There is a moment in every Dr. Phil show were he tells the guests of the day that they need to "get real" and stop the behaviours that are causing them pain and emotional distress.I think it is high time that the LGBT community internalize that message and end the sometimes limp-wristed approach we take to fighting for our right to equal treatment under the law.
Continuing reports and analysis coming out about the No on Prop 8 campaign show that our side ran a timid and poll-driven campaign that avoided the use of images and messaging featuring same-sex couples talking about how Prop 8 would effect their lives, ignored outreach to communities of color until the last minute and failed to anticipate anti-gay tactics that even a first year poli-sci student could have predicted.
"It seemed like there was a missed opportunity here for education in general," says Cathy Renna. After more than a decade with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Renna is now managing partner of Renna Communications, based in Washington, D.C.
Renna and other critics say what was fatally missing from the No on 8 campaign's advertising was the presence of actual gay and lesbian families telling their stories. By holding back on the emotional punch and choosing instead to focus on cold principles, they say the campaign failed to move people on the opposing side.
"I think the whole marriage debate in general has not been framed in a way that takes our relationships and our families out of more than a superficial or abstract context," Renna says.
While there are many smart and politically savvy people in positions of leadership in our organizations, I do wonder how much of gay conventional wisdom is shaped by psychic damage caused by the intrinsic evil of the closet and internalized homophobia.
That is not to say that our leaders are closet cases, but how much of the timidness and unwillingness to speak openly and forcefully about our lives and our families is the result of old-school political battles necessitating a less overtly "gay" style of activism?
In DC, the local LGBT community has made significant political gains mostly by employing behind the scenes strategies that did little to educate the larger DC community about the lives of LGBT District residents. That strategy has been so successful that we now have one of the strongest relationship recognition laws in the country, but the number of couples making use of the law remains incredibly small because the overwhelming majority of LGBT people are unaware of its existence and the rights and responsibilities it provides.
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Why are so many so unwillingly to talk openly about our lives, our families and our demand for civil rights?
The passage of Prop 8 and its stripping away of a basic civil right from gay people shows that we can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines saying that we are "not political" or that we have to hide being "too gay" for fear of shoving our gayness in people's faces or that it is about winning the short-term battles and not about winning the long-term war for equality.
Winning our civil rights is going to take every single one of us standing up for ourselves and each other. To do anything less would amount to enabling the homophobia that infects our society and betraying the lives of future generations of LGBT people.