The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

First, You Get Mad

Wow. It’s kind of unbelievable, really. You take something away from people, and they get angry. Take away hard won rights, and equal protection for those they love, and people get really angry.

In the week since, California has seen an outpouring of demonstrations ranging from quiet vigils to noisy street protests against Proposition 8, including rallies outside churches and the Mormon temple in Westwood as well as boycotts of some businesses that contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign.

Many of those activities have been organized not by political professionals and established leaders in the gay community, but by young activists working independently on Facebook and MySpace.

The grass-roots activism is a tribute to political organizing in the digital age, in which it is possible to mobilize thousands of people with a few clicks of a mouse. It has generated national attention — and set up a series of Saturday demonstrations that organizers hope will attract tens of thousands of people to city halls throughout California.

But the demonstrations also have raised questions about whether the in-your-face approach will alienate voters, who may be asked one day to approve gay marriage. Twice in the last eight years, voters have rejected it.

“I think the No on 8 forces have devolved into mob justice,” said Jeff Flint, a campaign strategist for the Yes side.

Mob justice? Please. Man, you haven’t seen mob justice. If anybody got mobbed, it was the couples who saw their marriages voted — and their civil right to marry each other — voted out of existence. If that doesn’t make you angry, there’s probably something wrong with you.

In the week-and-a-have since proposition 8 was defeated, I’ve been taken to task for saying that people had the right to be angry after prop. 8 passed. I’ve read blog posts advising that me that “anger loses.” (And, no disrespect to the blogger who wrote that post, but if one more person tells me “We all won,” I might just explode. We did not “all win,” some of us had very painful losses, even in the middle of all celebrating.) I’ve heard premature “calls for healing.” I even did a double take when I saw a sign on the bus declaring “Anger is false power,” but then realized it was a poster for anger management counseling.

Maybe anger management is necessary sometimes, but this time? Fuck it. There are times when anger is a natural, justified, and even powerful reaction.

Where would gay people be without anger? The event that launched the modern gay rights movement was a riot that started when the police raided the Stonewall Inn on the wrong night, queens weren’t having it and fought back. Where would we be without that bunch of pissed off queens and dykes, right?

 

 

When Dan White got a slap on the wrist for assassinating Harvey Milk and George Muscone, gays rioted again, showing at least that they weren’t going to lie down and take it.

 

 

And the when anger at the Reagan administration’s lack of action on the AIDS crisis was channeled into ACT-UP, whose demonstrations and direct action brought attention to the epidemic and government action that wasn’t forthcoming until people acted up.

 

 

And remember what we’re talking about here, and what people are so upset about, are not riots. We’re talking about demonstrations. Loud, but (so far) lawful demonstrations, where passions have gotten out of hand sometimes, but we’re not talking roving bands of marauding, angry queers.

Anger is the right response, and a healthy response, when it rises from a denial of humanity, an assault on dignity. or enforced injustice. In those situations it’s a natural right.

When, people get angry, they fail to remember their “place.” Calls to move instantly into self-examination and to adopt a “healing” attitude overnight literally while still feeling the sting of the above is to deny the right to feel anger over injustice and a reminder that it’s not your “place.”

Now that California voters have outlawed same-sex marriage, an LDS Church leader called Wednesday for members to heal any rifts caused by the emotional campaign by treating each other with “civility, with respect and with love.”

“We hope that every one would treat each that way no matter which side of this issue they were on,” said Elder L. Whitney Clayton, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Presidency of the Seventy.

…The LDS Church’s campaign to pass Proposition 8 was its most vigorous since the 1970s, when it joined the effort to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment.

Clayton said the church never considered Proposition 8 to be a political issue.

Somehow anger means that you are wrong, not that you’ve been wronged. And shutting it off means those who have wronged you don’t have to face any kind of accountability.

Meanwhile, know this: You can stoke the factional lusts of the Great Unwashed. You can harness your vast financial resources to tear down the separation of church and state, and thereby purchase legitimization from your fellow anti-reason theocrats in other cults and sects. You can continue to control an entire state as the stale, stagnant, dreary mini-theocracy that you would gladly see the rest of the country emulate. You can continue to torture your own sons and daughters who had the dumb luck to be born gay in a Mormon family. You can enjoy the last few gasps of fleeting “successes” of today — until you finally do the world a favor and die off, leaving your children to apologize to your grandchildren for your sins.

