Waymon Hudson

Leave the Activism to the Adults…?

Filed By Waymon Hudson | September 24, 2007 8:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: LGBT, LGBT youth, News

People often wonder why we don’t have more young leaders and advocates standing up from within our community. They claim the community, and young people in particular, are disengaged and disinterested in politics and activism. Yet do these people really do anything to encourage and cultivate our young leaders? Sadly, many times the answer is no. Instead they seem to want to attack them and put them “back in their place.”

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhen you put yourself in the public eye, you expect your enemies to attack you. What you don’t expect, and maybe this is just my naivety showing, is to be attacked by some in the community that you are working so hard to stand up for. Instead of offering advice or support, they seem dead-set on tearing down those that try to simply get more involved. It is hard enough for a young person to get the respect from others without this internal back-biting. It is discouraging and disheartening, making it that much more difficult for not only that young person, but for others that may be watching and trying to decide if they too want to get involved.

An example of this came to light recently in an editorial published in a South Florida gay newspaper, The Express Gay News. It is sad that the editor of a major gay publication would use his position to attack those in our community who are trying to make a difference. These people are out in the trenches fighting for our rights, not just sitting behind a computer playing "armchair quarterback." Maybe baseless attacks like this editorial are the reason why more new advocates and activists don't come forward. It is bad enough that those that hate us (and make no mistake, they do hate us and everything about our lives) attack these new leaders, but now they must be attacked from within our own community? There are much more constructive ways to help fledgling activists than a public attack like this. Since the editor seems to be an expert in how advocates should act, maybe he should stop trying to bring others down and do something constructive, like offer media training or advice. I guess that would take more effort and involvement than just criticizing others.

As someone who has recently been pushed to the forefront of activism here in South Florida, I can say first hand that some from within our own community are the harshest critics I’ve had to face. I am by no means a trained, experienced political strategist. I am just a young person who got sick of seeing what was happening to the LGBT community and decided to try to step up and do the right thing. It has been a trial by fire, but something that has hopefully made a difference in the lives of people in our community.

We must stop the baseless attacks on the next generation of leaders. While we may not be perfect and are still gaining experience, we have the heart and the determination to make a real difference. Maybe instead of just blindly criticizing, we should be cultivating and supporting these people. Our community needs to come together and get behind these young fighters, not attack them. By doing so, maybe we can inspire a whole new generation of activists, something our movement desperately needs.

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Maybe I'm missing something here, Waymon, but it sounds as if you're upset because of criticism that some activists shouted down some other folks, some our opponents, some not, and used the term "disingenous" in describing criticism concerning the way bathhouses were being described and marketed for tourists. Wow! How totally demoralizing to any young LGBTQ activist to have to suffer through these repressive things to their budding young psyches. Since when does the right to determine what messages and ideas deserve being shouted down belong to some all knowing few? I thought the editorial writer was fairly balanced in both his kudos and criticisms. Hang in there, by all means, but better toughen up that skin a bit,....it's going to be a pretty bumpy ride. My guess is that there are some personality conflicts and issues at the root of all of this. I certainly see this in my part of the country.

While I'm with Don on this one (I think the editorial writer was pretty balanced - our opponents do have the right to free speech), I do think that Waymon raises a helluva good point.

A lot of time - whether this in LGBT activism or environmental or animal rights or right-wing politics - the older activists/politicos who have been "in power" the longest are loathe to give up any of the decision making responsibility to the younger set. While Don mentions personality problems here in Indiana, I don't necessarily know that is right.

I'm not so sure it's "personality conflicts" so much as "That's mine - this is yours" playing out. As a community we've had to so rough and such a hard row to hoe, that the thought of someone else coming and "taking over" sends the older set into anxiety attacks. They've lived through the times when you couldn't be gay publicly, before their was an acronym "LGBT," and for several of them before we were even called "gay." They've fought hard for the advances we've won and they've tried to plan things out for the future.

We all know that every generation comes along and shakes up the status quo - that's how change happens. And I, for one, won't stop working hard just because some elders are anxious or jealous of "their" territory.

I don't disagree with Bil's thoughts concerning some generational territoriality mixed in with all of this. I struggle personally with the balance between thinking "I've forgotten more than that youngster will ever know about all of this", and saying to myself: "Do you remember that you were there once, too?" Ronald Reagan (forgive the source of the quote.....but on the scale of things he's going to have a better place in history than George W. could ever dream of)once said that one can do almost anything he/she sets out to do as long as he/she doesn't care who gets the credit for it.

