Hey, Someone Is Fighting For Equality! Attack!

4 Feb

Will Phillips speaks at The Big Commit in DC last August (photo by Jamie McGonnigal)

One of the most maddening and disillusioning aspects of our civil rights movement is infighting.  Face it folks, there is a vocal minority of our community that is downright cannibalistic.  If you come up with a new idea, try a new message, or take a leadership role in LGBT equality inevitably someone will come out of the woodwork to critique or even quash your efforts.

For a perfect example there is a great piece by Zack Rosen over at The Advocate:

The word activism carries some terrifying connotations when, really, there should be no barriers to entry for those who are interested in doing something constructive. Especially not from within the community. I’m dreading the day when some 16-year-old will put up a donation box at his suburban supermarket and get criticized for collecting money for the wrong factions, the wrong identities, the wrong causes. For having the wrong intentions, for not having enough life experience to know he’s wrong.

Activism is a personal decision to go out in the world and do anything to make it more positive. If it must pass some nebulous consensus vote, weather criticism and a stinging paucity of community support, how is anyone going to work up the courage to try?

Activism, as defined by certain activists, is quickly becoming an members-only club. It’s time to open the doors and let in the public. Work with the incredible breadth of skill sets and interests possessed by the individual members of our community and — I shouldn’t even have to say this — embrace our differences.

We here at TAE have first hand experience with this kind of criticism and infighting, which Zack knows all too well:

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.

Valentine's Day Protest in NYC (photo by Jamie McGonnigal)

Kudos to Zack for his willingness to tackle a difficult topic.

5 Responses to “Hey, Someone Is Fighting For Equality! Attack!”

  1. Alex Laska February 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    LOL Come on now, guys, surely you know how hypocritical this is. You and your group participated in the infighting yourselves when you took obnoxious photos mocking the Die-In (mocking a die-in? Seriously?) and proceeded to post them on Facebook for all to see. You, Jamie, Nay, Erikka, Jamie, Sam… you all did. Grow up and admit it.

    You condemn infighting, and then in the same exact post go on to criticize others in the movement – but I’m sure that’s not infighting itself, right? The fact that you’re bringing it up again half a year after the fact is enough to raise suspicion as to what exactly you’re trying to accomplish here.

    You really need to start holding yourselves to the same standard you hold others to (which is asking a lot of the LGBT blogosphere).

  2. Sean Carlson February 4, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Firstly, we didn’t bring it up. Zack rosen did. In the context of his article. I thought what he wrote was an accurate description of the event, was a good example, and the point of his article was a great.

    Secondly, I didn’t criticize anyone in this post. I highlighted the criticism they themselves made as an example of the point zack and I were making.

    Regarding the die-in photo: would that have ever happened had we not been harassed and pushed to that point by members of our own community? No. Do we regret it? Yes. We issued a public apology (in so far as the pictures were ever made public, which I don’t agree they were) which was a courtesy not extended to us. That picture was never meant for publication.

    Other than the photo, which again was not exactly what it seemed and has already been “owned up to”, I never publicly denounced the action led by Alan and co. Considering the amount of attacks we took from him and others I’d say we handled it pretty well.

    We can all be better and more respectful.
    Just a point of order as well- I wrote this. I don’t speak for Jamie.

    • Steven Phipps February 4, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      I guess you could say I was part of the Alan and co. And speaking about the article written, I’m afraid that the author’s recount of the events at the Big Commit are either mistaken or exaggerated.

      Actually, I don’t remember ever receiving a public apology or any apology at all when the Die-In was mocked. I participated in the Die-in, and when I recounted my experienced on a certain person’s facebook wall, my in-box exploded with excuses as to why people were laying down on the side-walk, and that it had nothing to do with mocking anything. Some even went as far as to say that they were just tired and wanted to lie down…in a row…seven or eight people…with their eyes shut…

      Looking over this article written, I see not where the Big Commit was counter-protested, or even disrupted. I feel that his recount of the events that day are wrong. Your speakers, song-writers and performers were never disrupted, disrespected or protested against.

      Furthermore, when you speak of harassment, can you separate that from the actual participants of the Die-in…I know that I did not harass anybody that day or any day in the planning of such event.

      And the pictures were absolutely made public…posted all over Facebook and the Big Commits event page, I even remember a particular person receiving a Cease and Desist letter for using one of them in their blog.

      • Sean Carlson February 4, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

        Stephen- let me first begin by apologizing to you directly. That picture was an ill advised attempt at humor. I take, and have taken before, responsibility for that. Sorry the apology never got to you personally.

        About the cease and desist order I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’d actually be pretty curious to hear about that if you’d drop me an email.

        I wanted to highlight an example, not reopen this subject.

        Those were Zack’s impressions which were shared by me and many others. You are of course welcome to disagree.


  1. Tweets that mention Hey, Someone Is Fighting For Equality! Attack! « Talk About Equality -- Topsy.com - February 4, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cybil Disobedient and sarah, TalkAboutEquality. TalkAboutEquality said: Hey! Someone's Fighting for Equality! ATTAAAAACK! http://bit.ly/h5GQli @TalkEquality #LGBT #Activism […]

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