But there is one thing you cannot do: You cannot force me to “heal.” The perpetrator of a harm has no standing to demand that his victim heal according to the evildoer’s timetable. To suggest otherwise simply shows your disingenuousness.

I will choose the day when I “heal.” But rest assured that today is not that day. Today, I hit back.

Might, after all, makes right. It’s a lesson I learned as a child, when I was hit and then dared to cry. A call to instantaneous “healing,” to excise a natural response of the human heart to hurt, is also a call to accept that hurt and even places the one who inflicts the hurt in the “victim” position. (The batterer always says to the battered, “look what you made me do.”) It is a call, sometimes even a demand to quietly accept injustice. (“Stop or I’ll give you something to cry about.)

Anger — at an injustice done or pain inflicted — is a privilege.

I’ve notice something. No one seems to seems to question whether the angry white men that swept Newt Gingrich and the Republican majority into power in 1994 were justified in their anger. It’s assumed that whatever they’re angry about they have a right to be angry about.

But not so for the so called “angry black women.” Their anger is somehow less “real” and less justified. Perhaps that that’s because being angry is a privilege in this culture. Anger, if you are a minority, is dangerous. If you are a woman, or a person of color, gay, etc., your movements must be calm, your voice must be modulated, and your anger must ever show.

Joy is permitted. You may sing, dance, and celebrate in your joy. It is a performance, sometimes a command performance, demanded of you even in the midst of despair. Suffering is permitted. It, too, is familiar and non-threatening. It can even be reaffirming to those looking upon it; reaffirming their power and privilege. Sadness is permitted. You are allowed to mourn, and to moan, keen, and cry in your mourning. Fear is permitted. Your fear — wide-eyed screaming of stunned silence — is familiar, and recognizable.

You are allowed all of the above, especially in response to another’s more “real” anger, but not your own anger. Anger implies entitlement — to material goods, to power and privilege, or a certain kind of treatment. Anger implies a right to expect something, and is a justifiable response to not receiving one’s due. And you aren’t due that which you’d have a right to be angry about having been denied.

Stonewall happened because people got angry. When Dan White got a light sentence for Harvey Milk’s murder, people got angry. ACT-UP and and the awareness and action it helped bring about happened because people got angry. Stonewall, an the movement it inspired, happened because people decided they’d had enough, and got angry.

People get angry when they’re denied the basic human dignity they have a right to, when they citizenship and their humanity itself is denied. They get angry, then they organize and do something about it.

First, you get mad. You can’t just stop there, because anger by itself — undirected and unchanneled — gets nowhere, focuses on the wrong targets, like people who are actually on your side.

Geoffrey, a student at UCLA and regular Rod 2.0 reader, joined the massive protest outside the Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Westwood. Geoffrey was called the n-word at least twice.

It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU NIGGER, one man shouted at men. If your people want to call me a FAGGOT, I will call you a nigger. Someone else said same thing to me on the next block near the temple…me and my friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone said after last night the niggers better not come to West Hollywood if they knew what was BEST for them.

Los Angeles resident and Rod 2.0 reader A. Ronald says he and his boyfriend, who are both black, were carrying NO ON PROP 8 signs and still subjected to racial abuse.

Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, “Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!” A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were “very disappointed with black people” and “how could we” after the Obama victory. This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs! I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn’t matter because “most black people hated gays” and he was “wrong” to think we had compassion. That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard. I guess he never thought we were gay.

Anger unfocused, undisciplined, and undirected is destructive to cooperation and community. It alienates allies and potential allies. It is no longer “righteous anger” or justifiable anger, but a furious imitation of the worst traits of those who inflicted the harm; the real source of your anger. It is the abused imitating the abuser, and in the process continuing the cycle that spirals down to a place where you become what you started out to fight against. In that sense, it transforms you and your world, but in all the wrong ways.

Sometimes anger is healthy and necessary fuel for the work ahead. But don’t just “take it to the streets.” Join a movement, or start one, and make an impact. Amplify your voice by joining with others who share your experience and anger, at a lifetime of being told “you can there, but you can’t sit here.”

