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Showing Up Gay

In protest of anti-gay legislation, gay and lesbian people were encouraged to “call in gay” to work today and to spend as little money as possible. The purpose was to emphasize how important gays and lesbians are to the American workforce and to the economy.

The plan makes sense, but as with similar kinds of activism, I wonder if not doing something is effective. A boycott needs to be very focused. If every gay person in a national corporation or particular industry called in gay, the impact would be more obvious. Within the entire workforce, though, it’s more difficult to make sure people participate and to show that the effort has made a significant impact.

And what would calling in gay say to my colleagues, most of whom accept and support me? What would it say to my employer, which keeps making strides to create a positive work environment for LGBT employees?

I brought up the topic over lunch with a friend/colleague who is a lesbian. Before I could state my opinion, she voiced her disapproval of the calling-in-gay plan. We agreed that the people we work with who care about us would have felt insulted, and the people who don’t care about us, if they’d noticed our absence, would have resented us for skipping work.

I doubt the value of inaction as action, of silence as political statement. A population that lacks visibility–that historically has been punished for visibility–doesn’t communicate much by *not* being present and speaking up. Silence does not speak volumes, except maybe to those who already get the point. The people whom we want to notice our silence aren’t listening in the first place. Rather, our silence allows them to interpret the missing message as a “stunt” fitting our “homosexual agenda.” More likely, though, they just continue to ignore us.

The recent rallies in response to the passage of Prop 8 have sent a wonderful message. They’ve shown that we and our allies can stand up for justice and equality and do it peacefully. They’ve established that we know we deserve equality, and we’re no longer willing to wait around for someone to save us. We’re requesting a right that we should already have been granted. It’s long overdue.

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4 Responses

  1. I appreciate it’s intent, but I’m not sure this was the most well thought out movement. What about those that are closeted or those that are hourly employees and can’t afford to take off?

  2. agree with your friend//colleague. im thinking of something like a “get-to-know-a-gay” campaign – where we talk to the hets and gain their support

  3. I totally agree. It’s counter productive. Broad understanding never comes via alienaton of the people you already have in your corner.

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