Antonia D'orsay

Roll Up Your Sleeves, Arizona

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | February 08, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Arizona, Equality Arizona, Gay Inc, LGBT civil rights, MEAZ, politics, Trans

So it's late in the day today at Creating Change, and I'm pissed off at people from Arizona.

Rather intensely so.  Here I've encountered a teacher from Coolidge, Alison Davidson from Saga in Tucson, Kim Pearson, who's based out of Lake Havasu, Trudy Jackson and Micheal Weakley from Phoenix.

There's no one here from Equality Arizona.  No one from Marriage Equality Arizona.  No Arizona Stonewall Dems or Arizona Log Cabin, no East Valley group, no "we are family"...

And yet, over the last several months, I've seen them all talk about how they need certain tools and skills and trick and tips and all that other stuff, and All Of That Stuff is here.

Right now.  Going on all around is something that directly affects some major issues that every single org in the Phoenix area and by extension Arizona north of the Gila River has had in the last six months.

The people here are from flyover states.  Yes, there's a large New England/DC and California/Northwest group of people, but by and large the bulk of the people I've seen and talked to here are on-the-ground types from flyover country.  I'm sitting here right now thinking to myself how much Erica would love this -- she'd be a whirlwind here, tortured because she couldn't take all the workshops I know she'd wanted to take (and so I've been taking some to take home with me).

This is not a schmooze fest.  This is not an ego contest here -- although yeah, there's some of that going on.  This place is about getting better tools and increasing understanding and finding out that, as individuals, we do not know the best way to achieve things, and that there is no one way to do it.

There are many Trans folk here.  They work in all manner of organizations, and few of them work in trans only causes.  There are a lot of LGB folks, and most of them are still learning about trans stuff but embracing it when an opportunity comes along.  These are people who really do work on the legislation and the campaigns and the fundraising and the media systems and these are the people who have come here to talk about the best ways to get people involved, a constant gripe I hear in Arizona from many different groups.

It's that kind of event.

And what's really, truly exciting is that this place is both young and old. I'm in a narrow minority here -- most of the attendees are 15 to 20 years older than me or 15 to 20 years younger than me, and they are all getting along amazingly well, and they are all doing incredible things together and asking great questions and learning stuff from one another.

A few weeks back, a large number of leaders from all over the state but mostly Phoenix based orgs got together, and we talked about a lot of stuff that we were doing right and wrong, and in just the last two and a half days, I've seen examples of everything we've talked about in terms of solutions to problems and ways to improve the things we do well already.

And I won't be able to remember it all, nor am I in a position to make a change there. That really bothers me, because our local orgs -- the grassroots, so to speak, the local level contacts that are supposed to be the ones that are really getting things done -- apparently are not interested in working with each other (too many interpersonal conflicts), learning new ways to do things, or improving things they already do.

In talking with perfect strangers, I'm hearing about the recent "implosion of EQAZ." I'm hearing about the "failure of the marriage team."  I'm hearing about the "petty infighting."

These are people who do not live in Arizona.  These are people who look at folks like John McCain and Jeff Flake and *laugh* at us, ignoring people like John Kolbe, Harry Mitchell, Kyrsten Sinema, and Raul Grijalva.

It's really annoying to me.

Now, I could point out that I'm a trans person, and I focus on trans issues and I work on trans stuff and I talk about trans things, but here's the bottom line: Phoenicians are not only not tied into the larger issues of the LGBT communty, they aren't even tied into their own.

And that's got to change.  Now.

There are H.E.R.O. members here all over the place. And when you talk to them you hear stories about how at one time they had the same issues in their communities -- communities which are, on a day to day basis, far worse than anything we might face in Mesa or Peoria or Phoenix, in terms of sheer number of people who are being discriminatory.

And what it's making me see is that I'm am ashamed of the wider Phoenix community, with one single exception: the trans orgs. Those are what are represented here.  Arizona TransAlliance is here, TransMentors International is Here, TYFA is here, River Rainbow Pride is here.

I came here to learn to create change, and what I'm discovering is that back home, it's all about creating static.

And that's bad.

Not only bad, that's shameful.  On the parts of all of the orgs.  All of them.

Because they aren't tied into the wider network of what is the Movement.

And they should be.

The NGLTF offers scholarships every year.  They work very hard to make arrangements for people. So its not an excuse to say, "Oh, I couldn't afford it." I make less than any of the activists I know and I got here -- and that's was in no small part due to the kindness of others.

Who were kind because I am engaged at this level and I do try to bring it back home.

Today in the State of the Movement Address, Arizona was mentioned. It was mentioned because we -- and by we, I mean all of us, in all of our organizations, regardless of what their missions might say -- have a battle that must be fought, and it must be fought now.

We must stop the adoption limitations bill.

How we, as separate organizations, do that is up to the different organizations.  There is no one right way to do so.  But, above all else, we must keep in contact with each other, and we must leverage our national contacts to help with this because they will help if they see us all working towards the same goal, even if while doing so we don't work under a single banner.

The banner is meaningless and without value or merit.  It means nothing.  What means something is success, and we must find a way to succeed on  this, using everything single idea and resources at our disposal and not saying no to any of them.

God forbid anyone want to crap on me when I get home for writing this.  This is truth, even if I don't like to say it and they don't want to hear it.  There is no more "Well, I don't like that gal because she did this" or "That guy is nuts so I won't work with him."

If you care about marriage, this is your fight because marriage is about family, and a great many families seek to adopt.

If you care about a part of the valley, this is your fight, because it affects your part of the valley.

If you fight for the whole state or you are involved in politics, this is your fight because this is a political issue and it must end now.

So, Arizonans, get over your insular differences, and roll up your sleeves.

We've got work to do.


