5 Examples of Challenging Homophobia

“About a year ago I was a guest on a network news show in New York.  They were showing film clips from a gay pride parade down Fifth Avenue, but they only decided to show the part with men in dresses and heels.  I had seen the parade, and there were men in business suits as well.  After showing the film, the newsperson made some comments, and I found the comments extremely offensive.  ‘This is what’s wrong with the media,’ I said.  ‘You show a fringe position.  You show one point of view.  You’re closing the minds of the people by not showing them what the reality is.’ I got up and walked out, and I’ve never been asked back again.” Kathleen Nolan

I have a love-hate relationship with media. It is my job, sure, but there’s a tendency to only show only the most extreme examples of a movement. Some media types might call it having an”impact” or “news sense.”  And why not do things this way? It’s good business sense to keep eyeballs glued to your content; the more outrageous something seems the better the odds of retaining a target demographic, especially if you aren’t really challenging anything as much as making inane commentary. Clearly groups of people wouldn’t act out if they didn’t want to be portrayed a certain way, so why not give viewers and readers what they’re already expecting?

You know, I just don’t think that’s a good enough reason to not show what some might find “boring” or “mundane.” That’s lazy status quo thinking, because the irony is that it’s the boring and mundane stuff that really throws people for a loop. When you shatter a stereotype, you change a perspective. I’ve also thought more than once that anyone shocked by a gay man who isn’t flamboyant or by a lesbian not bedecked in flannel is probably the same kind of person who thinks in other very narrow-minded terms and would likely say other ridiculous things such as, “Oh, he speaks so well for a black man,” or “She’s really good at running a business for a woman.”

All said, media contains potent form of self-reflection, so much so that I feel it’s disingenuous to fiddle too much with the framing of events. The ability to absorb the essence of humanity as reflected back to us on a screen can feel both humbling and universal or it can feel as though it’s someone’s crass play at being shocking while actually providing little in the way of depth. Even so, it still throws me for a loop to think back to an era when people watched world events in black and white all while being confined to a single room, because now media travels with us in the palm of our hands. It shouts at us in color and changes our world view with every new status update. Anyone can broadcast anything, from their kid’s first birthday to images of revolutions in countries many of us will never visit, to that end nothing is too trivial to document; nothing is too small to share.

So what do progressive social movements do to get our attentions given all the things that are going on in the world? Do they a) engage in shocking behavior, b) play up the stereotype, c) challenge perceptions, or is it d) all of the above?

I’m going with d) all of the above.

Yeah, I had to make a list of people challenging homophobia so I could appropriately back this shit up with some real life examples.

5) You know you are on to something when it stays in the collective consciousness long past a day, a week, or even a year. Now here’s the deal: I sometimes listen to cutesy chick music. So Regina Spektor’s Fidelity was on an album I owned before I’d heard it used in a Courage Campaign video. The message asked people to consider what Prop 8 would do to thousands of happily and legally committed couples. Honestly, they couldn’t have used a better song. This might be some more music nerdiness on my part, but even the title of the album, Begin to Hope, is perfect for what this video is trying to convey. With over 1 million views on Vimeo and YouTube, perhaps you’ve already seen it and you can move onto number 4. Or you can be like me and re-watch it.

I think what gets me every time I view this video are the couples being portrayed and by extension the people in their lives.  Gay, straight, or bi – a lasting relationship between two adults can be damn hard thing to find, especially when half the people who get married end up divorced. I mean, have you listened to 80s arena rock power ballads? Heteros are always trying to find that one person who really gets them and would put up with their shit because they “want to know what love is.” So when you see two people, regardless of gender or color, who’ve weathered many years together ask society not to divorce them legally, you might wonder “why does this even matter to anyone at all when clearly, for better or worse, these people are thoroughly in love?”

Let’s be honest, married people, it takes real love to ignore the fact your spouse is never going to be perfect. They’re going to habitually piss you off forever, but the fact that you have vowed to forgive this one out of the millions of other potential mates, for the rest of your natural lives together, well damn, married straight people, that person must be pretty special to you. And are you really so clueless that you can’t see that kind of devotion reflected in a relationship beyond your own?

Also, I have to think anyone who could still actively hate homosexuality after watching the Courage Campaign video, doesn’t really know what love is and therefore must be jealous.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-awVQkTeVE[/youtube]

 

4) The Gay Agenda is a performance art piece that is the brainchild of Randy Roberts Potts. Believe it or not, he was in Oklahoma City for Love on the Plaza this past February. The show took place at Cole Dewey Design, a florist shop, and was exactly what it aimed to portray.

“The Gay Agenda is direct community action and will be presented in mid-size conservative towns across the country. We will set up a domestic scene inside a public storefront. Two men or two women will inhabit the space as a couple for several days at a time (excluding overnight). The Gay Agenda presents a clear image of what gay domesticity really looks like, the occupants performing the normal, routine, mundane tasks of any couple: vacuuming the carpet, making coffee, reading the paper, playing cards with friends, ordering pizza, watching TV, etc.. No intimacy beyond what might be acceptable for any heterosexual couple in front of children will be presented; ie, it will be limited to casual contact — hand-holding, an arm around each other, a casual kiss hello/goodbye, etc.

