Thursday, November 15, 2007

VENTING IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MEANINGFUL ACTIVISM

Given much of what I do, I have the occasion to read quite a few blogs on any given day, along with many of the comments given for the assorted posts on those blogs. I'm struck by at least three things in regard to the nature of those comments: 1. The seeming unwillingness of many LGBT people to even discuss meaningful, coordinated activism that can have a social and political impact; 2. The willingness of many LGBT people to settle for incrementalism in the acquisition of full and equal civil rights; 3. The rhetorical venting of anger against homophobes as a seeming substitute for meaningful activism that insists on full and equal civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people.

None of us like to have our comfort zones disturbed, nor do we like to speak truth to power that can easily alienate us from those whom we have considered "friends." Many people seem to be afraid to become truly active in insisting on being treated as any other citizen, including the right to marry. This phenomenon is seen in both secular society and in most churches as well.

Most people want to be liked, and that is the Achilles Heel that prevents so many LGBT people and allies from actively confronting the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that Gay people face each and every day, in virtually every institution in society. Moreover, the desire to be liked, to "get along," is seen in the settling for incrementalism in the seeming quest for civil rights, even to the point where those who were hitherto considered part of the community can and will be thrown under the bus for the sake of political expediency and/or selfishness, as was most recently seen in the House's passage of the non-inclusive ENDA.

Tragically, what makes this betrayal of our Transgender brothers and sisters even more pathetic and alarming is the fact that ENDA is sure to be vetoed, and I wonder to what further egregious lengths some would go in selling out others if the passage of ENDA was considered to be a viable outcome.

I've noticed that even when the issue of meaningful activism has been broached, that issue is usually met with silence, or is sidestepped, or is trivialized by comments that usually devolve into castigating homophobes and very little else. It seems to me that the LGBT rights movement has devolved as a movement from the meaningful activism in the 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's that had a tremendous impact in gaining some civil rights, to an amorphous, anemic, self-indulgent "movement" that seems to feel that by marching in Pride parades and referring to other LGBT people in the "community" by derogatory, defamatory names is somehow equivalent to "activism," or "progressive politics."

I've previously discussed (See, for example, "Why The Lack of Expressed Outrage?") some of what I feel are the psychological and social dynamics behind this evasion of meaningful, coordinated activism, and even its discussion, but there is no substitute for such discussion and activism if the cause of LGBT civil rights is to be moved forward in the foreseeable future. (In this connection, please see Don Charles' five part post, "Some of Them Want to Be Abused.")

And relying on political apathy; political expediency; betrayal; bureaucracy's "business as usual," as seen with the non-inclusive ENDA; venting as being seen as a replacement for meaningful activism, is certain to only garner further disrespect, and even contempt, from those who already have the civil rights that must also be won for LGBT people.

As I wrote in last Saturday's, November 10th, post, POGO: "WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US" :

"As long as all too many Gay people, assorted politicians, and assorted Gay Rights organizations can be seen to be willing to settle for incrementalism, such as Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions, and a non-inclusive ENDA, it is to that degree that the bullies will become emboldened to up the ante and fight that much more ferociously to preserve their stake in the status quo that promises to further retard the acquisition of full and equal civil rights!

"If we don't stand up to the bullies and demand full and equal civil rights for everyone, the bullies not only win, but LGBT people will lose, and lose by their own willingness to settle for what crumbs are offered them to keep them quiet and keep them in their place!

"Self-respect demands that all LGBT people and people of good will never settle for the crumbs of incrementalism; never settle for being viewed and treated as second-class citizens; never sell out the principles of fairness and "equal justice for all"; never sell out our Transgender brothers and sisters or anyone else, as by such actions full and equal civil rights and respect will never be obtained, and further contempt will be heaped upon LGBT people.

"And no one with an ounce of self-respect can stand for such treatment!"

And self-respect demands that one not be content with venting one's rage from the safe vantage point of an anonymous comment on a blog, or by referring to oneself or others in his/her community by derogatory names, but by not supporting politicians who are not fully in favor of equal rights for Gay people; by not settling for, or being content with, incrementalism in the form of such constructions as Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions; by not settling for being treated with anything but the utmost respect and dignity befitting a person of worth.

And it is only by grassroots activism, such as boycotting and picketing homophobic churches; speaking out against politicians and organizations who in any way seek to limit access to civil rights; writing letters to the editor of one's local newspaper; speaking out about the need to treat all people with dignity, and the commensurate demand for full equality, to one's neighbors and coworkers; working with others to coordinate such activities, that the realization of full and equal civil and sacramental rights will become a reality in the foreseeable future!
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8 comments:

John said...

One thing I do every day is to NEVER let a homophobic comment pass un-rebutted.

Changing hearts and minds one person at a time is difficult, but we must keep on trying.

Jerry Maneker said...

Absolutely, John. Meaningful activism can and does take many forms, and yours is certainly one of them.

Ally said...

I needed to hear this, Jerry. Not only is venting no substitute for meaningful activism; it too often wastes the emotional energy and spiritual vitality given by God to empower activism on practice that is ultimately self-serving and self-indulgent.

Jerry Maneker said...

I'm glad, Ally. You're absolutely right! Beyond the phony substitution of venting for meaningful activism, that venting creates both a "false consciousness," leading the person to believe he or she has accomplished something but, as you beautifully say, "It too often wastes the emotional energy and spiritual vitality given by God to empower activism on practice that is ultimately self-serving and self-indulgent." We have to put legs on our prayers, as that is the only way that full and equal civil rights will be realized in the foreseeable future.

