The Movement versus The Election, Junior Uprising Edition

One benefit of the poorly run "No on 8" campaign has been the emergence of youth leadership and the willingness of the "Old Gay Establishment" (OGE) to listen to new ideas from us "kids." They're willingly giving us the keys, and it's time to drive.

I can't believe it's finally time! For several months I've been thinking about David Sirota's book The Uprising. (Read my old post about it here.) In my last post about Mr. Sirota's book I admitted to you, my hot readers, that I had no idea what I was talking about, had no idea who David Sirota was, and only cared about him and his book because Rachel Maddow mentioned them on her radio show, and I thought knowing about them might attract chicks (but aren't those still good reasons to care?).

My life has indeed completely changed since last June when I first woke up to David Sirota and his populism. I asked you back then:

How do we self-organize to inspire change without an umbrella organization? How do we unite bloggers with our aged cultural warriors to kick ass?

(Prop 8 calling! Wake up, Ma'amselle! The movement's on the line!)

David Sirota's book investigates what happens to angry people when they organize. That's oversimplifying it, but I want you to understand why I cannot stop rereading this book in my head. (Nerd alert: I read it on paper twice and typed up most of my favorite passages on my laptop for quicker rereading.) Check out this gem from the introduction alone:

Sirota, David. "Portrait of the Writer on a Bathroom Floor." The Uprising - An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington. New York: Crown, 2008.

"These laws of matter are also the laws of society. We typically exist in a gaseous state. We are all leading our own lives, bouncing around from place to place, watching our sitcoms, working at our cubicles, interacting briefly with each other between doing our own thing. But we change when enough negative economic and political pressure starts hammering down on us--we start to get organized" (7).

And here I was, reading this back in June, thinking to myself, "Yes, people sure are angry these days about the Iraq occupation and stuff. Lah-dee-dah." But what does it makes you immediately think of now, young queerpplz?

How about this? He's discussing how Iraq occupation protesters are spun on TV:

Sirota, David. "What Kind of Hardball Can Stop a War?" The Uprising - An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington. New York: Crown, 2008.

"Saul Alinsky's advice to activists about 'accepting the world as it is, not as [you] would like it to be' means accepting that the reporters, politicians, pundits, and professional operatives who collectively make up today's [. . .] Establishment want to portray the antiwar movement as a bunch of patchouli-scented hippies, out-of-control college kids, anti-American extremists, and Hollywood elitists--all in order to write off the antiwar uprising. If given the opportunity, the major television networks would preview all their stories about the opposition to Bush's escalation by running a clip from Cheech & Chong, a snippet from a Hezbollah rally, and a photo of Jane Fonda under the banner AMERICA'S ANTIWAR MOVEMENT" (59).

Well how do you feel after three months of advertisements portraying you and your friends as scary child predators looking to creep into schools and turn kids bicurious--and in an argument about marriage no less?

When I finished the book I was determined to write a review for Lesbiatopia, but I had too much to say. I still do. All I can tell you is that I paged through this book over and over asking myself, "There's a practical application to this book somewhere, but I can't figure out what I need to do. Everyone's angry, but there's no shape to the anger. This book has taught me so much about how to coalition-build, but what would we fight?"

Well here it is, folks!

Okay, so everyone's seen Milk already, right? Yes, yes, there's only one lesbian in it, I know; get over it. The movie's so totes badass. I've seen it twice already. I don't need to tell you all why it's good, because you'll know; just go see it. If you've seen the movie, maybe you're looking at my opening paragraph right now and shaming me for my naïveté and don't-I-know-how-much-we-owe-our-eldersitude and my-generation-has-had-it-so-easyness. Okay, yes, I feel a little guilty about it, but I'm not stupid! I know we have come so far in my lifetime only through the determined efforts of seasoned veterans in our fight for equality; no question.

(Okay, now's the part where I rehash all my grievances with the "No on 8" campaign, so you can skip this part and proceed to the constructive positive stuff below. I'll let you know when it's over.) But we all watched the old people run "No on 8" into the ground, and lemme tell you, I had front row seats . . . okay, maybe a-couple-of-row-back seats kinda on the side, but closer than most, I assure you.

I just got voted onto my second year of the Executive Committee of the Stonewall Young Democrats (SYD). Stonewall Democrats proper, our umbrella group, certainly has members of the OGE in it, but our joint West Hollywood office on Santa Monica and Crescent Heights was crackin' during the campaign season, young and old. We were making phone calls and registering voters and walking precincts and translating campaign literature for our Russian and Latino neighbors and driving people to the polls and whatever, both for Obama and for "No on 8."

