Breaking the Silence

Everyday I talk to dozens of people about the ban. I have conversations about the importance of a "No" vote and even more conversations working to get people activated around this issue.

When persuading people to become active, oddly enough, it is much easier to convince straight allies to volunteer than it sometimes is to get members of our own LGBTQ community involved. This is not to say that there are no active LGBTQ people fighting the ban. In fact, one of the most impressive aspects of this campaign is having the privilege to sit in one of our Action Network meetings or come into a volunteer night in Madison and organize with people of all ages, different political ideologies, women, men, straight, and gay folks who are all working for one thing: To Stop the Ban.

We will defeat the ban because we have the ability to bring a variety of people to stand together for justice and fairness. However, more often than I’d like, we are still jumping hurdles when trying to activate LGBTQ people in the campaign.

For a couple of weeks now I have wondered why this is. I understand that for many of us it's an issue that hits at the core of who we are. You'd think this would drive a deeper conviction for involvement, but I can see how it might push our community deeper into the closet. Justin thinks maybe many of the LGBTQ community are afraid their hopes will crumble in November.

But without hope, and without everyone in our community out talking with voters about the ban, we will not win. If we step up now and speak up as often as we can now, we will win. If we come together as a community, let go of the fact that this fight is not about being political, but about creating community, we can win. If--and only if--people challenge themselves to get involved, we can win.

There is not space for silence. There is no space to categorize who the political gay folks are and who the clubbers or family people are. We are in this together and we will only win if we fight together. It is okay to have hope.

Believe me, I have my moments when I question why I spend every waking moment fighting this ban, especially when there are members of the LGBTQ community who refuse to get involved. Why should I, a woman of color, work so hard on an issue that has been dominated by white folks? Why should I work on this issue day in and day out, weekends included, when my people in Nepal are on the streets by the millions fighting to gain democracy, fighting poverty and fighting to stay alive.

It’s not easy, but it all comes back when I hear the stories of families who will have every legal protection stripped away from them for just being gay. It comes back when I realize that we aren’t just fighting a ban but building a movement.

For example, I was having coffee with four of our superstar volunteers in Rock County after an Action Network meeting last week, and I realized that I was sitting with four gay men who might have not otherwise gotten to know one another if the campaign did not exists. I realized that these conversations and connections are what this campaign and this movement is about.

Tomorrow is Day of Silence. On this day I would challenge each and every one of you to break the silence and to encourage our gay brothers and sisters to break theirs. Talk to people about this ban. Tell them how it will hurt our families. Explain how extreme and far-reaching it is. Share your stories. We can no longer wait to get involved. We have to act now to save our families and build our community. Join me in breaking our silence.

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At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am up in Canada and have to say thank you for the work you are doing -- reaching to establish the rights a group, you weren't born in to.

It saddens me what is going on the states, as Canadians we don't have to put up with this mess.

I have made a short video which might help to change some people's minds -- but it also goes out to people like you who are doing such hard work.

My video for A Fair Wisconsin:

My other video:

hope you enjoy, and keep up the good work!

At 7:46 AM, Anonymous dan ross said...

Pabitra wrote "When persuading people to become active, oddly enough, it is much easier to convince straight allies to volunteer than it sometimes is to get members of our own LGBTQ community involved."

I have seen this, too.

I've seen parents and siblings and friends of LGBTQ people donating money and time, while the very people they care so deeply about seem unwilling to make a basic commitment.

At the farmer's market on the Capitol Square, I've seen people who were obviously same-sex couples, or individuals for whom my gaydar (or lesdar--I have better lesdar than gaydar, although neither are outstanding) meter hits "11"--and they sometimes give a look back of, frankly, terror, or accelerate their pace to the next vegetable stand.

But Pabitra's also right--we're having conversations and getting people to talk who otherwise might not have gotten to know one another. That is one of the biggest joys I have had from volunteer work on LGBT issues.

And when those people who are afraid come around the square next week and see the group of friendly volunteers talking to other friendly people of all varieties who've stopped to sign the pledge, maybe that will encourage them to stop, too.

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

I hate to try to answer Pabitra's question with a negative, but here goes...

I don't believe that the "LGBTQ" thing is an effective moniker? The "B" and the "Q" distract from what we're trying to do.

L = 1 woman + 1 woman.
G = 1 man + 1 man.
T folk also can have legal trouble with solidifying partnerships.