I live in South Florida and have personal knowledge of the substance of the editorial that is referenced in Waymon's post. The editorial is not balanced because the editor was not present at all of the events he criticizes. Regarding the incident where heated exchanges occurred, the editor of the paper was not present at the press conferenc, so he is making a judgment on little facts.

The point that Waymon is making, I think, is that those who sit in the background often are the first ones to criticize what the activists are doing. That is exactly what happened here. Instead of criticizing based on incomplete facts, the editor should help the community with media training or something similar (or at least get all of the facts first).

Don and Bil, I don't know if I agree. While I'm sure shouting down speakers is not always the way to go, at the same time I too have been frustrated at some in our community are so concerned with being genteel and reasonable, they decry the efforts of those who are willing to speak out and make themselves heard no matter what the obstacles.

Remember, the Reagan Administration did virtually nothing on AIDS until ACT-UP got out there in the streets and began stopping traffic with their demonstrations. Personally I believe it's the cowardice of some of our activist organizations and many of the pols who claim to be on our side, and their refusal to get loud and shake things up a bit that's largely responsible for the lack of progress and even regression, in the fight for our rights that we've seen over the last several years.

The religious right never hesitates to raise hell hell when advocating for what they believe, and I question why we should be any less demonstrative when it's time for our side to voice our own opinions.

I'm with Rebecca here - Sure, the shouting down of someone on our side was wrong (if the editorialist got his facts correct, which there's a suggestion that he didn't), but Janet Folger? Seriously, whatever for her. She has a right to free speech, and she spoke. I saw video and Rajner didn't make it impossible for people to hear her as the editorialist suggests, he shouted like twice throughout her thing and only when she paused.

I think LaPadula, honestly, is just another gay rightist who happens to own a piece of gay media (how much gay media is owned by conservatives? I mean, GAWSH!) and is using it to attack those on the left because of some chip on his shoulder. Notice how he just falls in line with the:

A major criticism of the left has been that they cherish “diversity” as long as that doesn’t include diversity of opinion.

Ummmm.... Yeah. And the O'Reilly Factor is all about multiple opinions.

Maybe I'm missing the point, Waymon, and maybe I don't know enough about this situation in Florida, but I don't see anything about the "young vs. old" in that editorial. I see very clearly some "I can't stand the gay left!", and maybe some other personal issues, but where's the young vs. old thing coming from?

And just one more thing, and maybe I'm just not involved in activism enough or at all to know about that scene, but when it comes to media, the social scene, etc., I think that queers glorify youth at the expense of gay elders quite often.

Just throwing that out there.

Anthony makes a good point that none of us were there actually to judge. Not that it makes much difference if you get an unbiased source... But is this source unbiased?

BUT - shouting down someone isn't civil debate. And ACT UP didn't just shout down each other or those who disagreed. They also informed, drew attention to problems and worked damn hard to solve those problems. By shouting down a fundie, none of those were accomplished.

Don't get me wrong - our Indiana readers will know Jerame and I from disrupting an Advance America rally in favor of the marriage amendment. BUT we hollered each time a lie was uttered. We informed and drew attention to the problem of misinformation that was being fed to the sheeple. There's a place and time for loud demonstrations, but I'm not sure shouting down one fundie at a press conference is going to do much to advance the cause.

Now, Alex mentions he's seen video of the event (I haven't) and maybe this is all a mountain out of a molehill. But I do honestly believe that the ability to have a civil discourse has diminished dramatically in American society.

There is a new radicalization among gay and lesbian youth, and youth in general, that t that will isolate and weaken the right wing of the GLBT movement to the point of extinction.

It?s a global radicalization of GLBT youth which is connected by the internet and audacious. It?s not limited to metropolitan centers or to ?advanced? nations ? it?s reach is truly global. It?s connectivity via the internet and news media gives it an unprecedented scope and responsiveness.

Around the globe young gay and lesbian activists and their allies initiate struggles and support each others struggles. That explains why groups of Mexican, Chilean, Russian, Polish and Taiwanese GLBT youth, etc. recently demonstrated outside Nicaraguan embassies against draconian Nicaraguan antigay laws; how young EU, north American and Japanese activists launched a massive campaign to save Pegah Emambakhsh, and won; how Italian GLBT youth and others organized mass kiss-ins defiance of the police arrests at the Coliseum; why there almost 3,500 GLSEN/GSA high school chapters in towns big and small in the US; and how young Iranian gays and lesbians organize in spite of government lynchings. Etc...Etc...Etc...

