Nadine Smith

"No Excuses. No Delays." Do we really mean it?

Filed By Nadine Smith | May 29, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: civil rights struggles, gay rights, LGBT community, no delays, no excuses

At a recent speaking engagement, I asked a group of people what the world would be like if from the day they were born prejudice had never touched their lives.

  • No homophobic bullying in school. Supportive families at homes No trans-bashing humor on TV.
  • No workplace discrimination. Equal treatment of all families regardless or orientation or gender identity.
  • No closet, ever, because you had never, ever needed one.

Most of the people responded by talking about new laws that would be in effect but they struggled to name the deeper, more personal impact on the texture of their daily lives.

A few talked about what they would no longer fear but struggled to articulate what affirmative would replace those fears.

And one man wept and said it broke his heart that he could not imagine, even for a moment, what his life would have been without the constant presence of bigotry and hatred he'd endured for more than 60 years.

I encourage everyone to try this exercise because it is surprisingly difficult, and because I believe it is the pathway to our most potent tools in response to government-imposed second class citizenship:

A Sense of Urgency and the Willingness to Sacrifice to harness the transformational power of living "as if." "As if" the laws had already changed. "As if" society were just.

Sitting at a lunch counter that bans your presence is living "as if". Keeping your seat when ordered to relinquish it to someone the law has designated your superior is living "as if."

As a child I was told that Rosa Parks was tired and fed up one fateful day and decided right then and there that she would not give up her seat. I was impressed by her courage.
Later, when I learned that her protest had been contemplated at length with the consequences fully measured, I was inspired even more deeply by her willingness to intentionally sacrifice her freedom and safety to make the country confront the ugliness of Jim Crow.

So where are the places where we contemplate the consequences of living "as if" equality had already arrived. Housing discrimination, workplace discrimination, adoption/ custody issues and hate violence are constant threats in LGBT lives, but not in inevitable or predictable ways. Where are the "sit -in" opportunities for the LGBT movement that can expose the contradiction between what our fellow Americans believe they stand for and what they allow to be done in their name?

Certainly discrimination in marriage laws and the military provide the most direct opportunities. These are the places the law defines us specifically as unequal, where we can make a reliable appointment with discrimination and be certain it will show up right on time.

Servicemembers who come out while on active duty and fight for the right to continue to do their jobs are a model for this kind of personal commitment and sacrifice. They decide not to participate in their own discrimination. They and the organizations fighting for them are shifting public opinion in dramatic ways.

What is the civilian equivalent? What can we do that demonstrates not only the rhetoric of equality but the personal sacrifice that will awaken the conscience of a nation?

What if those of us who are married lived as if our marriages are universally legally recognized? What if we literally refused to deny our spouse on any form, under any circumstances- ever?

When the government asks legally married couples in Massachusetts to file as 'married' in their state and then mark 'single' on the Federal Tax form, they are asking that couple to participate in their own discrimination so that the government doesn't have to dirty it's hands. They are literally demanding that we lie, to tell an untruth about our marital status, so they can avoid confronting the difference between the hate-based discrimination they impose on us and the reality of our loving families.

Imagine the ripple effect of government issued letters to married gay couples ordering them to deny their spouse on federal forms.

We have to compel these moments by deciding that our lives will be about honesty and self-respect. Even if it comes at a price.

Rosa Parks showed us that even a one family refusing to participate in their own discrimination will have an impact. But thousands of us, all of us, can decide to leave the discrimination up to the other side. We can refuse to collaborate in our own discrimination.

  • If we refuse to deny our spouses even when the law tries to force us to lie.
  • If we insist on paying our taxes as married couples, even though the Federal government assessed our taxes as though we were single
  • If we risked being detained at the border by customs agents who insist we mark single on Declaration forms despite the marriage certificate we hold.

With growing frequency I hear from people who are weighing the consequences of refusing to deny their spouse ever again. I find myself asking the same questions as well.
Even with expert legal guidance detailing the risks, a good dose of uncertainty would be inevitable for anyone taking such a stand into uncharted territory.