You can’t because it’s not your world. It’s their world, and you just live in it.

Growing up gay in a largely straight world, and being told that you can have your legal contracts for your relationship if you’re lucky, or live with domestic partnerships if you’re really lucky, is a bit like growing up in a big, old house. You’re allowed to live there – in fact, you were born there and grew up there – but certain rooms are off-limits. “You can’t go in there,” the adults say, as soon as you learn to walk. “Or there,” they remind you as you get older. And you wonder why. But you’re a good kid and don’t want to make a ruckus, and it’s your home too and your family, and they seem very insistent. After a while, they allow you to go up to the second floor and even third floor. There are rules there: don’t touch that vase, don’t put your feet on that couch, don’t spill anything on that rug. But you can still hang out there if you really want to.

But there’s one room at the very top of the house that has always been forbidden, and the more lee-way you are given elsewhere, the more stringently that rule is enforced. In the end, they say, “You can go anywhere and do anything – apart from that room.” And you accept this, because they seem so intent on it. And you love them. But you keep wondering: why that room? What is up there? What am I not allowed to experience or to see?

And one day, you get up your courage and you wait till the adults are out and you gingerly make your way to that room you have never been in before.

And you go in, and look around, with some awe and burning curiosity. And you look in the cupboards and the drawers and under the chairs, and finally you find, in one dusty old desk, what they never wanted you to find.

You find the legal papers, the deed, that proves that they own the house. And you don’t. However long you live, whatever you do, however you conduct yourself, this house will never be yours. You can live in it – with their permission, and under their authority. It is your home, because where else were you born and where else would you live – but only to rent, never to own. It is your family, but you are always kept one critical step away from being fully part of it. There is one fine line you will never be allowed to cross.

Take it to the doorsteps of those who actually did the harm.

Carrying signs reading “Love not H8″ and “Did you cast a ballot or a stone?”, a large crowd of gay-marriage supporters gathered outside a Mormon temple to protest the church’s endorsement of a same-sex marriage ban in California.

The rally Wednesday night outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple came hours after gay couples exchanged vows for the first time in Connecticut amid cheers and tears of joy.

The milestone did not ease the sting of a major loss for gay-marriage supporters last week. Gay activists planned protests across the country over the vote that took away their right to wed in California.

In the Upper West Side of Manhattan, demonstrators chanted “Shame on you!” outside the temple. Leaders of the Mormon church had encouraged members to support passage of California’s Proposition 8, a referendum banning same-sex marriage.

“I’m fed up and disgusted with religious institutions taking political stances and calling them moral when it’s nothing but politics,” said Dennis Williams, 36. “Meanwhile they enjoy tax-free status while trying to deny me rights that should be mine at the state and federal level.”

Church spokesman Michael Otterson said that while citizens have the right to protest, he was “puzzled” and “disturbed” by the gathering since the majority of California’s voters had approved the amendment.

Remember they’re “disturbed” because they’ve always and only ever expected you to simply “take it.” Remember the injustice you and others have endured for the sake of their comfort. Remember that you do not owe them their “comfort.” Remember that their “comfort” is not your responsibility. Remember that they do not have the right to be “comfortable” at your expense.

Take it to those who approved of the injustice done, and wanted it done.

In Orange County, police officials and protest organizers estimated that about 250 to 300 gay-rights advocates fanned out along sidewalks leading to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.

The protesters were angered by the megachurch’s support of Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment approved by voters Tuesday that bans same-sex marriages and overturns the state Supreme Court decision in May legalizing such unions.

Human Rights Campaign volunteer Ed Todeschini accused the church of helping propagate what he called misinformation about the Supreme Court ruling, including that gay marriage would have to be taught to kindergartners.

…”They told such obvious lies, they used their lies to deceive the public,” Todeschini said of the church, which gained national attention in August when its pastor, Rick Warren, brought Obama and McCain together to discuss their religious faith. The two candidates embraced during what was otherwise an often-contentious presidential campaign.

Todeschini said Sunday’s rally was peaceful, with demonstrators waving placards with slogans including “Equality for all” and “Shame on you.”

In Oakland, where the highway patrol rerouted traffic, protest organizers said they hoped to tone down the anger that has characterized some previous protests.

