Patricia A. Gozemba
For those who doubt the efficacy of nation-wide rallies like last Saturdayâ€™s about Prop 8, I have two words: Wanda Sykes. It was worth dragging thousands of us out from Honolulu to Portland, Maine to have Wanda Sykes show up at a Las Vegas rally and come out to the world.
Â Married for just 10 days before the Prop 8 vote torpedoed marriage equality in California, Sykes and her wife are in marriage limbo along with 17, 999 other couples. Hopefully Sykesâ€™s public reflection on being in the closet will resonate with those in the LGBT community, still not ready to come out.
When Sykes told the crowd, â€œYou know, I donâ€™t really talk about my sexual orientation. I didnâ€™t feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know Iâ€™m gay. But thatâ€™s the way people should be able to live their lives. Now, I gotta get in their face.â€
Yeah, Wanda, we all have to come out. We can assume that people who voted for Prop 8 didnâ€™t know that you were gay. Maybe that would have shifted opinions. I can imagine a great 30 second ad with you and your wife. California could have used some gay people in their ads for sure. The elegant logic in â€œWanda Sykes on Gay Marriage,â€ is a winner. â€œIf you donâ€™t believe in same-sex marriage, then donâ€™t marry someone of the same-sex.â€
Okay, Wanda, now that youâ€™re out, I want more. You were right â€œour community was attackedâ€ by the vote on Prop 8.Â Your logic, â€œWe shouldnâ€™t have to be out here demanding something that we should automatically have as citizens of this country.â€ Wanda, tell the world. Feel free to get in the face of those who donâ€™t believe that you are as good as they are. It will make a difference. Everyone’s coming out does.
Alternate title: No More Wondering About Wanda!
In 1978 Gay men and lesbians were facing the Anita Bryant juggernaut. We had recently won some legal protections. Unlike most of the country, in Seattle, it was illegal to fire or evict a person simply because they were homosexual. Anita Bryant was flying the familiar flag of intolerant “Christianity” and quoting Bible verses as she demanded the right to hound us out of our jobs and our homes. Her organization, Save Our Children (SOS), claimed that gay people molested and recruited children.
The gay community was sharply divided on the best strategy to combat this attack. Many in the gay business community argued that we only needed to talk about everyone’s “right to privacy”. They claimed that if we were aggressive or if we mentioned pedophiles that we would scare people and reinforce their homophobia. In city after city, these strategy arguments had won and grass roots activists had quietly taken a backseat while the more mainstream gay organizations had led campaigns that never even used the word “homosexual”. In city after city, grass roots activists watched as their rights were slaughtered.
So, in Seattle, we decided that we had nothing to lose. We decided that we were going to use Anita Bryant as a platform to educate voters about the reality of gay life. We directly addressed the pedophile myth with statistics that proved that it was mostly straight men who were abusing children. We memorized Bible verses that contradicted the ones that Anita used. We showed our faces and talked about how we needed our jobs and our homes. And we won!
Seattle was the first city, the first gay community, that successfully withstood an attack by Bryant and her cohorts. We didn’t try to calm people’s fears by talking about privacy or civil rights. We confronted their fears. We exposed the shaky foundations of the lies about gay people recruiting children. We brought fresh air and sunlight to the shadowed unspeakable worries of parents.
I donated to the No on 8 campaign in CA and I watched the television advertisements with dismay. Of course 8 was “unfair and wrong” but where were the smiling happy couples? Where were the newlyweds talking about their joy and relief that they could legally celebrate their love? Where were the gay and lesbian parents and their children talking about finally having the same rights as their neighbors?
We need to learn from our own history. We need to directly confront the bigots and their lies. We know how to change minds. We have done it before. We need to each take responsibility for the viral campaign that will be necessary to win back our rights.
Wanda’s great, thanks for bringing our attention to this clip. I love it so much, I cross-posted it at GenderTalk.com. She speaks some simple truths: Prop 8 was an attack on the families of gay people. The right answer is to pass protections nationally. The other right answer is to include freedom of gender identity and expression among those protections. Love to all, thanks so much for your great work helping us to properly honor our loved ones.