Am I willing to take that risk? Are you? Are we all?

We march, we lobby, we educate, we protest and we should and we must. But it seems increasingly clear to me that we must now do what civil rights movements have always done: with forethought and solemnity place ourselves visibly at odds with an unjust law to provoke the consequences that can prick the conscience of our country.

Are we willing to pay the price that civil rights movements require at this critical moment when a reinvigorated national dialogue is raging about our place under the law? Are we willing to compel the government be as ugly as it will have to be to enforce its determination that we are not married? Are we willing to say we are married, regardless of the costs?

'No excuses, no delays' is a fine rallying cry, but it's one that has to cut both ways.

When we call our on our government to take action we must also call upon ourselves to do more.

In focus groups we hosted several years ago, a panel of straight people who knew gay people said they did not believe discrimination was real or nearly bad as we described it because their gay friends or family would have told them these things. Then, in the all-gay focus groups, participants were asked: Do you share your fears and experiences of discrimination with your straight friends and family? They said "NO, if they cared they would ask." They don't ask, we don't tell and rarely are they required to see with their own eyes the deep harm and real pain inflicted by laws that tell us we are less than our neighbors.

Every civil rights struggle in this country has required people to sacrifice and make institutionalized discrimination so visible no one could avert their eyes. People stepped forward knowing they could lose their homes, lose their jobs, their safety. They walked willingly toward hateful mobs and police with snarling dogs. They turned a proposed one day bus boycott into 381 days of solidarity. They sacrificed and the country watched and changed.

Every civil rights struggle in this country has required people to sacrifice.

The country is watching. Are we ready to do the same?


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Oh, Nadine! Music to my ears so tired of rhetoric, bloviating, and bweeping. Thank you! I will discuss with my girlfriend (okay, "wife," but we hate that word...so NOT hottt!) doing as you say: refusing to report to the IRS that we are "single," which we certainly are not...and I will, no doubt, need to warn our tax preparer who is always cautious about poking the IRS in the eye. Likewise, all of us living in cohabitational couples, legally married or not, should consider civil disobedience when our 2010 Census form arrives. Are we married...really married? Then, for all our sakes, let's say so. No excuses, no delays, no dissuasion from our tax preparer. The say "get back"; we say "step up!"

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | May 31, 2009 11:31 AM

Thanks for kicking the conversation off in here with your own personal stand.

Sonnie Swenston-Forbes | June 6, 2009 11:00 AM

Great post! I, too, disliked the title "wife" because of earlier man-owning-woman contexts, etc. In our wedding ceremony, we declared ourselves "spouses for life." But my mind -- and heart --began to change when our next-door-neighbor, a Latino man in his 40s, introduced us to his other party guests as "this is Sonnie, and this is her wife," and "this is Melinda, and this is her wife." So matter-of-fact. So equal. And so political! Consequently, ever since then the word has taken on a power that we have owned, and learned to love.

In talking about GLBT civil rights and a projected path for the movement, I am alwas reminded of the contrasting views expressed by W.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington.

Washington felt that earning civil rights would be a slow, gradual process, created by earning the goodwill of people in power by not making a fuss. His famous "Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are" speech says exactly this:

"To those of the white race who look to the incoming of those of foreign birth and strange tongue and habits for the prosperity of the South, were I permitted, I would repeat what I have said to my own race: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” Cast it down among the eight millions of Negroes whose habits you know, whose fidelity and love you have tested in days when to have proved treacherous meant the ruin of your fireside. Cast down your bucket among these people who have without strikes and labor wars tilled your fields, cleared your forests, builded your railroads and cities, brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, just to make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South."

