Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Revolution

"I've often wondered what would happen if all LGBT people came out on [National Coming Out Day], the exact same October 11.  What if Monday, October 11 of this year were that day?  Yes, this very year. Just a few short months from now, all people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered would be out.  No more closets.  No more hiding.  No more pretending to be something we're not.  Then what?

"The reason I bring this up is because I believe there's power in doing something in large numbers.  If just a few do it, there's no impact on a grand scale; however, if many hundreds of thousands, or even millions, do it, all on the same day, don't you think the straight world would sit up and take notice?  Don't you think all LGBT people, and the ongoing issues we face, would finally be taken seriously, because we'd give the straight world no choice but to take them seriously?   

"Our numbers would be too impressive, too overwhelming to ignore.  And straight people, who had thought their families had been spared the embarrassment of someone lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, would learn otherwise.  They'd realize that uncle who never got married, or that sister who seems to have no interest in boys, or that young son who prefers the arts to athletics, and, yes, even that man who's married to a woman, or that woman who's married to a man--they'd realize all of them are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered.  We're everywhere.  The problem is that, as a group, we're fractured, separate from each other.  But put us all together, and who knows what we'd be able to do." 

Back when I wrote this in July 2010, in a post titled "Living Fearlessly:  National Coming Out Day, October 11," a critical piece was missing--that of how to pull together all those LGBT people, no matter where they are, so they could be at the same place, at the same time--to gather, to march, to be seen and heard and no longer ignored.

Well, that piece is now in place, and we're seeing the potential of its power played out on our TV screens and in the pages of our newspapers, in the form of thousands upon thousands of people demonstrating in countries across Northern Africa and the Middle East.  The piece I refer to is social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, both of which are being used at this very minute to topple oppressive governments from Tunisia, to Egypt, to Libya.  Because of social networking, people who didn't have a voice before, and who tolerated all manner of human right violations for decades, are finally being heard, and they are literally in the forefront of history-making revolutions.

In "The Revolution Will Be Tweeted," published on Advocate.com, Ben Patrick Johnson recently wrote the following:  


As LGBT people, we have long been marginalized and refused a place in mainstream society by shunning or threat of violence. We socialized in the shadows of an underground speakeasy, the docks of port cities, and clandestine clubs and societies. Interaction was always accompanied by a nervous glance over the shoulder, an awareness that one might be caught and persecuted. We began Gay Pride parades and festivals to carve out a bit of space for ourselves [to] push back against this phenomenon, but it persisted.
Now, with social media, we have the opportunity to form new, very visible constructs with people of like mind or experience. For the first time, our opportunities are just as rich in Bozeman, Mont., as Boston, Mass. There is no upper or lower age limit, no expectation...of being pretty, or butch, or tall or able-bodied. Starting a group on Facebook requires nothing more than a web browser and a few clicks. Posting an opinion is far more practical and less scary than standing up in public and speaking one’s mind.
In closing, Johnson had this to say:  
As an activist, the sense of liberation I get from speaking my truth is something I wish all could and would experience. A street corner is one place I can share my feelings (and have on occasion), but it’s exponentially more effective online.  
Of course, the revolution Johnson refers to is a possible gay revolution, essentially our equivalent of what's happening elsewhere in the world, where social media have been used to rally people toward a common goal of demanding change.  More than ever, every man and woman has a voice, and when all those men and women are compelled to say the same thing, brought together by powerful media tools now available, well, as we've seen already, the course of history is changed.  
So what would happen if gay people in all of our major cities across the country rallied together, showing up in the thousands, or even the tens of thousands, to be seen and heard?  For what purpose would we congregate and demonstrate?  
I suppose that depends on where you live.  South of the border, for example, same-sex couples do not have the right to be married in all fifty states (don't ask me why the U.S. federal government hasn't taken this in hand and made same-sex marriage legal across the nation; probably has something to do with the different ways in which Canada and the United States are governed).

What if enormous numbers of gays and lesbians around the country showed up on the grounds of every legislative building of every capital city from Alaska to Florida?  And what if those people stayed put until promises were made to grant them what they want, what they are entitled to as human beings and as citizens? Do you think Americans would have a revolution on their hands?  You bet they would. Would state governments around the country sit up and take notice?  You bet they would.  They'd have no choice.  

North of the border, we've been fortunate enough to have the right to legally marry since 2005.  So for what purpose would we use Facebook pages or Twitter tweets to rally LGBT people?  What would we have to gain?

I think one of the greatest benefits would be to pull together the LGBT community. Right now, we live spread out all over our cities and towns, as opposed to specific areas.  As a result, our community is separated, and our power is diluted. Rallying would not only bring us together, but also it would unite us no matter where we live, and, most importantly, it would show us we are not alone, we are not in this fight by ourselves, and we do have the collective strength and power to affect change.  

