As I noted last week, I have decided to work with GetEqual, the non-violent direct action group, as a member of its provisional Board of Directors.
After its first in-person meeting last week, the Board released a public statement.
That statement after the jump, along with a list of the Board members, my personal impression of the Board and its role in GetEqual, and some planned actions.
I recognize that some of you will find these words controversial. I hope that you will stay to discuss the issues with me by making a comment below, positive or negative.
Do you agree with the principles of non-violent direct action? Do you think the LGBTQ community should use non-violent direct action now?
The statement from the full board, reads:
The newly-formed provisional Board of Directors is committed to providing leadership and direction to GetEQUAL. We seek to create a societal environment that fosters freedom, equality, and justice for the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. One of our main goals is to illuminate discriminations that exist -- to cause tension and force our leaders and society to respond. GetEQUAL will continue to employ tools to create tension, specifically including nonviolent direct action, to bring our crisis to the attention of our leaders -- for a community that has consistently been denied freedom, equality, and justice.
We seek to underscore these issues so that they can no longer be ignored.
We are confident in the leadership of GetEQUAL and believe we have begun to lay the foundation for a solid organization to achieve these goals.
The social and legal inequality of our community is incompatible with the ideals of the American people, and we call on our national leaders to join in the global momentum towards liberty and justice for all.
In making my comments, I will not be revealing internal conversations held by the provisional Board. We have decided that we are free to make public statements for ourselves regarding the organization, but that internal Board discussions of policy, personnel and financial issues should remain confidential. My statements here are my own opinion, and not necessarily the opinion of the provisional Board or GetEqual.
I refer to the "provisional" Board because, during an initial six-month period, we are serving in an unofficial capacity to prepare bylaws and policies. A Board of Directors has legal and financial duties required by law, and failure to live up to these many responsibilities will result in legal liability. After we have had time to set up policies to handle legal and financial issues, and engage appropriate legal and financial professionals to assist us in these responsibilities, a Board of Directors will be named and included on the organization's corporate records. Many Boards call for a two year commitment, and I'm anticipating the same for future Directors of GetEqual.
In essence, the purpose of the provisional Board, like any Board of Directors for any corporation or organization, is to provide leadership on the policy level. It's not our role to direct the actions of the organization's officers and employees on a day-to-day basis. Rather, our role is to set policies that guide their actions towards fulfilling the mission and vision of the organization as we see it, and we have begun to do so.
Aside from our policy role, the Board, as a group, feels that our leadership should have a particular direction: "We seek to create a societal environment that fosters freedom, equality, and justice for the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community." This means we would like the organization to have a societal focus. It's not that the organization hasn't had a societal focus until now. We're just saying we are committed to that focus. As I see it, this differs from a political or legislative focus. As I see it, we want the various proposals for LGBT rights to move, like ENDA, DADT repeal and marriage equality, but we are not a group that is designed to focus on the passage of any particular legislative proposal. We're not going to be doing lobbying or policy work. There are plenty of organizations to do that.
As I see it, we're going to speak to the wider social environment surrounding the lack of full social and legal equality for LGBT people. We may target particular areas of the country, and particular politicians. But our targets aren't necessarily the swing Democrats needed to pass any particular bill. They will include everyone and anyone contributing to the social environment that says that freedom, equality and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not a priority. While we are in solidarity with other social movements for civil rights, we say that freedom, equality and justice for LGBT people must also be a priority.
As noted in the statement in furtherance of this idea, one of our main goals is to illuminate discriminations that exist -- to cause tension and force our leaders and society to respond. As I see it, part of the problem is that our community has so effectively organized to lobby for political, legislative and social change that our advocacy organizations have effectively been co-opted by the system. We have become too cozy with political leaders, to the point where it is difficult to effectively criticize them when they de-prioritize our issues. The discriminations we face become hidden when the public faces of our community are successful and wealthy gay people who appear to be living the American Dream, while the large majority of us are suffering from discrimination everywhere, in our jobs, in our inability to take advantage of public benefits, in joining public military service, in our inability to be our full selves in any public setting. Much of the public doesn't know that this shadow world exists. Many are surprised that there are not already legal protections in place.
Our issues have been all too easy to ignore.
We want to make this discrimination visible to the public and to political leaders, to stop our discrimination from continuing to be ignored.
Some have criticized the organization for its desire to call attention to these issues.
The first step in addressing any problem is admitting that the problem exists.
You may believe that our society knows that the problem exists.
It does not. Some believe that discrimination against LGBT people is no problem, but perfectly acceptable. Some believe that discrimination against LGBT people is a thing of the past, that it no longer exists. Some just don't think about it.
However, we are a tiny minority in our society, regardless of how many of us may live in New York or San Francisco. The data suggests that we are around 2% to 5% of the population. (The figure of 10% often bandied about is a rough approximation, and covers anyone who might have ever had a non-heterosexual experience or desire.) Our society is not, by and large, aware of our struggles.
We need to illuminate. Attention must be paid. We have plenty of advocacy organizations that work on the inside. I'm glad they are there. I support them in their work. But it's time for an outside strategy.
The people on the provisional Board are smart, dedicated and clear about the value and nature of direct action. They have done it, and made it work.
You can find a list of their names and a short bio here. They are busy people. They are from every segment of our society. They are involved with other communities and other struggles, as well as our own. They receive no remuneration for their service. We have phone meetings set about every two weeks, and one more in-person meeting during our six-month tenure. It's already been a lot of work in their busy lives, and they haven't begrudged a minute of it. It will continue to be a lot of work. I love these brave, committed people. They are willing to put their butts on the line to move our community forward.
For those of you who are supporters of GetEqual, thank you for your hearts and your support in a time of crisis. For those of you who are critics of GetEqual, I embrace you, because you are an integral part of the discussion that GetEqual seeks to create around our crisis. For those of you who aren't quite sure where you stand with regard to GetEqual, thank you for being willing to raise the question, to struggle with the hard issue of how best to achieve equality.
As always, I am open to suggestions, thoughts, comments, criticisms, kudos or anything you care to state.
Together, we will move forward as a community committed to equality.