W.E.B. DuBois, on the other hand, said that the secret to success lay in standing up and taking control of destiny -- in the case of his famous "Talented Tenth" essay, in education:

"And so we come to the present ? a day of cowardice and vacillation, of strident wide-voiced wrong and faint hearted compromise; of double-faced dallying with Truth and Right. Who are to-day guiding the work of the Negro people? The "exceptions" of course. And yet so sure as this Talented Tenth is pointed out, the blind worshippers of the Average cry out in alarm: "These are exceptions, look here at death, disease and crime ? these are the happy rule." Of course they are the rule, because a silly nation made them the rule: Because for three long centuries this people lynched Negroes who dared to be brave, raped black women who dared to be virtuous, crushed dark-hued youth who dared to be ambitious, and encouraged and made to flourish servility and lewdness and apathy. But nor even this was able to crush all manhood and chastity and aspiration from black folk. A saving remnant continually survives and persists, continually aspires, continually shows itself in thrift and ability and character."

So here we are. We can cast down our buckets where we are, or stand up to show that we are competent, functional members of society who are more than the sum of our gender / sexuality. And, before the movement reaches success, I am sure we will also hammer out similar questions to those of Washington and DuBois. I'm tickled pink to see that debate coming to fruition here on Bilerico.

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | May 31, 2009 11:34 AM

Excellent quote comparison. The DuBois quote is a longtime favorite.

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | May 29, 2009 2:23 PM

Thanks for sharing your thinking.
I'd like to get more of us brainstorming this kind of strategy.
Here's an important piece:
We've asked a Law School Dean and respected Tax Attorney to research what the likely consequences might be for refusing to lie on Fed and/or State Tax Forms.
We want to put together something that can at least guide people in their own decision making process. Similar to what the War Resister's League once provided.

Nadine......I think I love you.

No one is ever given their "rights" they have to take them. That means sometimes you have to take risks and do so gladly. LGBts have been begging for their rights too long, time to take them, time to refuse second class citizenship, time to proudly fill out those forms correctly. Time to stand up to each and every bigot who would deny you basic human rights. Time to take to the streets when needed because well behaved women never changed anything.

Angela Brightfeather | May 29, 2009 3:20 PM

Nadine,

You have touched on the very aspect of civl disobedience that is the present day line drawn in the sand. To step over that line leads to consequences that most just don't want to face. If your GLBT, it might disrupt your schedule for the weekend or mean that you can't show up for work on Monday because your in jail, or nasty letters might get sent to your employer by the IRS.

And there you have it, the place that people will not go because they do not recognize their inequality is equally as dear as the air they breath.

That line was stepped over by the women who felt that the right to vote was so important and dear to them that they chained themselves to the pillars of the Congressional Building and were thrown in jail, went on a hunger strike and after weeks of suffering, two of them died. This incident and the deaths of these women, mothers and wives moved other women and husbands to the point that the wave grew and grew until it could no longer be kept from breaking down the walls before it.

Are GLBT people at that point yet, where their being married is as equally violated as their right to vote? If their right to vote were taken away instead of their right to serve in the military or be legally married, would they chain themselves to the pillars of Congress, go on hunger strikes and die if the need be? Is the right to be married as important to them as the right to vote?

My assumption at the present time is, hell no!!

I just don't see that level of committment in the GLBT community and over the past 42 years of being active in it's political nature, I have never seen it. Except in a few rare cases and mostly coming from the Transgender Community as in the Stonewall Inn act of rebellousness, which the very nature of, was almost immediately changed by the straight acting GLB community that either coopted it as an act of gay rebellion and never given it credit as an act of gender rebellion, which is where it got it's frustration, or they just ignore that Silvia Rivera and other gender queers were the one's so put upon and frustrated that they made it happen in the first place.

Acting in unison, dedication and with intent is not something that the GLBT community has historically done as well as it could unless there is a party, concert or celebration attached to it. Although signs of that are changing when you see things like United ENDA pop up or leading groups start to shout down the people inside them that further discrimination within their own ranks. That progress has only come about due to the roadmarkers along the course of the fight named Shepard, Mitchell, Schorer and others who have given their lives or stood up for what they believe in. But the sacrifices have come at a great loss of life and personal sacrifices, although none of them have had the impact to create immediate awareness and changes because many were spontaneous and not deliberately planned to create an impact.

If dropping your bucket means that everyone does it at the same time, then that would have an impact. But if it is not done in unison, then it's the same old, same old and progress comes at a snales pace and with the usual sacrifices.

