Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why Stonewall 2.0 isn't fizzling...

Some bloggers and others have suggested that the "Stonewall 2.0" phenomenon is petering out. "Join the (diminishing) Impact," said Peter Staley. Dan Savage jumped in saying Join The Impact's followup events to Nov. 15th's massive national demos have been weak. Everyone involved in the Stonewall 2.0 phenomenon should read both critiques (click the bolded names above). But Stonewall 2.0 isn't fizzling...
That's because Stonewall 2.0 already happened. Stonewall itself lasted three nights in 1969, but it set the stage for much that came after it. Stonewall 2.0 lasted, at minimum, 11 days -- and, I suggest, set the stage for much that will come after it.

In David Carter's book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, one Michael Fader told Carter: "We all had a collective feeling like we'd had enough of this kind of shit. ... Everyone in the crowd felt that we were never going to go back. It was like the last straw. It was time to reclaim something that had always been taken from us. ... There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we're going to fight for it. It took different forms, but the bottom line was, we weren't going to go away. And we didn't."

Sound familiar?

Stonewall 2.0 may or may not be inextricably wed to Join The Impact, the viral entity that coordinated the massive, 300-city, 50-state demos on Nov. 15, but what happened from Nov. 5 to Nov. 15 in California and across the country indisputably fired up a new generation of activists and lit a fire under complacent, comfortable older generations. It was a 2.0 moment -- different from the gay marches on Washington, the AB 101 protests, the White Night Riots and other post-Stonewall historical moments precisely because it took place from coast to coast and border to border, and because the method by which it was organized (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, text-messaging) can be reactivated in minutes whenever the moment strikes.

We all had a collective feeling we'd had enough of this crap and it was time to reclaim something that had been taken from us. And now we know we have the ability, the tools, and the activist masses to fight back on cue. Any future events organized by Join The Impact may or may not look or feel like Nov. 15, but the U.S. GLBT population turned a corner from Nov. 5 to 15. It may take a couple of years before it's fully clear what all happened during those 11 days, but it did happen, and things are different now. Lots of things. Not the least of which is the truly diminished authority of Equality California, the Human Rights Campaign and other snappily dressed fortysomething and fiftysomething gay leaders who utterly failed to lead in the campaign against Proposition 8.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Light Up the Night for Equality (San Diego version)

San Diego took part in Join The Impact's national "Light Up the Night for Equality" anti-Prop 8 rallies tonight.
We actually had six protests at six different local malls. Andrés and I drove to the one closest to my house, at Fashion Valley mall.
There were 165 protesters at that location. Of the six sites, Fashion Valley mall is closest to the gay neighborhoods, so perhaps that was the biggest of San Diego's six demos.
As this was a "silent vigil," there was no chanting -- and participants were told not to bring protest signs. That's all good and well as long as passersby have some inkling what you're silently doing. Unfortunately, that did not seem to be the case here. People kept asking. The pretend nuns in face paint likely added to the confusion.
I have to admit, I found our 25,000-strong protest march on Nov. 15 much more invigorating, as did 24,835 other people, apparently.
Pictured below is my openly gay city councilman, Todd Gloria, who recently replaced my "termed out" openly lesbian city councilwoman, Toni Atkins. I hope he will prove to be as much fun as Toni's always been.
Join The Impact's next nationwide action is Jan. 10 -- when the group has called for marches on the 50 state capitols to remind Barack Obama that he has promised to repeal the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act, aka DOMA.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We needed some Harvey Milks this year

Milk the movie didn't quite do it for me. But there was a huge lesson in it for the disastrous No on 8 campaign -- and that is, you don't win a gay rights battle by making gays invisible, as No on 8 did in its $40 million of TV ads.
Back in 1978, when Californians defeated Prop 6 ("The Briggs Initiative") by a landslide, nobody pretended the proposition wasn't about gay people. (Prop 6 would have banned anyone "advocating, imposing, encouraging or promoting" homosexuality from teaching in California public schools.)

Here's how Wikipedia summarizes the anti-Prop 6 campaign (with tidying up by me): A huge coalition of predominantly progressive grassroots activists, led by out gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, teacher (now California Assemblyman) Tom Ammiano, activist Hank Wilson and many others -- under the slogan "Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!" -- mobilized to defeat the initiative. In what became the "No on 6" campaign, gay men and lesbians went door to door in their cities and towns across the state to talk about the harm the initiative would cause. Gay men and lesbians came out to their families, neighbors and co-workers, spoke in their churches and community centers, sent letters to their local newspapers, and otherwise revealed to the general population that gay people really were "everywhere" and included people they already knew and cared about.

Prop 6, which had been ahead in the polls 61 percent to 31 percent in September 1978, went down to defeat in November 1978 by over 1 million votes, losing even in dreaded Orange County, where Assemblyman John Briggs lived.

This year, of course, the clique that headed the No on 8 campaign was seemingly blind and deaf to weeks of howling from progressives and activists of many stripes who kept telling them their TV ads were duds, that invisibilizing gay people was a bizarre miscalculation, and that various no-brainer strategies and approaches seemed to be mysteriously missing from the campaign, which, instead, seemed almost singlemindedly focused on internal daily tracking polls of some allegedly undecided voters.

If for no other reasons than seeing the remarkable parallels -- Save the children! -- and tactical contrasts between 1978's Prop 6 success story and this year's unnecessary Prop 8 disaster, you should go see Milk. Even though, yes, it otherwise didn't quite do it for me. It was too programmatic, too mechanical, too busy, too obvious. Rather than getting sucked in (and, granted, it was a story I already knew by heart), I instead was aware of the filmmaking conventions that were being employed. And that is never a good thing.

(Here are a couple of my blog posts from before the election in which I kvetched about the No on 8 ads: Post 1 - Post 2.)
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