by Abie Kopf | Change.org
We’re all familiar with the more annoying practices of evangelism such as people who bike to our front doors or folks who hand out tracts after a ball game. But telling others about our beliefs is something that we don’t do enough of in the gay community.
We might assume that people don’t want to hear about gay rights or that they will attack us if we try to bring up who we are and what we’re fighting for. Despite these fears, it’s absolutely essential that we reach out to others. We’re at a critical point in our fight for equality and we need all the soldiers we can get for the war on gay rights.
Gay advocates should take a cue from evangelicals because they’ve gotten the art of presenting their case down to a science, especially when it comes to converting others. The National Organization for Marriage website provides “Marriage Talking Points” that outline the best ways to talk about the dangers of same-sex marriage. These talking points are researched, they’re thorough and they are absolutely frightening … because they work.
At the Creating Change Conference in Dallas this past weekend, I was fortunate to sit in on a session hosted by the Williams Institute that taught activists how to neutralize gay-rights opponents with factual evidence and current statistics. The know-how to confidently and thoughtfully debate gay issues might allow us to win a few over to our side, but there are some things to keep in mind before trying to convert gay non-believers.
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This week two stories collided: The story of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado and the story of Will Phillips. According to the LGBT blog Towleroad, on November 14 the decapitated, dismembered, and burned body of Jorge Steven Lopez was found by the side of the road in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Jorge was 19 and openly gay. He was much loved by his wide circle of friends. He was handsome and hopeful. He had his whole life ahead of him.
While Puerto Rico does not have any history of prosecuting hate crimes, it is clear to many that there is no other explanation for the savagery of Jorge’s murder. The response of the police agent investigating the crime betrayed an appalling level of homophobia and bigotry. In a televised statement, the investigator noted that “people who lead this type of lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.” This so-called “investigator” should be fired and never allowed to wear a uniform which implies he protects anyone, ever.
It is impossible to imagine the pain of Jorge’s family and friends. The shock of his murder has stunned the LGBT community in Puerto Rico. Jorge’s murder is the direct result of prejudice, ignorance, and bigotry that still dominate life for so many LGBT people around the globe. For many, daily insults, fear, and brutality are a way of life. Compounding this untenable situation is the fact that the very officials empowered to protect our LGBT brothers and sisters either turn a blind eye, are complicit in the terror, or actually perpetrate the attacks. Hearing these stories is almost more than a heart can bear.
On the day I heard about Jorge’s horrific killing, I also read the story of Will Phillips.
Last month, quietly and with little attention, 10-year-old Will Phillips stood up for “liberty and justice for all” by sitting down during the Pledge of Allegiance at his Arkansas elementary school. Will’s family has a number of gay friends and in recent years, he and his parents, Laura and Jay, have become increasingly active straight allies for their friends. They’ve marched in pride parades and stood up for the right of same-sex couples to marry and adopt. Will wants to be a lawyer, so words matter to him. In his view the promise of “liberty and justice for all” in the Pledge is falling short. So he decided to do something.
After asking his parents if it was illegal to not stand for the pledge (because of course Will is a good kid), he made the decision not to stand with the rest of his class as they started off the day by reciting the pledge. After a few days of this, the substitute teacher lost it and began yelling at Will. He quietly told her that, “With all due respect,” she could “go jump off a bridge.” Well, that got him sent to the principal’s office, followed by a call to his mother. Once Laura Phillips heard the whole story she asked the principal when they could expect an apology from the teacher and was told that would not happen.
After Laura posted on Twitter about the incident, the whole thing blew up. So now the entire nation knows about Will’s sitting for justice and while some folks are supportive, there are many—including his fellow schoolmates—who are heckling and hassling Will, with, of course, anti-gay taunts and barbs. But Will isn’t backing down. And his parents support him—they’ve printed off the blog posts and websites calling him out for his courage and integrity.
I can’t help but think that if more kids had parents like Will’s—who are raising their three children in an environment that celebrates inclusion, equality, and our shared humanity—and if more kids were like Will—who understands that standing up for the rights of others is part of being a good citizen—then maybe, just maybe, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado would be making plans to hang with his friends for the weekend rather than his parents making plans for his funeral.
Last night I had the privilege of talking to Will and his mom, Laura. I told Will that I knew some were attacking him, calling him names and making his life generally miserable. I emphasized to him that for every insult he had to bear, there was a kid whose life he was saving, who would hear his story and know that someone had his or her back. I told him he was saving lives. He said, “Well, that’s all I need to hear, to know I am doing the right thing.”
With bravery like this, may there be no more stories like Jorge’s.
Here’s to hope,
No Protection by Authorities from Widening Murder Campaign
(Beirut, August 17, 2009) – Iraqi militias are carrying out a spreading campaign of torture and murder against men suspected of homosexual conduct, or of not being “manly” enough, and Iraq authorities have done nothing to stop the killing, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch called on Iraq’s government to act urgently to rein in militia abuses, punish the perpetrators, and stop a new resurgence of violence that threatens all Iraqis’ safety.
The 67-page report, “They Want Us Exterminated’: Murder, Torture, Sexual Orientation and Gender in Iraq,” documents a wide-reaching campaign of extrajudicial executions, kidnappings, and torture of gay men that began in early 2009. The killings began in the vast Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, a stronghold of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, and spread to many cities across Iraq. Mahdi Army spokesmen have promoted fears about the “third sex” and the “feminization” of Iraq men, and suggested that militia action was the remedy. Some people told Human Rights Watch that Iraqi security forces have colluded and joined in the killing.
“Iraq’s leaders are supposed to defend all Iraqis, not abandon them to armed agents of hate,” said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Turning a blind eye to torture and murder threatens the rights and life of every Iraqi.”
Calling on all youth & community members to come show your support!
Press Conference and Rally
Tuesday, August 18th 2009
San Francisco City Hall (Steps on Polk St. Side)
Gather at the steps of City Hall to join members of the Board of Supervisors, youth, and state leaders in introducing legislation to stop deporting San Francisco youth without due process. Be there to support the new policy and demand that Mayor Gavin Newsom: “Stop tearing apart our families!”
Please wear all black. You will be given mask with a number to represent the 130 children who have been deported without a fair trial since Mayor Gavin Newsom’s policy change in July 2008. This policy made it possible for the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department to report any children and youth, who are suspected of being undocumented, directly to Immigration Enforcement, right after arrest, before any trial and before they get an attorney.
After the press conference, youth and other community members representing our children, siblings, students, and friends– San Francisco’s 130 youth who have been deported– will visit our Supervisors to thank them for their support in bringing an end to this policy.
To let us know we can count on your attendance, please send an e-mail to Lily Haskell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (415) 861-7444. Thank you!
Editorial | The New York Times
A man who put out water jugs in a wildlife refuge in the Arizona desert for illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico was convicted of littering and sentenced last week to probation and 300 hours of picking up trash, after he refused to pay a fine.
Walt Staton belonged to No More Deaths, an advocacy group that has been leaving water for migrants for years. Officials at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson say they allow other groups to maintain water tanks at aid stations in the refuge, with official permits, but they say plastic bottles endanger wildlife and worsen a serious litter problem. The advocates say compassion needs no permits.