This is exactly why I am so angry at Marriage Equality USA for their faux-protest on Tuesday after the Prop 8 decision was announced. They had pre-arranged with the SFPD to do a sit-in, in a way that had minimal disruption of trafic. The protesters were only symbolically "arrested," then cited and released at the scene.

The whole purpose of the exercise was simply to get video footage and photographs to use as propaganda.

People are actually ready to be the sand in the gears. They simply need leadership that is ready to be so, too.

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | May 29, 2009 7:18 PM

Here's an excerpt from an emailed response:

"Indeed, acquiescing in our own second-class citizenship has always been the linchpin of discrimination. Coming out, being out, living out, as we've been aware for three decades thanks to Harvey Milk and other, later visionaries, is the first, most basic contribution at the individual level. Matt Bai in the latest NYTimes Magazine ("Queer Developments," May 21) notes, among other sea changes, that 13% of U.S. citizens live in states with marriage equality or with recognition of marriages performed in other states. A start. He attributes the movement toward equal rights to the fact that "younger Americans and those now transitioning into middle age have had openly gay friends and colleagues all their lives." There is some level of living "as if" there is equality any time someone is out. I'm deeply grateful to all who live "as if."

This is an incredibly thought-proving post, Nadine—thank you! I don't think I've ever heard this expressed so clearly and eloquently before.

And of course I agree with you, but I wonder how many of have the courage of a Rosa Parks? There are many, many legitimate reasons why people may not be able to live "as if", and no, Angela Brightfeather, not just because it could "disrupt your schedule for the weekend". There are concerns about physical safety, for example.

And after living an entire life under bigotry, can we really be surprised if many of us, like the gentleman Nadie described, can't imagine life any other way?

Maybe we can at least begin where we feel we can, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem, and build from there. Even these small things will help, I think.

In answer to your question, no, we do not really mean it.

Not when the HRC can bargain away some people's rights, not when LGBT authors can discuss removing the T (aand in essence Butch Lesbians), not when nearly a third of us vote for our oppressors.

And worse, Nadine, the politicians know that we are not serious.

I've thought about this some more, Nadine.

I studied in recently post-Franco Spain. I was one of the thousands who attended the funerals of the Massacre of Atocha victims, at personal risk. When the 23-F coup came and parts of the Army and the Fascists seized the Cortes and attempted to secure the capital, our favourite professora pointed to the cafe table where we were, in defiance of matial law, discussing the events, and said "is this table(symbolisong to all of us our freedom to persue feminist ideals of equality) worth fighting and dying for?"

We silently rose as an answer and she told us to gather things to make barracades. Along with trade unionists, communists, and people of every political view and origin except for the priests and the Franquistas(Francoists) we cut the major arteries of the capital and made sure that reenforcements would not easily arrive and showed the world that the coup would not be accepted tacitly. We tore down the old flag of the Franquistas from the Bishop's palace and gave it to our professora. the chemistry students arrived to join us with molotov cocktains and home made mines.

The Christian Right intends to do to us what the Franquistas would have done to the students, muzzle us, makes us invisible and silent or imprison us, and to continue a climate where a horriffic number of our brother and sisters are murdered every year

NOM's board has strong connections to people and organisations that wish to re-criminalise our love. In many places, it is perfectly legal to fire us or to deny us housing.

No one will raise a barracade, no one will stand defiantly on a monument to arouse a crowd, no one is willing to "fight for this table"

No, we are not serious.
We want to whine til our rights are begrudgingly handed to us.

We fought to save a democracy and to protect our right to our table.

When will the LGBT community do the same?
Our professora hung the Franquista flag ripped from the Bishop's palace behind a frame as a "war trophy." Before framing it, she defaced it by spraypainting "UCM" onto it symbolising our and Spain's triumph(UCM= Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Is there a symbol of victory hanging somewhere on a wall on Rhode Island Avenue? Is there even anyone working there that we would care to give such a keepsake to? And are we willing to take the chances to win such a victory?

No.