. . . meanwhile, in our back room dwelled the Official "No on 8" Campaign. Despite having the same goal (No on 8, duh), we clashed repeatedly on what was best for the effort.

We in Stonewall were giving away "No on 8" signs for free; they were charging $25 each. We were registering voters who supported us; they were hosting "visibility" parties in West Hollywood at the Abbey. We were begging people to make phone calls for us; they were discouraging people from using the official "No on 8" online calling program because the "script was too old." We were giving people thirty ways to help us; they were telling people, "If you don't like making phone calls, then leave," and forcing all volunteers to undergo 30-minute training sessions just to phonebank--and then if you wanted to come back and make more phone calls the next day, they'd still force you to go through the same 30-minute training again. And don't even ask me about the fact that they begged and pleaded for money and then cashed my 9/25/08 $25 check on 11/16/08, two weeks after the election was over; I'm still too mad.(Okay, I'm done with in-fighting now. Ready to move forward.)

Now that the new Prop 8 fight is ahead of us, we in SYD have put marriage equality on our front burner. Our brand new Marriage Equality Committee met for the second time last night in Downtown Los Angeles.

Okay, you're a superbright lesbian, so you're saying, "Fuck you, Ma'amselle Democrat, with your narrowminded Party-with-a-Big-'P' affiliation. Anyone with a brain is independent." Well, then you don't understand Stonewall Dems. We're the LGBTQI and allied wing of the Democratic Party. If elected officials don't seek us out or don't run an LGBTQI-friendly agendum when elected, they're toast in gay-heavy districts because we'll run candidates who will support us. We also give resources to gay candidates who might otherwise have trouble fundraising, and who among you doesn't like that?

What's that, David Sirota? You have a good quote to describe why Stonewall Dems are important? Go for it:

Sirota, David. "What Kind of Hardball Can Stop a War?" The Uprising - An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington. New York: Crown, 2008.

"Unquestionably, both the Protest Industry out here chanting [. . .] and the Players scheming in their offices a few blocks from here [. . .] are necessary parts of an effective [. . .] uprising. The outraged rabble provides the boots on the ground that can pressure lawmakers in their local communities. And that popular ferment could be enhanced by a professional presence playing the [. . .] media game" (64).

In other words, these rallies put pressure on our elected officials to choose a side, and we promote into office elected officials who will choose wisely and speak out for us on the national teevee.

SYD has a particularly interesting role in things now, as we face a host of young queers waking up on Christmas morning all blinky-eyed to discover someone's stolen their rights overnight. Boo, big lumps of Mormon coal in our stockings!

So back to our brand new Marriage Equality Committee. These are people 36 and under who felt frustrated during "No on 8" and are looking to make a difference. The committee has yet to go before the full board with the notes from the night's meeting, so I'm giving you a supersecret sneakpeek at some of the ideas hashed out that night while they're still all doughy and warm. Oo!

I heard everyone pissed off about feeling invisible. (One more "No on 8" bash warning)I mean, c'mon, those commercials! The first one out had the straight couple with the invisible lesbian daughter you never saw, and the next 1,000 commercials after that didn't mention gay people at all or even show the face of one gay person!(Bash finished) So my favorite thing I heard all night was when one woman said, "I would rather fight this angry and out and in the open--and lose--than sacrifice the movement for one more election." Fuck yeah! So how do we want to be visible?

* We all love the idea of the white knot campaign! Have you seen it? whiteknot.org gives you full instructions on how to create a white knot to wear as a symbol of your stance on marriage equality. Fuck a $25 sign that you can't carry with you; you can make 500 of these babies for about $3 and have them on you, visible, all the time, everywhere. The website has instructions on white-knot parties. I am so loving this, and I'm fairly certain we're going to follow this route to some extent in SYD.

* I contend that most people who voted against us don't know us. Why don't they know us? Because we spent the whole damn time in West Hollywood high-fiving each other while the campaign was going, making no effort to visit our neighbors further inland! What's the matter, bulldagger? Afraid to get a fat lip for marriage equality? I'm not worried about getting popped by some redneck in rural California, no matter how seemingly primitive, and you shouldn't be, either. I guarantee you that if 200 of us went out to Kern fuckin' County wearing Queer Voluntary Service badges to plant trees or feed the homeless, it would make the news and stun the bigots. Besides, you know every community like that, no matter how small, has an enormous closet, and if I were to get punched in the face standing up for marriage equality in Chino, some babyqueer who lives there would see I stand up for her.