“Our intent is not to disturb churchgoers,” organizer Tim DeBenedictis said in a statement. “Our goal is to mend fences and build bridges so that all Californians can achieve marriage equality under the law.”


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Take it to those who enabled the injustice.

In the 10 days since Californians passed Proposition 8, a wave of impromptu pro-gay marriage rallies has exploded into boycotts of businesses whose owners and employees supported the marriage ban, plans for simultaneous protest rallies nationwide and talk of an initiative to overturn the ban in 2010.

While leaders of the No on 8 campaign say the grass-roots activities underscore the deep resentment gays feel in losing the right to marry, backers of Proposition 8 say they have become the target of an ugly, anti-democratic witch hunt. They say printing the names of people who donated to the yes cause and circulating “blacklists” on the Web unfairly penalize small donors who believe in the sanctity of traditional marriage.

“We’re in the midst of a social change. Remember the riots, the dogs, the fire hoses when they tried to integrate the public school system. It was tumultuous. That’s what happens when you go through social changes, and there’s going to be quite a bit more tumult,” predicted Assemblyman Mark Leno of San Francisco, a leader in the gay marriage movement.

…Already, high-profile Sacramento theater director Scott Eckern, who donated to the Yes on 8 campaign, resigned his job of 25 years after opponents threatened to boycott the theater. A host of businesses, ranging from restaurants to car dealers, have been targeted by boycotts after their owners’ or employees’ names appeared on pro-8 donor lists. And in workplaces around the state, employers and employees are watching their backs.

Proponents of Proposition 8 have labeled the activities “mob justice” and decried the donor boycotts as “McCarthyism.” The measure had passed 52-48 percent.

“People have the right to protest, but when you go over the line deciding to send out blacklists and boycotts because you lost, that is wrong; that is intolerable,” said Frank Schubert, manager of the pro-Proposition 8 campaign. “It’s a political mob as bad as McCarthy was.”

Remember that the mob justice happened on election day, when your civil rights, your full citizenship, and your membership in the human family was literally put to an “up or down” majority vote. Remember who incited that mob. Remember that you have as much right to your anger and its lawful expression as they have to their opionion. Even if doing so makes them “uncomfortable.”

Although Margie is usually a spry woman, today she was breathless, and distraught and appeared fragile, not an easy task for a woman of her height. She stood supported between her daughters and read a prepared speech – most of which had already been released.

She praised the restaurant as a beacon of diversity, people from all places and where everyone doesn’t have to agree, where they can get along even with differing views. She credited her aunt for being sympathetic to the plight of the “gay individual” before there was support and how the restaurant became a safe haven for “that community”. She told of visiting sick people and providing “a healing place”.

She explained that she had been a member of the Mormon Church all her life and that she had responded to their request with a personal donation. She shared that El Coyote had contributed to many gay interests and charities.

Margie told of the 89 employees whose families relied on their job. She expressed how customers were part of the Coyote family. She lamented that this situation could harm a place with such diversity and harmony and joy and mutual respect and diversity of viewpoints.

Find out who they are. Call out their names. Don’t let them stay “in the closet.”

Remember that their “faith” is no more an excuse for perpetuating injustice or complicity in it than it has ever been at any moment in history, when the same was applied to strip people of their rights, their dignity, and their humanity. Remember that those who perpetuate and are complicit in injustice against you are not your friends.

…A gentleman by the same of Sam, who said he was an ex-member of the Mormon Church, asked if she was willing to donate to NO on 8.

She started crying.

A representative of the restaurant stepped in and stated that El Coyote was going to donate to Lambda Legal and the Gay and Lesbian Center and Sam said, I asked HER what SHE was going to do.

Marjorie said: “I will not.”

At which point the place went insane.

One of the (daughters?) started yelling at everyone telling them (and I quote) “The church just tells you when to donate, it doesn’t tell you how to vote. It very, very rarely tells you how to vote.” (SHUT UP! I KNOW! X2) “Marjorie is your friend-“ at which point someone prominently yelled: “SHE IS NOT MY FRIEND. FRIENDS DON’T HELP TAKE THE RIGHTS AWAY OF OTHER FRIENDS AND THEN BLAME IT ON THEIR CHURCH!”