You've framed this a revolutionary argument, which means that—in your frame—it's impossible for us to ever win. The problem with your frame is that the United States is not Franco's Spain, and there's no support for revolution, apart from both extreme ends of the political spectrum.

The majority of Americans, who lie somewhere between the ends of the political spectrum, can and will achieve victory through boring, ordinary means, just as they have for generations. In this view of America-as-evolutionary, people can, are and will continue to do "what is necessary" to achieve full equality. It may not be what you think is necessary, and it won't lead to what you apparently want to see, but that doesn't mean equality can't or won't happen by evolution and organic change.

I always thought the left was optimistic, but this sort of framing is making me rethink that assumption.

It will take a revolutionary level of committment to get complete equality nationwide. Not a revolution, but a level of committment of rising up to demand, and no longer to beg.

Until we have that, we will have to bargain, and bargaining means that we give up at least part of that which ought to be inalienably and inherently ours. Or worse, we will bargain away someone else's rights....which we, to our eternal shame and discredit, have done on far too many occasions.

and, there were both evolutionary and revolutionary components to the racial civil rights movement in America. It required both a Martin Luther King and a Malcolm X to succeed.

I think I understand what you mean, though I don't think "revolutionary" components have yet been required. When I was an activist many years ago, we got far more access—and far more accomplished—when we had ACT UP and Queer Nation: We seemed so "reasonable" and "rational" by comparison that we got access and results that never would've happened otherwise.

But I don't see a parallel with individuals and their individual lives.

If you mean the community as a whole needs to do this, that's one thing, but none of us has the right to expect, much less demand, that individuals do anything; they have to decided what they can safely do in their lives.

But until that happens, I'd rather compromise and get something that stick to principle and gain nothing.

No one is demanding everything Arthur.

And ACT-Up was revolutionary, guerilla civil disobedience.

But I am asking nothing of anyone.
Nadine is asking the question, are we serious about rights, now?
You answered no and I've answered no.

And as far as compromises, the last time that the community compromised, the leaders compromised away other's people's rights, not their own.

Paige Listerud | May 30, 2009 2:23 PM

The only caveat I would counsel is that those same-sex couples who are contemplating filing tax returns as a married couple must be backed by lawyers will to defend their position in court against the IRS, and those lawyers need funding. Are we as a community ready to fund that?

Furthermore, media attention needs to be organized around the choice to file jointly. If it is simply done as a private act, not a public one, it will be lost and people will be jailed or fined for nothing. The same-sex couples must be public in their weddings, public in their attempt to obtain marriage licenses, and public in their refusal to file in any way other than jointly. Press releases, press conferences, demonstrations, etc..

Rosa Parks didn't just sit down in the front of the bus all by her lonesome. She was part of an activist group of African Americans who were campaigning to end segregation on bus lines. Several other members had already been arrested before her for sitting at the fronts of busses. Rosa just happened to be the one who got the media's attention--media attention that finally awakened a nation.

Asking to sacrifice for one's ideals is one thing; sacrificing with the intent to win is quite another.

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | May 31, 2009 11:11 AM

I'm so glad this question has generated so much interesting conversation.

Readers here and at Pam's House Blend in particular have sharpened the issue. The comments and feedback and strategic thinking have been helpful.

And my in box is full of LGBT married couples pledging not to file as single again or seriously considering taking such a stand.

One person wrote: Are we married...really married? Then, for all our sakes, let's say so. No excuses, no delays, no dissuasion from our tax preparer. The say "get back"; we say "step up!"

Another wrote: Your essay stressed me out with nervousness. I want to say "Yes!" because I agree but sadly I don't think I'm capable of doing it. Not yet anyway but keep asking.

It is clear some couples have already taken this bold step and so far I have heard no reports of the IRS responding at all.

Perhaps they too understand that the ugly task of invalidating marriages will not play well in the public arena.

So what are the next steps?

We've reached out to a law school dean and a well-respected Tax attorney to provide guidance on what this likely consequences are for this kind of action.

The idea of the guide is not to eliminate consequences, in fact the willingness to face those consequences is the power of such an action.
Rather, we want to ensure people assess what they are willing to do with a clear-eyed understanding of what they may face.

