“People are more able to hate us when they are unaware that we are members of their communities.”
— From “Pride is a Protest!” by Jayla Wilkerson
Since 2016, politically-active LGBTQ people have had to protest gay Republicans. We’ve had to volunteer for candidates who support us, up and down the ballot, in every election to try and balance the hatred, homophobia and bigotry coming out of the halls of government. We have had to spread information that promotes our fight for equality and helps keep us safe.
Most recently, we have had to choose between sheltering in place to protect ourselves and each other from a pandemic that has been allowed to rage through our country or joining our black brothers and sisters facing tear gas and rubber bullets and more to make sure people know and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.
We have even changed “Gay Pride Month” to “Gay Wrath Month.” That, of course, isn’t an official name change.
But we, as an LGBTQ community, need to be fed up with the white supremacy plaguing the black community which aligns so clearly with the homophobia and transphobia plaguing us — all of which have clearly infested our current political climate. It is necessary not just for the well being of our own communities, but because — when considered as a corollary to Jayla’s point — because we are less able to effectively stand up to racists when we are unaware they are members of our community.
And so, we must protest.
Hearing recently about Log Cabin Republicans Dallas having these big, successful meetings has been hilariously confounding for me — watching and wondering how many of them are just itching for the day their conversion therapy will be successful and they can join their GOP colleagues completely in their bigotry.
It takes me back to my high school days when I knew that at any minute, that annoying bully was going to show up and start calling me “fag.” Their homophobia, like the high-school bully’s taunts, have no real effect on me anymore. But I can’t help but wonder what damage these homophobic gays of Log Cabin Republicans might be doing to our LGBTQ youth, who are still facing their own high school bullies.
Since the 2016 election, I have been subjected to more than a few anti-gay attacks myself. I’d like to say I kept my composure every time, but truth is I have yelled back; I have caused a few scenes. But I have no more patience with these people who don’t want to let me be myself. And yet I know that, as a cisgender, gay, light-skinned Mexican guy, what I have been through is insignificant compared to the hatred and discrimination my black LGBTQ family endures.
And honestly, going out recently to celebrate Juneteenth, seeing the strength and motivation of the protesters in the streets — motivation to make a difference, motivation to be happy — comforts me. It reminds me of being at the Dallas Women’s march, of how wonderful it felt as we made our way to City Hall, yelling out our chants at the counter-protesters gathered against us. And it felt good to see these activists out on the streets, prepared for what they were doing and what they needed to do. It was different from the sense of imminent disaster I used to feel, disaster that I felt and saw in 2016 when I watched about a third of voters just simply not bother to vote.
There are, I know, a number of reasons those people didn’t vote: They don’t care about helping others. They don’t think their vote counts. They have not yet settled on their political ideology. They were born on third base.
Whatever their reasons, it doesn’t matter, really, because what lies at the core of all the reasons is either an unwillingness to participate or an oppressed psyche.
Those of us who care to engage must do so as much as we possibly can. And we probably will for a very long time — even if this next election goes our way. And that includes registering people to vote, and then get them out to vote.
Let me be very clear, voter registration is not just about registering people. It’s about informing voters. When voters are informed, they find it easier to vote, and when it is easier to vote, turnout goes up.
How do we do that? We have to plaster our candidates and voting dates across our whole community, on all platforms, especially while we live in the clutches of COVID. And we do have some outstanding candidates this cycle.
Ann Richards was elected governor in 1990 by a slim 2 percent margin. She lost to George W. Bush in 1994, and ever since then, Texas has been red. In 2018, Ted Cruz won re-election by effectively the same percentage as Ann Richard’s victory. While this is not enough to predict the next election’s outcome, there does seem to be a favorable trend there. And when it comes to our elected officials, in the words of Holland Taylor as Ann Richards, “You have the power to call them out and call them down. You hire them. You can fire them.”
I think perhaps that Pride Month 2020 will probably be known as “Gay Wrath Month” for quite some time, and I cannot think of a more fitting title for my birth month.
The wrath the nation is facing is for Marsha P. Johnson, for Breonna Taylor, for George Floyd and so many others. We need that wrath, just like the Civil Rights Movement needed protests, The Black Panthers and others to be successful.
But we also need the vote. We need people going out on their days off to register and inform voters. Otherwise, hell, we’ll be out here protesting the rest of our lives, and so will our children.
It is not our time to rest. It is our time to speak out and stand up for our rights, because even if you think you have no stake in the game, your dignity does.
Joey Casiano is a local artist/author working on his first novel. He serves on the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas executive board and is a political activist.