* "IM4ME." What? "I AM FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY." Simple to promote, something of a double entendre ('cause "I am for me," too), classic conversation-starter. Make your own button!

* Send postcards to bridal shops. Man, I didn't want to be, but I got nasty bitter on Saturday shopping for a bridesmaid dress with my straight bride-to-be ladyfriend. There we were in the bridal shop, watching moms crying over their little straight daughters (most of whom couldn't care less) while friends squealed and jumped up and down. There I was in my stompy lesbian shoes with my new fabulous ultralez haircut that I'd gotten that morning (see insets), and it was like I was trespassing. I had one of those massively inappropriate desires to scream, "I LICK BOX SO I GUESS I'M NOT WELCOME HERE WITH YOU SANCTIMONIOUS DOUCHEBAGS, RIGHT??" You know what's really better, though? Pointing to this article where $63.8 million is missing from California now that gay marriage is gone. That coulda been your recession-proof cheese, bridal shop! Just a friendly postcard reminder!

* One of the most moving signs I saw at the "Repeal 8" rallies said, "I'm not allowed to talk about my two mommies at school." The children of gay couples have been remarkably absent in our P.R. One way to bring everyone together might be a "Gay Family Day." The conceit behind this is that the human race is a gay family, get it? We all came from straight people, but whom we love makes a family. We already know this, of course, but if we could get children of gay couples to meet our born-again cousins? Hello, dialogue!

* Whatever we do, don't stop calling it "marriage." So the contract down at City Hall says whatever it says. So what? The State is the State, and God is God, and God knows a marriage when s/he sees one. (Okay, I'm an atheist, but you get the point, spiritual readers.) People freaked out because "gay marriage" is new. So let's make it old. Yeah, they're still wife-and-wife, and more'll be wife-and-wife no matter what some piece of paper says. We're fighting for marriage equality, not the right to marry; they can't take that away from us. It's still marriage. We just want the same recognition of our marriages to theirs.

* We've all seen Sacramento's newest Prop 8 musical by now, and it's dope. We need more artists to write songs, scripts, paint, interpretively dance, put on multimedia extravaganzas, whatever, but just make it. It's part of historical storytelling; your art speaks when you're not present. Make it happen.

So these were not all of the ideas thrown around in the meeting, nor are these the decided upon avenues for SYD to take. (We are Dems, after all, so public official PR campaigns go without saying.) But several of us young Democratic queers took three hours to think about marriage equality last night, and we know that hundreds more of our queer brethren are doing the same throughout this month in the rest of the state. We are achieving the leaderless momentum that David Sirota's Uprising is all about, and I am proud to say it's youth-driven. Just like our beloved Renee's "8 against 8" can raise its goal five days early, we all must engage in spontaneous collective efforts and be pleasantly surprised at our own thoughtful determination. This time, we have no "official" restraints. Let it fly.

If you're in the Los Angeles area and are interested in the Stonewall Young Democrats and our marriage equality activities, contact info@stonewallyoungdems.org.


Becky C. said...

Yes, but that one dyke in the moviemight just have become third in line for he presidency but for Diane Feinstein. And the interaction is interesting in that it illustrates some of the queer misogyny of the day (which still exists) when Harvey broughtAnne Kronenberg in to not only reach out to the San Francisco lesbian community, but to keep all the Queens in line.


Niki - DykeDrama said...

Your point about getting more artists involved is a great one. check out www.createequality.org. They are planning a few big events just for that purpose.

Queers United said...

its interesting that you think the "kids" have been able to have a say. I hear a lot of people saying Lorri Jean, Geoff Korrs, etc dominated everything and therefore the young queers could not have their input.

Ma'amselle Lezident said...

QU: What I meant is, "Now that the election's over . . ."

I think very few people had a say prior to Prop 8's passage, and the ones among us who were able to communicate to the largest audiences were the Lorri Jeans and Geoff Korrs's among us. Their failure is exactly why it's time to hand over the reins; that L.A. Weekly article at the top to which I link has a quote from Lorri Jean saying it's time to turn things over to us, the yout's, so even they know.

Queers United said...

Cool, I am all for a new wave of activism. The old school thought clearly isnt working.