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Having lived in Tucson, Arizona from 2004 - 2008, I find your comments sad but not at all surprising.

FYI: My Partner and I attended a meeting concerning homeless youth in Tucson and were basically told by
"the powers that be" that according to their figures there was not a problem with homeless youth. Need I say more....

Tucson is having funding issues mainly, and was represented by a contingent of nearly 10 people this year, from SAGA, Wingspan, and the University as well.

They are trying, and they've gotten much further along than we in Phoenix have.

Well Toni, to get right to the point, I'm glad someone from Az went and is returning with info that we can all use!!!! Orgs are a good thing and can empower us as a group, however, each of us can make a difference just by spending a few minutes calling your local and state politicans and telling them where you stand and what your desires are for current and future legislation!!! This is a form of lobbying that works on a grass roots level!!! And btw, don't just call once, call often and with intent!!! Hope to speak again with you soon about the many workshops and ideas that you experienced!! Kori

Kori, a few weeks ago, various orgs in Phoenix got together and hammered out some basic agreements that are being expanded on in three working groups: Internal Communications (nicknamed Betty), External Communications, and Political Development.

What I took from CC will be found most strongly in the external working group, For which I'm the coordinator.

Despite a few people who can only see problems, most of us are only seeing solutions.

Happy that the trans orgs are participating, Dyss; now what are you going to do with that?

Right there, right in Phoenix is one of the ongoing human rights outrages in the country, the County Sherrif.

Good time for trans activists to make common cause with hispanic and immigration activist and to be a visible force in support of each other.

Maura, Sheriff Joe is, in our local opinion, the single most egregious and costly outrages we have ever had in Arizona -- and we've had a few in our time (Even Mecham comes to mind, as does Charles Keating).

As I think you know, my children are Hispanic (Mexican American, to be precise) as is the woman I'm still legally married to, and I take latino/a issues very much to heart in my street level work by myself.

That's going to end this year. Had I enough law enforcement experience to justify it, I'd be running for his position. As it is, I suspect that the local trans political organization will end up publicly supporting his opponent.

We already do join protests against his treatment of not merely hispanic but other ethnic minorities, and I am certain you will see more trans folk stand up in this since a large percentage of the trans folk here in Phoenix are Hispanic as well, and they are disproportionately harrassed. Visibility is difficult -- trans folk are not granted much in the way of visibility locally -- but we will work on that.

Which is not an easy task -- Joe's a cagey bugger. The risk in taking him on is ageism being displayed, as his greatest support comes from the areas he has direct supervision over: the Sun Cities and Leisure World contingents.

Change is coming to Arizona, though. The Census will rewrite the landscape dramatically.

Actually, Dyss, I did not know about your personal involvement in Hispanic nd Immigration causes. That said, a very visible trans alliance with the Hispanic commuunity will be hugrely productive for both sides.

I went to your neck of the woods many months ago for a protest

Good luck, dyss. Arizona is one of the states we hear a lot about around here for just these reasons.

Toni,
I'm glad my old home state has someone like you working in it. I feel it's in good hands.

Monica, the state is in many great hands, and they are still struggling, still learning to step up and step together.

We have our problems -- and they are significant ones in some cases -- but there's desire on the part of most to change that and create something that is very strong.

Its most disheartening to realize that Phoenix has openly gay city council members and no anti-discrimination ordinance. It's troubling that we have Kyrsten Sinema, and openly lesbian member of our Legislature, and she's effective but hampered by an overwhelming Republican and teabagger related majority.

And the only way we will be able to change this is by working working together.

Hi Toni,
First, I want to to say how awesome it was to meet you in person at Creating Change. You gave me some great insight in to Trans issues I had never known. You are a rock star!

One thing to note. Marriage Equality Arizona is actually a chapter of Marriage Equality USA. John Allard-Lawson, the chapter leader, does some awesome work and is always looking for people to connect with and opportunities for inclusive out-reach.

The reason why I bring that up, is because Marriage Equality USA (MEUSA) was at Creating Change. There were three of us representing all MEUSA Chapters. The Board President Carole Scagnetti, Chapter Developer Fernando Lopez and I was there as the Indiana Chapter leader. We also had a table in the vendor/info area.

It would be great if every chapter leader could be there... But neither NGLTF, GLAAD or MEUSA can afford to send everyone. That being said, I'll nudge John about being there next year ;)

Evan! :D

John and Steen have a really hard job locally, an uphill battle locally, and, to be perfectly frank (as if I'd be anything less) tend to need some education on Trans issues related to marriage (but at least are willing to try to speak to them, lol).

The photo I have for here was taken of me at a Marriage Equality march that Steen and John organized last year, in fact.

But do nudge him, lol. And point him to my column tomorrow...

Glad you're calling out the Phoenicians. When I lived in Tucson in the early aughts, I always found it strange that we had such a vibrant community center while Phoenix - much larger - had nothing. Glad to see that's changed, at least. Progress!

(BTW, I think Kyrsten - who I agree is awesome - identifies as bisexual... unless that's changed...)

I lived in Mohave County for 12 years and there really wasn't much of an lgbt community there.The only gay bar I knew of was the Blazing Saddle in Bullhead.During the first go round on gay marriage I didn't see anyone really out and about trying to make a difference in that area of the State.Personally I put an add in the local dollar saver supporting gay marriage and pointing out that the local clergy were the only ones pushing to amend the State Constitution.I wasn't around for the second vote or I would have done the same thing over again.As you know Arizona is spread out and places like Lake Havasu have 60% of their voters registered Republicans.To me that doesn't mean they can't be won over it just means you have to work a little harder.I hope that you and the other groups reach out to the rural lgbt population and see their value as members of communities who often know each other better than the big city types.