There Will Be Days Like This

The "Day Without A Gay" protest coming December 10 sounds like a good idea for gays in California who had their fundamental right to marry eliminated by a simple majority vote. When all the gay doctors, waiters, police officers, hairstylists and firefighters call in "gay" and don't show up for work, maybe voters of Proposition 8 will regret having stripped rights away from a group of people they may depend on, but take for granted.

Beyond California, there are 47 other states where the government views gay and lesbian couples as strangers. A "Day Without A Gay" will be a nationwide protest. As for Connecticut and Massachusetts, the only states that afford full equality to gay citizens, the day seems like a nice reminder to not pull a California and write gays out of their constitutions.

As a gay man, I'm angry. But as good as a day without gays might make me feel about my anger, is it really a good idea? Would this kind of demonstration get gay and lesbian couples any closer to the equality we deserve?

Maybe not going to work and not buying anything on a given day would send a powerful message if enough gays and our allies participated. But what makes me uneasy is that by giving the country a day of no gays, we make ourselves invisible on that day. Isn't invisibility and the closet what perpetuated our oppression in the first place?

It was 30 years ago this month that the first openly gay candidate to win elected office in the United States was assassinated. Harvey Milk, a supervisor for the City and County of San Francisco, famously said in the wake of multiple death threats: "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door."

He knew then what is just as relevant today. Society will not accept or afford gay people full equality until enough of society personally knows, likes and respects someone who is gay. The majority will continue to view gay relationships as less-than or icky until they actually know gay couples that live as busy and mundane lives as their own.

Many of my friends are eager to participate in the "Day Without A Gay" protest. Organizers are urging people to use the time off work to volunteer - December 10, after all, is International Human Rights Day. Volunteering certainly is a good way to spend a day.

So what happens after December 10? Imagine if the next day we all started a conversation with the family, co-workers and neighbors who might know or suspect we are gay, but who never ask about our relationships. Maybe they are afraid to ask, unsure what to say or how to react. Maybe we feel the same way, which is why we haven't brought it up.

The result might be some awkward and uncomfortable holiday dinners this season, but these are necessary conversations to let people know we are not invisible, that we are productive and integral members of society and that our relationships and families deserve all the same legal rights and protections everyone else enjoys.

Beyond December 10, imagine if we initiated a conversation every day. These conversations could happen in every type of workplace, neighborhood and family. In every race, class, culture and religion. Because gay and lesbian relationships are everywhere -- even if some wish to hide or deny that fact.

That Harvey Milk took an assassin's bullet can be sobering. Gay-bashing of the worst kind still happens. And it is still legal in 30 states for gay workers to be fired solely for being gay. But when the majority gets to know gay people and their families, they won't stand for such injustice. Gay will no longer be theoretical, the other or us versus them. It will be personal. Voters offered the choice to discriminate against gays at the ballot box will be forced to vote for or against someone they know on a first-name basis.

Conversations will get us there. Protests that antagonize or make us invisible may not.

The bullet that felled Milk did not destroy the closet as he wished. But a new movie about Milk with Oscar buzz will hopefully inspire a new generation to embrace his mantra. While alive, Milk spent much of his frenetic energy blasting one solid note everywhere he spoke: "You gotta give 'em hope!"

It was devastating to lose Harvey Milk in November 1978 and the right to marry in November 2008. But the hope is how far we've come in between -- just having the right to marry, however briefly, was unthinkable in Milk's time. The hope is how energized gays and our allies have become in demanding equal treatment since the loss on Election Day. And the hope lies in how we reach out to that simple majority who voted against fairness and equality. Perhaps more than a "Day Without A Gay," what we really need is an ongoing "Days of Gays." That's when we can be present and visible, having the conversations with the people who need to understand why we are no less deserving than them.

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Daimeon

In terms of visibility I actually think this raises our visibility a little bit. Surely, you've heard the phrase...You never know how much you miss something until you've lost it...I think it's the same principle. I could be wrong, but I'm just sayin'sall.

jmrunning3

Joel, I disagree with one point you made. You seem to indicate that by participating in "A Day Without A Gay", it gives the country a break from gays and a day where they can be invisible again. You can certainly make it mean that if you wish, but I should think that all those who "call in gay" ought to organize in some fashion and make it obvious! One person calling won't make an impact. Even hundreds calling in won't. But if they all call in and then assemble or picket, or whatever, you will not be invisible.

I think this is a good idea. I'm am straight myself, but I fully support gay rights across the board. To make a point, you have to be loud and in-your-face. this is a good opportunity.

Liberal hater

Boo-hoo-hoo. No gay people showing up for work. Of course that means the whole city of San FranSICKO!

Actually this may be a holiday for all NORMAL people. No gay people yelling and screaming and protesting. No crosses be kicked out of old womens hands. No churches be vandalized with condoms and pornographic pictures strung up everywhere. In another words, no anarchy.

Also, NORMAL people will have a holiday from AIDS.

Trust me, gay people will be missed but only to the JOY of straight, NORMAL, people.

Bille walters

this is a great idea! I love it! I would love to see if it actually gets some press in the mainstream media. But you know as long as no one is mutlated then no airtime.... Good luck guys their are some of us stright guys that are supporting you and hope for the best. Here in Nebraska we are standing and walking with ya!

Anonymous

I disagree that this protest makes gays less visible. The absence of gay individuals on this day is intended to highlight the positive impact gays have every day. You rarely notice the parts that make your car function when it is running correctly, but if somebody steals your transmission you would surely appreciate the good it had done while it was there!

Jeff Bailey

Very well thought out point of view, and nicely stated. We do need more conversations. I believe this can be a nice impetus to have those conversations, and increase social service within our community at the same time.

Mike H

Do you remember the significance of mentioning Harvey Milk just 2 days after the 30th anniversary of Jonestown?

In case you need a history lesson, The People's Temple and its messianic madman leader Jim Jones worked hand in hand with Harvey Milk.

Ironic that you would mention them.

Joe Brummer

THe idea was taken from a Day with immigrants march that happen may 30th of 2007 (I think that was the date). The idea is to take to the streets not be invisible. Staying home from work, not buying anything is to show power but taking to the streets is to show numbers.

I have been advocating for this type of mass protest since I saw the day without immigrants march in 2007. I think it could be powerful, but it has to be done right.

Tim Reid

The week that Prop 8 passed, I put a framed picture of my partner on my desk at work. While I'm sure that the people I hadn't mentioned my partner to already knew that I am gay, I wanted to be clear that I am not ashamed and that my partner and I are a family. And even though I drove around with a 'No on Prop 8' bumper sticker on my car, called everyone I knew before the election to urge them to vote No on 8, joined street rallies BEFORE as well as after the election, this simple gesture of putting my cute partner's picture up in my cubicle at work felt like my biggest political move this month. Maybe calling in gay could be a way to comment on the passing of Prop 8, but Joel Engardio is right -- let's be visible and change how people think about us.

Hopeful for Homo's

Look, it is evident by the response in the homo community in SF that they are the ones who are angry, violent, bigots and intolerant. It is ironic that this has been the tag-line of the fags for years; that they are "victims" of intolerance and bigotry, and yet we see the true colors of the spirit behind that faggot movement is hate and anger toward anyone who thinks differently than you. Face it, being gay/homo is abnormal and will always be a perversion of yourselves and to the world. All that to say that I am hopeful that many will turn away from the deadly, self-indulgent lifestyle of hmosexuality and come to know who you really were created to be. You have a choice, as we all do.

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