The Case Against Activism
BY Advocate Contributors
February 03 2011 9:35 PM ET
I've long wanted to contribute to the It Gets Better Project. However, my familial relationship to suicide is extremely difficult for me to talk about (I smile because I'm nervous), and at the end of the day it isn't my story to tell. So, remembering the music that kept me off the brink when I was in the closet, I compiled a list of 19 antisuicide songs that I thought could be helpful for queer youth. Taking this theme one step further, I recruited a couple indie bands to play thematically appropriate antisuicide tracks for IGB. Given my abilities and interest, it was the best way for me to add to the project and further its noble aims.
Last Friday I saw an official response from The Bilerico Project. Bil Browning had written a post called "Making a Killing: Rocking Out to Dead Kids" where I was accused of being some Katy Perry–level hack, approaching a sensitive personal topic with dollar signs and fame in my eyes. Most damningly, in the comments, Bil called me out for being "not an activist," as if that was the least forgivable of sins.
Folks, welcome to the world of queer organizing.
I personally think of queer activism — in my definition, any and all attempts, on any scale, that an individual makes to better the world for LGBTs — as a group effort akin to building a city. If you are building a city, you will want parks and schools. You would not ask a math teacher to plan a playground. You would not ask a construction foreman to coach softball. But the second one enters the so-called "activist" arena, their individual skills, intentions, and decisions go the way of the dodo. No sooner will a person announce their desire to try to help than six others will pop up to tell them exactly how they're doing it wrong.
In Washington, D.C., this past summer a group of individuals organized "The Big Commit," a counterprotest to the nearby National Organization for Marriage hatefest that rolled through town the same day. They brought in members of D.C.'s religious, musical, artistic and organizing communities to make a strong statement for gay rights. What did they get in return? They got their own counterprotest!
Yet another group of change-minded queers disrupted the said "Big Commit" with their own banner and message. The change that the Big Commit folks were striving to create, their message, got so tripped up in another's ego and vitriol that effort was spent infighting when it could have been used to undermine an actual hate group.
Those attempting small-scale awareness campaigns are now armchair activists. High-profile fund-raisers are dismissed as "Gay Inc.," whether or not it's deserved. I've seen gay marriage panels hijacked by one angry person who wonders why their own (unrelated) pet cause was ignored. People would never order sushi at a pizza restaurant. Yet the anger of an activist scorned can rival that of Jerry Falwell at his most hilariously apoplectic.
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