I'm certain the fine legal minds working on this would appreciate any additional help.

And if anyone is willing to join this effort, brainstorm next steps, including how to make this Legal Guide available widely when it is completed, please let me know.

nadine@eqfl.org

To expand on that Rosa Parks story, they also were well aware that timing is everything, too.

15 year old Claudette Colvin was arrested on March 2, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white man nine months before Rosa Parks did.

She was an NAACP youth member, and then Montgomery NAACP head ED Nixon was looking for a test case to break the back of bus segregation. But as they continued to weigh the pros and cons of proceeding, the sentiment shifted toward waiting.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/187325/?gt1=43002

Nine months later Rosa Parks was arrested and the rest is history.

Andy Humm | May 31, 2009 1:40 PM

If thousands of same-sex married couples were willing to do this in a concerted fashion with legal representation it could have an enormous effect. But I live in New York where I've been in the movement since 1975 and to my knowledge despite many same-sex marriage protests and marches, no one has gotten arrested here at the marriage bureau in the history of those actions--and they go back to 1971 when the Gay Activists Alliance took over the marriage bureau.

We do need to put forth more radical actions and to be willing to do them ourselves. It was good to seeing some of the SoulForce people getting arrested at marriage bureaus this week. But I just don't get the sense nationwide that people are up for it. I hope your call inspires them to get up for it.

I'd also like us all to think about what kinds of "as if" actions we could take to deal with all the other challenges in the movement. How about teachers openly talking about LGBT issues in an intgegrated fashion in classrooms as if it was approved by their school administrations? How about passing out condoms to kids who need them in schools?

Thanks for getting our wheels turning.

Angela Brightfeather | June 1, 2009 2:37 PM

"I'd also like us all to think about what kinds of "as if" actions we could take to deal with all the other challenges in the movement."

How about Transgender people who are told not to to use the rest room appropriate with their gender expression, in states that have no laws against it (which is about 100% of them), refusing to obey security and police actions designed to make them use the inappropriate rest room? And that includes in Gay clubs that discriminate against them.

Another incident of that happened this weekend in Greensboro, NC at the Greensboro Pride Celebration and the Trans person that was discriminated against was actually on the Pride Committee.

It wouldn't hurt to start within our own GLBT community to make some of the changes needed also and fight against those club owners and event organizers who still discriminate and continue to discriminate against Trans people.

Angela Brightfeather | June 1, 2009 3:01 PM

["There are many, many legitimate reasons why people may not be able to live "as if", and no, Angela Brightfeather, not just because it could "disrupt your schedule for the weekend".]

Oh really Arthur? The last time I saw a GLBT person in NC really mad enough to do anything about a discriminatory act openly, was .......Sorry, I can't remember. But if you go to any GLBT club in NC and ask people to take action about something, they woud rather throw a few bucks at th problem instead of openly gathering adn doing something to bring attention to it.

Ah, now I remember. It was one week aftr Prop 8 lost in CA. Lets see. That was back in last Novemeber, seven months ago. Since that time, at least one Drag Queen was murdered in Fayetteville, NC and any umber of other human rights violations have taken place with no answer from the GLBT Community. I believe partly because peole would rather try to find answers by constantly fighting for legislative changes and throwing their money on that fire, instead of conducting vigils and particpating in marches and demonstrations. In other words, hire someone else to do the dirty work and hard charging and sit back and wait for results. At least that gives some GLB people a job they can get paid for and thus make a living by being pseudo activists and professional politicians so they can have a mission statement to flash at people to impress them and help raise more money for "the cause", while others are contemplating the heavy task of deciding where they will be spending next weekends free time.

The last time any polticial organization tried to do something nationally to bring attention to the GLBT movement in an activist type of way, it cost them 1 M. out of their pcokets that just dissapeared, the highlight was a concert that everyone could attend and they lost 50% of their board members.

Now that's what I really call "getting serious about activism".