My guess rallying would also encourage a good many people who are not currently out to publicly declare their sexual orientation, thereby freeing themselves from the mental and physical imprisonment that is so much a part of their lives.  When those who are still closeted see everyone else show up and be accounted for (I, for one, would be there, as I know Chris would, too), they'd be empowered to do the same, taking advantage of the safety in numbers and of the best opportunity ever to tell the world who they are, what they're about, and what they want.  

In other words, their journey toward authenticity would take a big leap forward, finally, ending entire lives of secrecy and shame.  There's no telling what the benefits of a national group coming out day would be, but I'm confident it could be enormous, for every person involved and for the country.      

But, most of all, I think what would be gained is we'd find our shared voice, and we'd be heard at last. Our enormous numbers would speak for us loud and clear--that we're human beings first and foremost; we're lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered; we're a part of the greater world; we're everywhere straight people are; we're not going anywhere; and we demand to be treated with the same dignity and respect as every other human being.  Oh, and we're not going to put up with any more of the bullshit we've tolerated for years.    

No doubt whatsoever, we'd be a force to contend with.  Our revolution, too, would change history.  

***For the full text of my post titled "Living Fearlessly: National Coming Out Day, October 11," please click here.

***For the full article by Ben Patrick Johnson on Advocate.com, please click here.  

6 comments:

  1. I think the LGBT revolution is well underway, and virtually unstoppable at this point. It began just before the era of social media, and is now spreading faster than ever. Although Canada and other countries recognized marriage rights for gay couples very quickly, it will probably take more time in other countries. Recognizing the rights of minorities often comes second to more "pressing" issues such as economic development or providing healthcare to citizens. Even in the US, the tide is turning, as we saw with the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell for the military. Gay-themed Oscar nominated movies are now commonplace. While nationwide marriage rights are still a ways off in that country (the Defense of Marriage Act is still in place), the US faces a host of sticky problems that we don't have to deal with in Canada. I guess all we can do is show solidarity and support for our LGBT comrades around the world.

    ¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!

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  2. Thanks for your insight and clarification on these complex issues, Doug. I know you lived in the U.S. for a while, so I'm sure you have a better understanding of what goes on there than I do.
    Yes, we are pretty lucky to live in Canada on so many levels (although I sure wish we had our own tropical island somewhere so we could vacation and own property there). But, just as you suggest, I think we need to be cognizant of gay and lesbian issues around the world, and supportive of the folks still living under oppressive regimes. Just because circumstances are good for us doesn't mean they are for everyone, that's for sure.
    Thanks again.

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  3. Wow, that is so powerful, Rick! Wouldn't that be wonderful, to see something like that spread across all of those social networking sites...And how wonderful for everyone to be out and proud. It makes me so sad that there are still people who aren't out, like some of the people who work in our small town, or my son's teachers. If this happens, I will be right there alongside you!!

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  4. Like I've said before, Sarah, you are one in a million. Your support of gay men and women is commendable and very much appreciated. I'd love nothing more than to stand with you in solidarity during the revolution.

    Your comment, "It makes me so sad that there are still people who aren't out," inspired the piece I wrote today called "Vision." I read your comment last night after dinner. Then, as I went about my evening, my subconscious must have worked on what every gay man and woman being out would look like. I liked what I saw. I liked it a lot.

    And I began to think about what's being lost to the world by these people imprisoned in their closets. That, to me, is unacceptable. How much have we missed out on over the centuries? How much do we continue to miss out on today, because some people don't approve of who other people love? Like I said, unacceptable.

    It will get better. As long as I'm alive, I'll continue to work on what needs to be done to take gay to the next level.

    Thanks again for your involvement in what I write, for your encouragement, and for your contribution.

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  5. Rick, your kind words always blow me away. I guess I don't see my advocacy as something worth remarking on--or rather, it really shouldn't be--most people should be advocates, it's just such a basic human rights issue...
    (I say "most people," because I know there's that small, vocal subset of haters out there, who obviously have issues of their own.)

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  6. And like I said elsewhere, Sarah, that small, vocal subset of haters are the ones who make our lives miserable. They prevent gay people from being everything they were intended to be, and they prevent straight people from speaking up in support of gay people for fear of guilt by association or recrimination.

    This small, vocal--and, dare I say, supposedly Christian-- subset of haters rules the world, and you and I know that must change if we're going to get anywhere. They really shouldn't have the power they do. They don't need to be won over; they need to be discredited and ostracized. When they face the same discrimination as so many of us have for so long, they'd know what we've been through.

    Thanks, Sarah, for following up on this comment.

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