What?s beginning to shape up is similar to the momentous change that took place during the youth radicalization of the 1960's and 70's. Young GI's 'in country' and in the US joined millions of stubborn young Vietnamese resistance fighters and millions of US antiwar youth in a victorious drive to defeat the Democrat/Republican Party?s LBJ and Nixon and their unlawful war.

That earlier radicalization and the pioneering work of the Mattachines, Kameny and Giettings et al helped pull our movement out of the shadows to become a mass movement. It also sparked a new round in the fight for women?s equality and found natural allies in the radicalization of African Americans and Latinos.

It's far too early to gauge the depth of the current radicalization of gay and lesbian youth but all the signs are favorable ? it?s going to shake up politics spectacularly. Old Farts (of all ages) Beware.

Anonymous Old Fart | September 25, 2007 1:12 PM

Biased maybe? Anthony is Waymon's partner, might want to put that out there if your going to be forthcoming.

From all reports on the local front, there is too much infighting and self-community bashing going on, including Fight Out Loud, for Ft Lauderdale to get out of their own way and really make a difference.

Shouting down speakers at GLBT meetings because you disagree with their point of view? Childish! That's the only real point to make, if you can't, then you should leave it to the "Adults".

Work on the issues, thicken up your skin.

(yes, comment anonymously cause I do not feel like being attacked by the youthful activist personally)

I think the comments got off of message a bit, but I am willing to debate whether screaming over the opposition is always wrong and try to get us back on message. I attended the press conference (I remember only one or two other gay activists there besides reporters, and none from our local gay newspaper), so let me provide a more complete picture of what happened that day. The little snippet provided by the Sun-Sentinel is only a fraction of the 30-45 minute press conference that occurred that day.

About ten religious supporters of the mayor were on the steps of City Hall at a news conference that was called earlier that day. Several of these so called religious leaders were standing in front of us trying to block our view of the press conference. Several members of the group came face to face with me and the person described in the editorial, taunting us and calling us sinners. By the time that Folger spoke, we had already heard from Rev. Dozier who has said that God would vomit on us because we are so disgusting. We then heard from Dr. Diggs from Massachusetts who blamed every new STD on gay men, including anal cancer and HPV (although anal cancer is not an STD and HPV is more of problem for women than men). He continued to lie and misrepresent facts about HIV/AIDS, going so far to blame the increase in HIV cases among black heterosexual women on gay men who secretly have sex with men and then give the virus to women. His entire message was that gay men are a danger to society.

By the time that Folger spoke and the media remained silent, someone needed to stop the lies and dangerous misrepresentations. You may not personally agree with his efforts to stop the hateful message being spewed on the steps of City Hall, but it did change the story and forced the media to challenge the statements that were being made. Before his exchange, the media was quiet. Without his exchange, I do not think the media would have covered the story as thoroughly as it did.

Being at the press conference, I saw what he did as a necessary measure against the dangerous rhetoric that was being spewed on the steps of City Hall. I do not see how any damage was done to our message. The paper's only argument was that it gave the right-wing machine fodder for their anti-gay agenda, but that was happening with or without his actions.

The editorial seemed so concerned about the First Amendment rights of Folger and the mayor, but what about the rights of our community? The next press conference was held in a city room with militant religious leaders dressed in paramilitary clothes without anyone else allowed in to speak to the press.

If the editor of the paper was truly concerned with First Amendment rights, why didn't they use their editorial page to fight against the blatant use of city resources and property to promote religion? You have a mayor who has repeatedly used City Hall and its resources to promote one very dangerous and extreme view of religion that could have the effect of causing hate crimes against our community. Instead, the paper used its platform to attack those in the community who are trying to make a difference. I think many other people in the same situation (if they were there) would have done something similar to shut down this potentially dangerous talk.

The obvious effect is to stifle activism when the local gay paper names an individual who was at every press conference of this mayor and even worked with the NAACP in issuing a statement against the mayor (something that no gay group has ever done before in Fort Lauderdale). It is not about getting a thick skin. We are talking about future activists who see this very public critique and ask: "Why should I put my neck out if I am just going to get attacked by the gay press." It’s no wonder that some LGBT individuals are nervous about getting involved in advocating for our community.

FYI: I am not afraid to say that I am Anthony, and yes, Waymon's partner. Go ahead and attack; I am old and have thick skin!

