Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Join the Impact: Lawful Protesting Is Not Bigotry, Censorship, or Intolerance

This past weekend I exercised my right to free speech and assembly as part of the Join the Impact protests against Prop 8. I attended the protest in Chicago with my friend Jane and my girlfriend.


In Illinois, smaller protests were held in the smaller (and redder) cities of Peoria, Springfield, Champaign-Urbana, and Carbondale. Simultaneous protests were held in 49 other states.

Despite the fact that thousands and thousands of LGBT people and allies peacefully assembled in cities all over our nation this past weekend, some in the "marriage defense" movement have mocked and vilified us for doing so. In the wake of all of the post-Prop 8 protest and anger, those who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians have been calling us "sore losers," "spoiled children," "homofascists," "bigoted," "intolerant," and yes even "terrorists." When these folks weren't waxing hyperbolic or calling us names for exercising our constitutional rights, they have been almost exclusively harping on the actions of a small LGBT fringe group and other individuals acting out their anger, while making no mention of the fact that the vast majority of protests have been peaceful affairs. In their eyes, the actions of small numbers of gay people are indicative of something really sinister about the "homosexual agenda" as a whole.

It bears mentioning then, that like most of my LGBT brothers and sisters, I do not believe that violence is acceptable. I do not condone it in any way. I understand the anger fueling some of the things that some gay people are doing and saying right now, but some of these actions are contrary to how anyone should act in a civil society. That being said, I find it despicable that some anti-gay sources such as Peter LaBarbera (who was at Chicago's protest with his "contingent" of 5 other people) are latching onto a few bad apple incidents and creating this false All Gay People Are Hateful and Intolerant message.

These dishonest generalizations have no place in this oftentimes heated discourse. For, it would be quite easy to go to comment sections throughout the pro-gay and anti-gay blogosphere and find examples of "marriage defenders" saying fag this and fag that and then perpetuate this idea that all "marriage defenders" are hateful and intolerant. Just at my own blog, for instance, I've been informed that gay people deserve to die, I've been called a dyke, and have been told multiple times that I'm going to "hell." About a year or so ago, I watched one uber-creepy internet bigot tell one of my very good friends to put a gun in her mouth and kill herself because all lesbians are unhappy.

That's why it's just all so funny but sad to watch "marriage defenders" compose their cherry-picked lists of alleged "gay hate." In fact, with respect to Join the Impact, it does bear mentioning that the "Repent Pervert" contingents did have small presences at many of the nationwide Prop 8 protests. I have yet to see more civil "marriage defenders" denounce, or even acknowledge the existence of, the squeaky wheels on their own side of things. It's quite unfortunate, actually, since these hateful types are not representative of all of those who oppose equal rights for LGBT persons. And, even though I see instances of anti-gay hate every single day, I try to avoid making generalizations about all people who oppose equality.

But more interesting than the convenient lenses through which some "marriage defenders" view the so-called culture wars, a strange Orwellian message has been circulating throughout some niches of the anti-gay world wide web in the wake of non-violent Prop 8 protests. I'm not talking about instances of violence, I'm talking about instances of peaceful, law-abiding protests in which the message from "marriage defenders" is this:

Gay people are intolerant bigots for protesting!

As but one example of this line of thinking, former action movie star and current WorldNetDaily commentator Chuck Norris recently called us "sore losers who are intolerant of any outcome but the one [we] desire" because we have the nerve to utilize our political freedoms and right to protest. Ker-pow!

First off, this childish name-calling is classic abusive behavior and it is meant to silence us into accepting an offensive outcome that we view as unjust, unfair, and unequal. Other than perhaps vilifying us, I don't see any other point to this asinine name-calling besides perhaps trying to shame us into not exercising our constitutional rights. These people just won a few battles in the culture war, yet many of them are proving to be incapable of winning with grace.

Secondly, lawful protesting is not bigotry, anarchy, censorship, intolerance, or any other propagandistic label some "marriage defenders" are exaggeratedly throwing around. In fact, arguing that gay people are "intolerant" for protesting the passage of anti-gay laws is nothing but the same tired "you're intolerant for not tolerating my intolerance" refrain we hear too often from our opponents. As Jeremy at G-A-Y writes "When the playground bully steals your lunch money, it is not 'intolerant' to protest your new, midday meal-deprived status." Exactly. In our eyes, these people took something from us. And so, those of us who are peacefully protesting, as it is our lawful right to do so, are in no way wrong to do so. It is part of our political process that when people do not like an outcome, they take to the streets and try to create change. Yet, in true Rovian style, "marriage defenders" are co-opting our language and arguments and using them against us. It's not we who are intolerant of gay people, they say, it is gays who are intolerant of us.

As I wrote last week, I am proud of the LGBT community for utilizing grassroots activism, the internets, and social networking to work towards social justice. Many of us are energized by this movement and by the election of Barack Obama. It is time to keep the momentum going. It's clear that when the other side has to resort to vilifying us and calling us "sore losers," they're very threatened by what they're seeing in the streets. Given the propensity that some of them have for hyperbolically interpreting virtually any instance of social change as a Very Grave Undermining of Civilization, I have no doubt that they are very fearful right now as they watch these rainbow-flag-bearing "anarchist" queers chanting in the streets.

Anyway, if you are asking yourself what you can do to help keep the momentum going, an online store, First Class Tees, is selling Join the Impact gear and will donate proceeds to grassroots organizations serving and advocating for the LGBT community (think Equality California, rather than HRC).


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