The Gay Agenda as conceived here should be incredibly boring to watch.”

What I love about Randy Roberts Potts is that even though he is the grandson of Oral Roberts and has faced stigmatization from family for his sexual orientation, Potts doesn’t stop trying to reach out to Christians. He preaches tolerance and doesn’t believe Christians at heart are bad and hateful people. Potts said that within the context of Christianity it is hard for some Christians to reconcile what is preached to them from the Bible with how they feel when confronted with the truth about who someone is. To that end, Potts sets up private meetings with Christian ministers and pastors to talk with them about the language they use in their churches, because how these community leaders talk about homosexuality has a huge impact on the families they serve. Fathers and mothers become estranged from their children. If you’re a parent, you might have an inkling of what it must feel like to hear from your spiritual leaders and the people in your community that your child, who happens to be gay, is going to the worst place imaginable to suffer for all eternity. And this isn’t even taking into consideration all the other vile things that are being said about your child’s future sexual life. How people talk about homosexuality, even if they don’t agree with it, matters. It’s impactful and it can tear families apart.

 

3) I love this. If I was a LGBT kid struggling to figure out who I am in the middle of all this debate about basic human rights, I’d have to say this counter message would be very heartening. Plus I like rainbows and I like balloons, so this is clearly just a win-win situation in what is an otherwise shitty one. The other thing I like about this kind of activism is that sharing it on media platforms such as Facebook, Tumblr, etc. keeps the message going even after it’s been removed.

I mean, sure, someone might argue that this church has a right to express its views, but the thing about free speech is that you are not exempt from responsibility or the consequences of that speech. Essentially: if you say some shit, don’t be surprised when someone has a response for you.

Photo from Wipe Out Homophobia on Facebook. Submitted by Vanessa Raymond.

 

2)  Oh, Westboro Baptist Church. Can we all take a moment to have a collective groan? Alright, if you’re not familiar with the WBC just know that they are a hate group that celebrates the death of US soldiers as proof that their God hates “the Gays.” Seeing as I’m married to a US solider who has served two tours in Iraq, and I have no problem with gay marriage, the WBC’s message is just completely unacceptable.

But I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the WBC as a hate group and as such keeps track of them just as they do with other hate groups like the KKK or the National Black Foot Solider Movement. So, as if it weren’t enough to preach these ideologies within the confines of their own church, they take their Hate-mobiles on trips across the country to protest anywhere they can legally obtain a permit. Their activity is profit driven more than anything else. To get the most bang for their buck, the WBC likes to protest at the funerals of US soldiers. People have paid them to stay away, while others organize counter-protests. But the WBC are a litigious bunch of asshats, therefore they waste taxpayer money when they go on to sue groups who’ve tried to hamper their right to protest. Oh, the irony.

BUT! I love that Jason Connell, a University of Illinois at Chicago student, had a pretty darn good idea on how to short change the WBC and use their presence to help the very people they are trying to condemn. Rather than pay off the WBC, shout back at them in a counter protest, or try to block them visually, Connell decided to use their presence to help fund raise for LGBT friendly charities.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/j7Of_2ykZpQ[/youtube]

 

1) GAY PRIDE WEEKEND!

While portrayed in the media as completely flamboyant events, and parts of it certainly are, there is something heartening in seeing thousands upon thousands of people in your city come out to support their families, co-workers, neighbors, or even declare loud and clear their love for their partners. Straight, gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered – whatever. They’re with their families taking part in the festivities and showing homophobes what love and acceptance really means.

This is a photo I took of last year's Gay Pride Weekend. You see all those normal looking people in the background? Yeah, they gave Sassy Rainbow Queen money for her performance because OKC is being awesome and actively fundraising for a LGBT friendly health center. We're in the "heartland," so it's about damn time we start acting like we give a shit about what happens to people and stop the hate.

 

Homophobia often produces a reactionary response. If people are truly uncomfortable with homosexuals they should probably consider this: you more likely to avoid seeing two men kiss if you just treat them with basic human respect. Shouting hate, promoting hate, and essentially pissing all over people’s rights is going almost always set you up for a fight. You would be ten times better off trying to have a discussion where you were being honest with yourself and them about why you are so bothered by who they love. That is if you really think it’s your place to even judge, because honestly, how many homosexuals do you know of that are spreading hate at your church, in front of your home, and systematically organizing at every level of government to take away your rights?

Did anyone catch "Dirty Dancers" on that guy's sign? So essentially he's saying "Thou Shall Not Get All Patrick Swayze on Jennifer Grey." I'd like to think that the two guys in this photo are showing him "No one puts baby in a corner."

For more awesome photos check out Wipe Out Homophobia on Facebook.

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