Anonymous Old Fart | September 25, 2007 11:59 PM

I am a wee bit confused, is this Waymon Hudson's filing or did "Anthony" author it? Why is "Anthony" defending the content and expanding on it?

No one attacked either of you, but that seems to be a common evoked response when challenged on just about any level.

What does any of this have to do with the “ageism” stereotyping in the title of this piece?

Stereotyping such as this gives a highly exaggerated picture of the importance of a few characteristics. Or are invented with no basis in fact, and are made to seem reasonable by association with other tendencies that have a kernel of truth. Most of the time, negative, in which favorable characteristics are either omitted entirely or insufficiently stressed.

The stereotype fails to show how the majority share the same tendencies or have other desirable characteristics, and fail to give any attention to the cause of the tendencies of the minority group - particularly to the role of the majority itself and its stereotypes in creating the very characteristics being condemned.

Stereotypes leave little room for individual variation, which is particularly wide among elders, while it can be argued that the youth are still lost in explore being individuals and lose site of a larger collective good.

Ageism is manifested in many ways, some explicit, some implicit – or more to the point – GROW UP, it is not just about YOU.

I am a wee bit confused, is this Waymon Hudson's filing or did "Anthony" author it? Why is "Anthony" defending the content and expanding on it?

Anyone can participate in the comments thread, Old Fart. Since you're in here just as many times as Anthony, should I be asking "Did Old Fart author this or Waymon?" See how silly that sounds? Good.

And while I agree that ageism isn't a good thing, as I said above I can feel the pain. I'm regularly dealing with older leaders who are afraid to move forward with any plans not their own. It's common in most communities, actually. And it's something we need to work on instead of just defending. There are many positives to our elders, but also with our youth.

Anonymous Old Fart | September 26, 2007 11:35 AM

Thread point taken...
but seems a line between discussion and expanding when the author has not weighed in.

Guess what I am really trying to shift through is what seems to be the hypocrisy of "I'm going to do it my way" and the resulting howl when constructively criticized for the method(s).

It's hard to mentor a screaming wall of indignation.

when the author has not weighed in.

It's my understanding from his post earlier this morning that he's traveling cross-country. I'd imagine he has limited time to spend arguing in forums. *grins*

I'm not trying to be crass here, because I completely get what you're trying to say about mentoring youth. And, in fact, I said I didn't think shouting down folks was really appropriate. BUT at the same time, you're completely acting out what I've been pointing out as well. Several in the elder community will not be happy unless everything is done their way. When the younger set rebels, they're labeled as "juvenile" or other terms meant to convey that they have no idea what they're doing. It makes constructive criticism hard to swallow.

Anonymous Old Fart | September 26, 2007 2:38 PM

I do have to smile at the leap here.

Your making huge assumptions. I'm not acting out in the least. Another childish mannerism. I color myself with many hues, finger-paints where put away a long time ago though.

I make no reference at all to anyone having no idea what they are doing, and youthful passion is exuberant to behold. I refer to the all to common reactionary mode that seems to be the default when confronted with constructive criticism, we are not talking about a dismissal. Instead of being open minded to a chance for growth, they retaliate in forceful and negative manners.

There is no 100% correct way to do archive a goal, plenty of ways to sabatoge them, in contrast to far more productive paths to work together to reach those goals.

Okay, so I’ve reached a place with a wireless connection, although an incredibly slow and weak one. Who knew they had wireless in Montana? I thought it was all gay cowboys and mountains, but I digress…

I think a lot of the comments and discussion here have been very interesting and enlightening. I concede that maybe the editorial may have been more of a case of right-wing gay reporting rather than “old vs young”, but my main point of the blog remains the same.

I was by no means broadly painting all activists that have been involved in the struggle for a long time. In fact, I have many great mentors that have truly helped and inspired me in my own personal journey. But, as some of the comments have shown, there is a certain amount of “do it my way” mentality in the activism community. I welcome and encourage CONSTRUCTIVE criticism and feedback. That is what makes us better, no matter what age or experience level. But I don’t see how “get a thicker skin” or “it’s not all about you” is constructive or helpful. I also don’t see the claimed “screaming wall of indignation” in the post or in any of the comments.

I was simply making an observation that we need to support new advocates as they come up and get involved, which I find to be a valid and important point. We are all working for the same goal and need to use all of our resources to achieve them.

Well, now that that’s settled, I’m off to tip some cows before going to bed…