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Volunteer Efforts
Shape Day Without a Gay

Volunteer Efforts
Shape Day Without a Gay


On the heels of nationwide rallies and protests, response to the passing of antigay legislation in four states on Election Day kicks into high gear Wednesday, December 10, with Day Without a Gay. As tempting as it may be to spend the day catching up on TiVo, organizers are urging gays and lesbians to spend the day volunteering and putting a human face on the "people that this equal rights battle is about."

In honor of International Human Rights Day, December 10, the nationwide response to California's passing of Prop. 8 and antigay ballot measures in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas kicks into high gear with Day Without a Gay, a day on which LGBT people are urged to call in "gay" to work and use that time for community outreach.

Thirty-year-old stand-up comic and personal trainer Sean Hetherington and his 33-year-old actor-writer boyfriend, Aaron Hartzler, organized the Day Without a Gay after seeing the massive presence at protests and rallies following Election Day. With a tip of the hat to groups like Join the Impact -- whose 26-year-old mastermind managed to organize protests in all 50 states on the strength of a social-networking campaign -- Hetherington positions Day Without a Gay as an opportunity to show the world how we love through volunteer efforts -- because "a day without a gay would be a day without love."

Kyle Buchanan is one of many people who plan to "call in gay" -- but rather than spending his day at home catching up on TiVo, Buchanan is volunteering with Actual Action, a group he started with four of his friends. Actual Action is spending Wednesday, December 10, working in conjunction with the Riverside County Parks department, painting and cleaning Fairmont Park.

"Obviously, we've all seen the great outpouring from the community in the wake of Prop. 8 with the rallies and marches," Buchanan says. "I have a feeling those are sort of peaking, and we want to give people actual next steps -- actual actions that they can do."

Buchanan says the group chose to spend the Day Without a Gay volunteering in Riverside as a way to "go out there and be visible" while addressing a lot of the issues that went into the passing of Prop. 8.

Riverside County voters passed Prop. 8 by a margin of close to 30 points.

"We want to go in and be positive and introduce ourselves and put human faces on the people that this equal rights battle is about," he says.

In the aftermath of Prop. 8, many gay rights supporters have been looking for a place to lay blame -- one popular explanation suggests the organizers of the No on 8 campaign failed to conduct appropriate outreach to traditionally conservative voting communities throughout California.

Since launching in the days following the passing of Prop. 8,'s message board has been flooded by nonprofit organizations posting volunteer opportunities on December 10 and beyond. Some volunteer efforts are rooted in the gay community -- gay youth alliances and LGBT alcohol-dependency programs are among the outreach opportunities that appear in multiple states -- while others range from volunteer work with the American Cancer Society to neighborhood-based efforts like the Riverside parks project.

Though some have likened the Day Without a Gay efforts to LGBT people essentially disappearing for the day, Hetherington stresses that seeing gays and lesbians come out in droves for volunteer efforts is a more effective approach.

"Every time someone holds up a soup ladle at a homeless shelter on December 10, we hope a camera catches it for the news, and we hope that those images help change the hearts and minds of people on the fence about the LGBT community," Hetherington says.

The Day Without a Gay website also offers tips for people who want to participate but can't call in "gay" for fear of losing their jobs. Only 20 states and the District of Columbia have employment nondiscrimination laws that include protections on the basis of sexual orientation.

Groups like Actual Action will continue to announce outreach efforts through website and Facebook pages beyond the Day Without a Gay.

- How do you plan to spend your Day Without a Gay? Let us know with your comments below.

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