A number of you may relate to the following: I am a gay person who was living a rather ordinary gay life until last November, when Proposition 8 passed in California and awakened me to join our resurrected movement for LGBT civil rights. My priorities in life changed in that singular moment, and I became heavily involved in our collective political fight and overall campaign for equality.
Where I may differ from a number of you: I have been making contributions from the other side of the camera lens with videos posted on YouTube, documenting and promoting our protest marches and rallies in San Francisco, California and throughout the United States, in addition to adding my voice to various advocacy and political campaigns.
While covering our protest events, I have been taking in the overall attitude of our LGBT community, and I have no doubt seen our anger and fear that arose after Election Day last year, when our country passed same-sex marriage and adoption bans in four different states. Since that pivotal day, we have been channeling that anger and fear towards revitalizing our movement for civil rights, lighting candles and waving protest signs, as we converge upon a public spot or march along a heavily-trafficked road across a city or town.
I consider anger and fear as appropriate emotions to feel when we come face to face with painful and scary oppressions, especially those to the American fundamental civil rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. I have also realized that how we use our anger and fear in our advocacy for civil rights could heavily determine the success of our movement.
I have seen how easy it can be to allow our anger and fear to compel us to retaliate against those who have played a role in oppressing our citizenship. Many of us remember seeing the televised anti-prop 8 protest in Palm Springs from last November, as a few angry gay people knocked a cross out of the hands of an older woman and stomped it on the ground. Other actions of retaliation have included spray-painting graffiti on church walls and heckling opposing protests and events.
On the flip side, I have recently covered the Great National Kiss-In event in San Francisco earlier this month, and that experience cemented my belief in how we can best use our energy that comes from our anger and fear:
When I edited the above film, I felt uplifted, as I saw the beautiful images of love among couples who proudly kissed in public for everyone around them to witness. I started recognizing that this protest video dramatically contrasted with the other protest videos I have made, and that's because we didn’t look angry or sad on this day—instead, we looked happy. Since I posted this video on YouTube, I have noticed that this stark contrast resonated strongly with our community, and the images from this protest made us feel good about ourselves and affirmed that the love that we feel for our significant others, our friends and our communities is worth this fight for our civil rights. But I think that this video hints at a bigger message, for while anger and fear may serve a purpose in their own way, love and peace has an infinite and eager audience.
I believe that it is when we channel our anger and fear towards actions and messages of love, peace and happiness that we will experience our greatest successes within our LGBT civil rights movement. When others who haven’t gotten to know us see the love that we have for each other and peace that we have for everyone, such visuals of love and peace can produce a powerfully disarming affect in allowing others to let us pass into their minds for processing and better understanding.
I believe it was the tenets of love and peace that helped transform the African-American civil rights movement. The peaceful images of African-Americans who crossed the Pettis Bridge in their march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and braced the ensuing attack from policemen reverberated on television sets everywhere, as Americans empathized with the struggle of the African-American community and were repulsed by the brutality used by the policemen. The images of peace and love that were dreamed by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as revealed to us at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom echoed within the chambers of our heads, because such images transcended our racial divide and helped us discover a happiness that knows no boundary of color.
I believe that it will be the images of LGBT people living our ordinary yet extraordinary lives—of LGBT people contributing to our community by helping clean up our parks and feed the homeless, of gay couples enjoying dinner with each other at a restaurant as one proposes to the other for a life-long commitment of love, of gay parents cheering on their sons and daughters at little league baseball games and school plays, of LGBT people smiling as we converse about our lives with others who do not understand us, of our LGBT community responding to ignorance and prejudice with love and peace as we live our lives and March on Washington this October—that will significantly change how many others think of us. After all, we as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, as well as straight people, are defined by the most powerful and beautiful virtue of all, and that virtue is love.
As an old saying may go, it can take years to build a city yet one day to destroy it. Though it may take a lot of work on our part, the sooner the more LGBT people take their anger and work to rise above it towards fighting fire with water, not with fire of our own, the sooner I believe that we will see a lasting synergy, as we come together better within our own sometimes fractious LGBT communities, and as we lay down bridges to help better connect us with the rest of our nation. Fire may be an easier response, though it helps create an end, and water may be a harder response, but it helps foster a beginning; the choice of element to employ is ours.
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