Reed Cowan, the director of “8: The Mormon Proposition,” recently caused quite a stir with his comments about Pride:
“I would like to propose to the entire worldwide gay community that they cancel gay pride events until we have marriage equality. All those thousands of people who go to gay pride, those are bodies that could put on a shirt and go into the neighborhood and tell their story.”
First let me say that I love Pride parades — especially when they are in regions where marchers are truly engaging in acts of civil disobedience just by participating and letting the world know that they are out and proud. Pride is one of the few public forms of unification that shows the LGBT community that this battle is being fought on every corner of the planet. Parades are part of our culture and I would never advocate getting rid of them.
That said, when I read Mr. Cowan’s quote, I found myself fired up and ready to go. He makes a brilliant point. We all seem quite willing to go to a big street party, but how many of us are willing to do the dirty work that it takes to achieve our rights? How willing are we to simply go out and tell strangers how we are harmed by not having full equality?
Numbers overwhelmingly show that people who know LGBT people vote for LGBT rights. Like it or not, if we are going to achieve full equality, we need to convince the electorate that we deserve it.
Telling our stories to voters in the movable middle doesn’t seem to be our top priority right now though. It seems like there is a lot of anger and a lot of finger pointing, but not a lot of actual action.
I am an admirer of civil rights battles of the past, and one image from the Women’s suffrage movement that has always stuck in my head is depicted in the movie “Iron Jawed Angels,” when Alice Paul goes on a hunger strike to get the right to vote. Lieutenant Dan Choi went on a hunger strike last month to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Nobody in the LGBT community seemed to care. Choi has been a vocal critic of the cocktail party activism in the movement. Back in March, Choi eloquently summed it up:
“We are tired of being stereotyped as privileged, bourgeois elites. Is someone willing to give up their career, their relationships with powerful people, their Rolodex, or their parents' love to stand up for who they are? I'm giving up my military rank, my unit — which to me is a family — my veterans' benefits, my health care, so what are you willing to sacrifice?"
Photo credit: Robert in Toronto