexual orientation will be as immaterial to a person’s life as their eye color.
- Same-sex couples will be able to hold hands and show appropriate affection in public without fear of negative reaction or recourse.
- Teenagers will be free to come out to their peers without fear of being ostracized.
- Families headed by same-sex couples will have the same federal protections as those headed by opposite-sex couples.
Most people would find these goals to be somewhat benign. We must hold these as solid principles which can be solid and attainable goals for all of us. Our methods are even more important. I chose the words “education, legislation, and excellence” very carefully.
Education is critical to any movement. Ignorance is what drives so many people into knee-jerk reactions, and it’s what drives the fear that inspires bombastic protests. As we educate through conversation, institution and entertainment, the truth about sexual orientation and its ultimate normalcy will slowly enter the psyche of the general population. It’s only through education that the truth will break through the walls of deception, myths, and outright lies that are hurled against us. When one person’s mind is awakened by that speck of truth, hope begins to emerge.
Then there’s legislation. We can never have freedom if there is no legislated protection to fall back on. There are laws to protect the religious, women, children, minorities, and Native Americans. Every one of these groups has a group of clear-cut laws to support their cause for equality. We do not. As I’ve written before, more than two-thirds of our country’s population still lives without “sexual orientation” on nondiscrimination clauses of their state or local government. When the Stonewall riots ignited, this fact loomed over them like a dark cloud of hate. Those clouds still exist. They’re starting to break up, but they’re still there.
And finally, there’s excellence. What do I mean by that? Let’s remember the fine folks of the Mattachine Society which, for all intents and purposes, began the gay rights movement long before the June 27, 1969 Stonewall riot. They wrote letters to J. Edgar Hoover. They asked for legal protection. Finally, they picketed. But they did it in a manner that turned heads across Philadelphia.
The men wore business suits. The women wore dresses. They all carried their white signs with clear, simple black lettering. Some signs read, “Homosexuals demand equal rights.” Each sign had a different message, but the unity of their effort was clear. They all held their signs in a certain manner, they walked in unison. They didn’t shout, complain or gripe. In short, they were united.
They did something that we must: they adhered to a higher standard than was accepted for the general public. Their commitment was to excellence as much as they were committed to bringing about change. After Stonewall, they were joined by hundreds of participants at their annual picket. It was then that the unity gave birth to diversity.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all wear business suits or dresses. But their overall point is extremely valid. We must, as they did, hold ourselves to a higher standard. In a time when we should do all we can to prove our detractors wrong when they say that we’re a bunch of sick, amoral, promiscuous, twisted, and immature fags, some of us act as if we want to prove them right!
It’s through excellence that we can strip away every single blot that our detractors want to expose. Yes, it’s hard. It requires persistence, faith, and most of all, integrity. This means we can’t scream about freedom of speech and complain when religious people tell people we’re going to hell. This means we can’t out people when some of us have to be closeted while serving in the military. We simply must remove every double standard that holds us back from achieving our goals.
Put simply, it’s the high road. It’s a road worth taking, even if it’s a little bumpy.
So there you have it. That’s my agenda. That’s my path, and my calling.
Care to join me? I could use the company.
David W. Shelton