Enabling partnerships for LGT are our goal.

B = at least 3 folks.
Q = (as I understand it) a rejection of the institutions of partnership altogether.

B and Q have other legal goals, which we may or may not support. But the legal goals of B (namely polygamy) and of Q (namely getting rid of family ties) are downright scary to voters and to many of the G and L folks who would otherwise be more involved.

Am I a bigot? Or am I just being pragmatic?

-- Keith.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Pabitra said...

I use LGBTQ because I can't just say queer on a blog because there is so much that people do not understand when I say queer. Also we often do just use gay and lesbian in our info but when writing this blog I wanted to write about a larger community than the g and l. But I guess there is no full understanding of LGBTQ, and we have a lot to learn about one another.

Q sometimes stands for questioning and sometimes for queer. For me queer is a term that is more inclusive and political. A term that states that I am a political gay person. For me gay is too often associated with white men, lesbian with white women, and i am not bisexual so that does not make sense either. Though bisexual does not mean 3 just means you don't discriminate who you love based on gender... But bi certianlly does not mean polygamy, most often bisexual folks fall in love with one person.

I use LGBTQ cause I don't always like to be exclusive and say gay. But I do believe that within the LGBTQ community we have different issues we care about, different legal problems we face and not all LGBTQ people believe this is the issue to work on. That's okay too.

There were many times I have not felt a part of the LGBTQ "community" and no one should be forced to be a part of any community...I guess I am just someone growing to understand how important creating community is for folks that need it and also for political mobilization.

I guess what I see more than anything in our "community" (a community that is not always singluar and always very diverse) is apathy at a point in history where we need as many people as possible to act up and be involved. Any thoughts on that, rather than just on "LGBTQ"?

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

Excellent challenge, Pabitra. Thanks for your well-thought response. I feel more comfortable with the idea that since "Q" and "B" people are part of the larger community, their contribution is valuable. And even selfless, since our work doesn't really benefit their families directly.

To answer your broader question, I can muse a bit. Why, apart from occasional posts to this blog, am I not more involved in the current work? I have much to give: talent, connections, money, and passion for the subject. And I have much to gain from anything that helps my family gain legal recognition of some sort. But I choose to remain on the sidelines.

I am not convinced that Fair Wisconsin's language is focused enough. Lots of talk about "LGBTQ" and "judge not" and lots of targeting "liberals" and Democrats and "communities of color" and mainline Protestants. Maybe it's strengthening our base. I am a registered Democrat with blue eyes, and my boyfriend is a registered Republican of color, so we are the "G" in "LGBTQ." But the language of the NO campaign hasn't held much appeal so far.

I am looking for an Evangelical preacher to stand up, call evil for evil, and ask Julaine Appling to repent and believe the Good News. Or for a Catholic bishop to issue a pastoral letter, quoting Benedict XVI's "Deus Caritas Est", noting why no Catholic in good conscience could vote for this Amendment.

I am looking for someone in Madison to push through a bill in this session, giving Vermont-style unions a chance to be debated. Or to partner with other bi-partisan lobbyists on this one. (I'm thinking the Right to Life folks who have much to gain when special needs children are adopted into gay families.)

I am looking for a media outlet that will stop refering to this as the "Gay Marriage" amendment. I am looking for Fair Wisconsin to produce a DVD to send to every church in Wisconsin, to work with a production company to make a canned news story or two about a couple who were denied hospital visitation, to publish a brochure that hits all the conservative hot buttons: family, liberty, property, taxation.

I'm looking for evidence that we're going to win this fight. The fight is against ignorance, and we cannot fight ignorance if we insist on preaching to the choir.

I guess that's why the "GLBTQ" thing caught my attention. If our audience is the 14% of the electorate who vote YES to ban unions but still think unions are fair, I think they neither understand what "GLBTQ" means nor care. For them, they just want the two bachelors down the street to keep their house. And for Ms Jane from the church choir to be able to visit Ms Patty in the hospital. But "Q" is a bit of a stretch for them.

Thanks for all that you guys do. Although at the moment I don't feel comfortable contributing beyond the rant, I admire the fact that you are daily inspiring hope in the hopeless. Come November, I pray that the hope translates into a majority, and that my cranky pessimism is found completely misplaced.

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Todd said...