Once the room calmed down, Marjorie was asked again if SHE would do anything to counteract what she had done and she said: “No.” at which point someone yelled “This is bullshit” and another yelled “BOYCOTT EL COYOTE” and Marjorie was swiftly escorted out the back entrance as people dispersed saying “She just made this even worse” and a man started walking through the restaurant telling customers that “MARJORIE VOTED YES ON PROP 8 AND YOUR MONEY IS DOING THE SAME THING BY HER GIVING HER EARNINGS TO THE MORMON CHURCH!”

Remember who says they are your friends, and remember whether they stood with you or not.

It was a landside and it crushed us, as California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas passed anti-gay ballot initiatives. It was a bittersweet night.

We learned three lessons.

First, progressive straight people do not, will not, see the moral equality of gay people. Except for the efforts of the ACLU, the rights of gay people are rarely championed by progressives. The moral sanctity of their marriage is inexplicably undermined by gay marriage. In the forty years since Stonewall we have achieved only a hollow, virtual equality. Like Sarah Palin, we too can be thrown under the bus.

Remember that if you can be thrown under the bus, then you are not — and perhaps never really were — on the bus. Then decide if you want to be on that bus, and if it’s worth the price of the ticket.

Remember that we used to live in a country where civil rights weren’t decided by majority vote. Remember that we used to live in a country whose founding documents cite “inallienable rights.” Remember that we’re may not be living in that country anymore, and even if your rights were not up for a vote this time around, they are almost certain on someone’s hit list.

You may not be gay, but you may be “next.”

Tell your stories, and empower others to tell theirs, if only because the indignity of having to make the case for your humanity can touch someone else’s and spark them to action.

Thousands of gay-marriage supporters plan to take to the streets Saturday to protest gay-marriage bans in California, Arizona and Florida.

Protesters are focusing on California, where the state Supreme Court declared same-sex marriages legal in May before voters tossed them out Nov. 4.

…”This narrow loss has awakened Godzilla,” says Fred Karger of Los Angeles, who runs the website Californians Against Hate (http://californiansagainsthate.com). “I think this loss in California … is the greatest thing that could have happened” because it spurred activism in the gay-marriage movement.

His site highlights contributors to Proposition 8 and lets users search public records for names.

…Bryant Tan, 28, a San Francisco philanthropist, attended a few No on 8 fundraisers before the election but wasn’t very active. When he learned about the protests through Facebook after the measure passed, he decided to join. “I’ve seen so many people — gay, straight … people of all kinds of backgrounds — really get activated” by its passage, he says.

Fire uncontrolled, only destroys. Controlled and contained, it provides light in the darkness and warmth in the cold. Focused, as in the light and heat of a laser, it can be constructive and even healing. It can burn away scars, cauterize wounds, and cut out cancers. But first you need fire. You need light and heat.

First, you get angry. Then you focus it. You get organized. You take action. You repeat those three steps as many times as necessary, until the scars, the wound, he cancer is gone.

Then, you may “heal.”

4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Dear community: a compendium of pre-protest notes at Lesbian Dad

  2. Prop. 8 supporters “puzzled” and “disturbed”? Give me a break. They are attacking and undermining our families, they denying to our kids and partners the legal protections that the families of heterosexual couples enjoy. Nothing undermines marriage like a ballot initiative taking away somebody’s right to marry. Nothing is more anti-family.
    So yes, I am angry. It’s a good sort of anger…

  3. This is a great post! Anger is, without a doubt, my largest “issue.” Anger at Christians and Mormons and Catholics and Muslims who have all worked so hard and so successfully at belittling LGBTQ’s, at denying us our rights, and even at denying some of us our lives. I got hooked reading your blog after reading your post of Feb 16, 2007 which was, I think, one of your best ever. Thank you for another Unbelievable post!

  4. Powerful post and more than a few valid points, however, after reading and hearing the racial slurs and attacks, this black gay San Francisco man who voted NO on 8 and worked some phone banks in the Esst Bay really am at the point that I don’t care what happens next as I refuse to let just one angry gay person use a slur towards me in a fight for equality and will never deal with any of the gay groups again. Let it play out in the courts, I for one will not be treated as less than human because of some news report that was wrong, when all the facts were never dealt with like they were in today’s San Francisco Chronicle about the real people who voted down Prop 8.

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