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

If you don't mind, Jerry, John and Ally, I want to proselytize for a moment or two.

Putting legs on our prayers, for sure! That's what Coretta and Martin Luther King, Jr. did. Their faith-based direct action galvanized and inspired millions of people around the world. But how can you put legs on your prayers when you aren't praying? And how can you pray if you believe faith in God belongs exclusively to your enemy?

Because of societal factors we all understand, most Gay folk have become alienated from God. Consequently, most Gay Rights strategists have stubbornly resisted bringing a strong religious/moral component into the Gay Rights movement. They've encourage the perception that LGBT people are liberal social anarchists (or hedonists) locked in battle with conservative people of faith. They don't talk about God. They don't talk about morality. They cede to Bible bigots the right to engage in those conversations.

But having no moral component to our movement leads to immoral strategy. Gay Rights strategists see no problem with jettisoning transpeople in the name of political expediency. There's nothing inspirational about that kind of strategy. There's nothing about it that's admirable or compelling enough to capture the public's imagination . . . and that includes the imagination of the LGBT public!

Transgender status, the umbrella identity that includes Gay men, Lesbians, bisexual persons and transpeople, is based in Scripture (both Biblical and Gnostic) and ancient folklore. Historically, we've been called eunuchs, hijras, winkte, berdache, mahu and many other enigmatic names. We are like the angels; we connect Heaven with Earth. We are a manifestation of God's Covenant with humankind.

We've been gifted by God with the power to bridge the gap between male and female. Our androgyny means we are closer to His image than other human beings are. LGBT folk are probably the strongest evidence of God's existence you can find; who but God can combine male and female within a single body?

It's neither a mistake nor a coincidence that we proliferate in the Christian church; we were in it from the very beginning, among the Apostles who accompanied Jesus Christ on His mission. The proof is there, in the Gospel of Matthew and various Gnostic books, if you know where to look. So we have every right to claim a Christian mandate; is it not our birthright? Are we not born transgendered?

I believe that if the LGBT movement were faith-based, and led by people of faith, it could not only to teach the Straight world valuable lessons about gender; it could also bring Straight Christians to a deeper understanding of Christianity! I believe we could be instrumental in saving souls.

In my opinion, our struggle has stalled because we've let the Bibliolaters and hatemongers claim our birthright. We must reclaim it! When we finally become wise enough to reject the oppressor's definitions of who we are (tranny, dyke, faggot, queer); when we finally realize that a crusade with no moral foundation cannot result in positive change; when we finally gain enough courage to conquer our deeply internalized shame; when we finally proclaim God the architect of our unique identities . . . that's when He will lift us up like the wind beneath an eagle's wings! That's when we shall overcome.

Jerry Maneker said...

Beautifully put, Don Charles!!!!

Ally said...

You make some fascinating points, Don, and have given me lots to think about...and on a Saturday, no less! Shame on you! =)

Seriously, though, I have seen in my experience with younger GLBT people a vital change taking place in the areas you point out. The time I was blessed to spend earlier this year with the Soulforce Equality Riders, for example, gave me great hope in this regard--young people, taking back the language of faith, taking back the Scriptures and the tradition, refusing to be stereotyped or marginalized as we have been for generations. Do you see similar thing happening around you? Do you, Jerry? I'd be very interested in your perspectives.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Ally. I do see more younger people in the academic setting more open about their sexuality. Moreover, we received a very large audience several years ago when I asked Daphne (now Dylan) Scholinski to speak at the university (He wrote the terrific book, The Last Time I Wore A Dress.). I don't see people embracing faith or Scripture in their openness or as part of their identity, however.

As far as activism is concerned, beyond having LGBT courses, and a minor in LGBT Studies, I see no evidence of faith or Scripture being enmeshed in that curriculum, or even residing in the mind-sets of most of the students and faculty with whom I'm familiar. I think that the rabidly homophobic institutional Church leaders and clergy have done irreparable harm to the point that very few LGBT people want anything to do with Christianity, as they have an understandable visceral revulsion to the very word, "Christian," after listening to all that spewing of hate from assorted pulpits throughout the world.

It takes very special people, chosen by God before the worlds were formed (Ephesians 1:4), such as you and Don Charles, to see God's handiwork in making LGBT people in His image. Moreover, Don Charles hammers home the excellent point:

"Transgender status, the umbrella identity that includes Gay men, Lesbians, bisexual persons and transpeople, is based in Scripture (both Biblical and Gnostic) and ancient folklore. Historically, we've been called eunuchs, hijras, winkte, berdache, mahu and many other enigmatic names. We are like the angels; we connect Heaven with Earth. We are a manifestation of God's Covenant with humankind.

"We've been gifted by God with the power to bridge the gap between male and female. Our androgyny means we are closer to His image than other human beings are. LGBT folk are probably the strongest evidence of God's existence you can find; who but God can combine male and female within a single body?"

Only a Christian worthy of the name can see the truth of those contentions, as you, Don Charles, and a few others are able to discern androgyny, our sexuality, our affectional/sexual orientations as gifts from God!

This is another reason why we must confront those in the institutional Church, and others, to aggressively challenge the blatant lie, the very perversion of the Gospel itself, that being LGBT is in any way inconsistent with being a Christian or with God's will for our lives! We must not let the ignorant and/or the Christofascists win the argument by our silence!