Betty Greene Salwak

After The Rallies

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | October 08, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: march, March on Washington, National Equality March

Ogayflag.jpgctober is LGBT History month, and this weekend will make history with the National Equality March in Washington DC. Like a lot of Projectors, I can't go to Washington to show my support, but I will be downtown with my sign this Sunday. Even though I am a child of the sixties, this will be my second-ever protest (the first being last November against Prop 8). Will I see you there?

The march and its accompanying rallies are important events, but let me remind you that those events will not be the impetus for change in and of themselves. The gathering of like souls who share a common goal serves to bond and empower those who assemble. A rally is a necessary beginning to bring a civil injustice into public awareness; multiple rallies continue to empower and channel energy. Rallies serve the people who already agree on what change they desire. The energy rallies produce must be focused into the strength required to shift the fight into a new phase: changing the hearts and minds of those who can be moved.

There are three primary arenas of contention: politics, religion, and family. Those already engaged professionally in these arenas are best equipped for discussion on an intellectual level, point by point. But to make this purely a discussion of law and logic is to miss entirely the idea that we're talking about people. To keep it at the impersonal level is to permit a disconnect that I think can be harmful to the cause. As long as popular vote has a say in whether equality can be gained, we need to move hearts as well as heads.

I believe that most of the straight population has been complacent on the issue of LGBT rights primarily because they think they don't know someone who is a member of the community, and they don't understand how the issue hurts a fellow human being. Catchphrases, shiny mass-produced signs and rhyming chants are not going to positively influence most of those who aren't already in agreement. Straight people need to know the stories behind those signs, songs, and slogans.

After and between all the rallies, whether you attend or not, you have the critical moment of public awareness. How do you use it? By telling your story--not necessarily to the world, although some will take that risk. But step up and tell your story to those who already know you. Tell them what it feels like to be left behind; how it feels to struggle for rights that straight people take for granted like breathing; and what it is to be made to feel less than fully human for being different.

Harvey Milk was right: put a face on this issue. Come out, come out, wherever you are. This war will be fought on many fronts, but it will be won in heart-to-heart encounters by people like you.

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And it's precisely those moments which I must shy away from, at least for now. Thank you for being Barnabas for me until I can speak for myself.