Throw a party, ignore who has their hands in the till while it's going on and put some stars up there on stage to preach to the choir that has assembled for the party. That's really taking the issues to them baby!!

Angela, my point was that there are many reasons that people cannot live "as if" and none of us has any right to decide for other people what they "ought" to be doing—we're not living their lives and can't begin to understand their reality.

It seems to me that you're projecting the NC experience to all people everywhere which, I'm sure you'll agree, isn't fair. I understand your frustration; at times I've shared it. But rather than harangue people for not doing enough, I feel we need to encourage people to do what they can, and help them move on to do a bit more. Those who can live "as if" make it safer for those who can't until, eventually, we all can.

Angela Brightfeather | June 2, 2009 3:43 PM

It seems to me that you're projecting the NC experience to all people everywhere which, I'm sure you'll agree, isn't fair. I understand your frustration; at times I've shared it. But rather than harangue people for not doing enough, I feel we need to encourage people to do what they can, and help them move on to do a bit more. Those who can live "as if" make it safer for those who can't until, eventually, we all can.

Arthur,

The only reason some people have gotten of their behinds and taken it to the streets recently is because of Prop 8, which is exactly the "as if" issue that hits them where it hurst the most for now.

I spent most of my life in Upstate NY and outside of NYC, where like a very few other majore cities int he USA where people have a reluctance to "take no shit", it is very easy to make the same comparisons regarding a willingness to lay your chest open and take one for the cause, between NC and NY.

The question is rebeliousness and how far are GLBT people willing to go with it. Refusing to pay your tax is one kind, Pride Celebrations used to be a form of it, but since they have become so "normal" they have lost that luster. Picketing and defiance of laws to stop congregating of dissidents is another. I am sure there are many others also. However, working in unison is what actually causes effectie changes and all those components need to be used. This battle for human rights is fought on many batlegrounds and there are many fronts. The one way and perhaps the most affective way of dissenting by physicvally getting in the face of others, handing out leaflets, doing the groundwork and showing up on the 7 o'clock news is the one component that is less used than most.

Sometimes people and movements get the idea that by being virtuous and by being above in-your-face dissent, they can accomplish the same things. This is false and contrary to any history lessons about the changes needed in most societies, especially those noted to be democracies. Yet virtuosity seems to be the only or best way to handle changes in the GLBT community, with very few exceptions. In fact, most GLBT organizations prefer to teach that open dissent is not a good way to create changes.

Arthur, all I am saying is that until GLBT organizations are as willing to make open dissent a part of their program for change, and ways to do it, we are missing a vital component of change. Refusing to file your taxes as required is not an act of open dissent. Lying down in the road in front of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC by the thousands because they won't allow GLBT Irish people to march in their organizations and be represented, and actions like that are open dissent. Now you tell me if GLBT people are ready to do that and which version of dissent is going to make the most difference.

Thank you for that—I think I now understand what you're saying. I also pretty much agree with you. I still say, though, that we have to respect the choices that individuals make—how far they can go in living "as if", how involved in creating change they can be.

I also completely agree that, "this battle for human rights is fought on many batlegrounds and there are many fronts." I think that not all GLBT organisations should be involved with dissent (civil disobedience). We're fantastically successful when we have both strands, the "virtuous" and those who do "in-your-face dissent". I've personally seen how successful that is. However, one without the other is like a glove without a hand.

So, I guess we basically agree, though we may choose different aspects to emphasise. Which goes to show how useful this discussion has been.

Angelina Rose | June 3, 2009 8:40 PM

This is an excellent discussion.
I would like to see all available options of civil disobedience in all categories explored and put on the table for people to pick up ...and yes make the sacrifice.

Discrimination against others makes them less than you and breeds toxic molds of hostility and fear.
A. Rose

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | June 3, 2009 10:49 PM

Some have raised the census as another possible place to live "as if".

I would like to hear from people where we can confront unjust laws that try to force us to deny our familes.

Nadine Smith Nadine Smith | April 19, 2011 11:24 PM


This column was the genesis of the Refuse To Lie campaign.If you haven't already, please visit the website: RefuseToLie.org.