Lots of talk about "LGBTQ" and "judge not" and lots of targeting "liberals" and Democrats and "communities of color" and mainline Protestants.

Keith, Are you kidding?

1. Since when are mainline Protestants, Democrats, and communities of color the base for a "no" vote on one of these amendments. Have you looked at the election data from other states? Have you even looked at Wisconsin demographics? We'd win hands down with "no" votes from all these groups.

2. When have you seen "LBGTQ" used by Fair Wisconsin except once or twice on the blog? And then in entries directed intra-community.

3. Have you seen all that's happening with Ed Thompson and other libertarians and conservatives opposing the ban? Do you know he got 10% of the vote? Do you think that just happens by magic? I don't know much about Fair Wisconsin's operations (except for what I've learned at a speakers training and various volunteer events). But I do know campaigns and I know that stuff like this doesn't happen without folks busting blood vessels behind the scenes.

4. Have you noticed how frequently the blog features conservative and Republican opposition to the ban?

5. Have you read the main talking points? They're featured on the website. Where does "judge not" come into play? Have you noticed that the second of two main messages--"goes too far"--targets that group you argue needs to be targeted. That's 50%. The first talks about how the ban hurts real families.

6. And do you really think a fire and brimstone message would sway voters? Doesn't that kind of talk just make folks more set in their ways?

It's clear to me that your idea about the campaign and the actuality of the campaign in no way correspond.

If you have specific beef then fine, air it. They've allowed this forum, which is way more than most campaign blogs. They've even allowed you to remain anonymous. Great. I think that's good. But be specific with your criticism and do your homework.

And for Pete's sake: Write a check like the rest of us. My income's meager, but 5% of it every month goes straight to the Fair Wisconsin pot.

The worst thing that could happen, Keith, is for this campaign succeed in spite of you; let it be victorious at least in part because of you.

At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Todd said...

I just did a search for the word "liberal" on the blog, and know how many times it comes up? Five, two of which were in quotations by ban supporters.

And know how many times, according to a google search, it appears on the website? Zero.

What about "conservative"? On the blog: 21. On the website: One.

If the campaign can be chided for anything, maybe we should complain that it doesn't target liberals enough!

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Pabitra said...

Todd thank you for understanding and really looking into what we do. There are so many moments when people want to to judge us before understanding the work we are doing. People seem to really want to label us as "liberal" because we are on the Vote No Campaign and because we were formed by two "LGBTQ" organizations. We have worked so hard to reach beyond what most campaigns in Wisconsin and other campaigns to stop the ban in other states have done. And it is because of people like you, who care to really look at our work, not make assumptions based on stereotypes, have faith and write checks or volunteer that we will win.

Keith...I'm down to have coffee, if you are really willing to understand what we do and who the organizers for this campaign are. I don't really have time to blog to your comments beyond this one so if you are really wanting to break beyond stereotypes please call us.

P.S. There has been two posts about people of color on our blog: One that I wrote a couple months back, again referring to our "LGBTQ" community and second on this last blog where I talk about my identity within our community. In my opinion, we must delve deeper. We will not win without people of color and we cannot progress without really understanding the power dynamics between white LGBTQ people and people of color. Not just in one relationship or even in assumptions that because someone is dating a person of color they really get it but within the formation and existence of the gay identity.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Pabitra said...

Sorry I was wrong about the posts. Deon Young has written about people of color once or twice on the blog as well.

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Keith said...

Thanks, you guys, for the flames in response to my flames! And I'm sorry if I sounded too harsh.

Since Pabitra's original musing was on the subject of why some people don't get more involved, I tried to answer the question with my feelings more than with facts. (Unusual for a statistician!)

I think, at root, my feelings are a lot like Joshua's in an earlier post. I am just tired of the whole senseless character of the amendment. It makes no sense from neither a "liberal" perspective nor from a "conservative" perspective.

I think I latch onto the conservative arguments more, simply because you don't hear them as often. And I admire your research, Todd, for convincing me that Fair Wisconsin is adept at making both sets of arguments!

I will someday soon take you up on the offer of having coffee, Pabitra. And I will eventually write a fat check and host a fund raiser for the effort. But for the moment, I am still a bit shell-shocked that we are even having this silly ballot initiative.

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Todd said...

I am still a bit shell-shocked that we are even having this silly ballot initiative

A shared feeling to be sure!


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