THE BLOG
01/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Gays On Strike: The View From A Minority Within A Minority

By the time this blog is posted, the "Gays on Strike" or "Day Without a Gay" event will have ended.

First off -- hats off to the organizers for trying. I genuinely mean it. Kudos for coming up with an idea. I don't like the idea, but good on ya for putting something into action.

I think gay community organizers need to find an angle that's a little more logical and accessible.

I initially saw the Facebook notice for the group "Gays On Strike" about a week after the General Election. At that time, all I saw was that I was being asked to "call in gay" on December 10th.

My initial reaction was -- if we work for companies that do not take issue with our private lives, we're supposed to repay them by not showing up to work because we're gay?

The organizers of the strike wanted to send a message that the workforce (and the economy, which I'll get to) can't do without their gays. It seems my employer was supposed to have a reaction. "Oh wow, he's not here today. And he's gay! What would we do without our lil' gay worker?! Quick! Write out a check to "NO ON 8!"

I think this might be effective if a gay person whose skills are desperately needed is employed by a company that is run by bigots or put money towards anti-gay initiatives.

If you work for a company that discriminates against you, I understand your motivation to participate in a day of strike. Then again, if you work for a company that discriminates against you, I don't know why you're working for that company.

I don't work with bigots. My company is beyond merely tolerant of gay people and clearly on the side of equal gay rights. So, forgive me if I thought it a bit rude to "Call in Gay" on them.

I think our battles need to be fought with people and organizations that we know, with 100% certainty, deliberately and actively set out to hurt and affect our lives. We need to get out of the way of people who have done nothing to us at all.

In sharing this opinion, the reaction I have received is that I am a sellout for choosing to go into work. I am not standing in solidarity or "standing up and being counted."

To those people I quote Carrie Fisher's "Suzanne Vale" (played by Meryl Streep) in Postcards From the Edge, "Do you always talk in bumper stickers?"

I don't see how "calling in gay" to work renders me "counted." Who's going to know besides me and my employer?

Furthermore, would anyone actually have the guts to say they're "calling in gay" if they do not already work for a gay employer? I would love to hear a clueless employer's reaction to those words or be a fly on the wall when the employee returns to work.

It seems logical people would say "I am calling in sick." People call in sick even if they're not really sick all the time. However, in this case, wouldn't saying "I'm calling in sick" defeat the purpose? Doesn't it detract from the fact that you're trying to get attention for a cause?

In the last week, it seemed the "strike" angle was toned down on the "workplace" scale and jacked up on the "nationwide / economy" scale.

In the December 16, 2008 issue of Los Angeles' Frontiers magazine, an article on the strike spotlighted two groups.

The first, "Day Without A Gay," emphasized volunteerism if people were going to "Call in Gay." Excellent. Again, I question the effectiveness for the overall cause, but who can argue with giving and being charitable?

The second group is called "A Day Without Gays" and one of its organizers, David Craig, said "Why is it that we contribute to an economy and a government that doesn't recognize us as equal?" Craig was asking people to "refrain from buying, spending or supporting the economy in any way."

Well, it's an interesting concept. However, let's face it. The timing for this "strike" isn't the best. The economy is already in the toilet. Spending is already down. I don't think the masses are going to notice we didn't spend money on Wednesday. No one is going to say "Wow, we really can't go without our gays, can we? They sure showed us!"

Speaking of "showing them," another aspect I have been questioning this last month is the 21st century effectiveness of a rally or demonstration.

Are they all just show? I think so. I don't see what they accomplish.

I've gotten in trouble with people because of this viewpoint. I have been told I am "holding down diversity" or being "mean-spirited and belittling" towards those participating.

It has been unsettling that my difference in opinion and questions cause me to be viewed as someone who is "dangerous." Like I am just as bad as a person who wants the gay cause to go away and die.

Perhaps this is why I don't hear or read viewpoints like mine expressed too often. It seems, in order to get attention, you have to be "angry gay guy" or "political/AIDS activist gay guy" or "celebrity gay guy."

As a result, I feel like a minority within a minority most of the time. I suspect others do too.

To make myself quite clear, if you are the kind of person who is politically active, made phone calls or went into communities to get the word out about any gay cause and then went to a rally to express your disappointment, I am not directing my views towards you. Clearly, you are impassioned, doing something for the cause and a rally might be a good way to release some disappointment and frustration.

I don't think the majority of people showing up are what I just described. My quarrel is with people who did nothing before the vote, but will show up at a rally and feel "they did their part." Then they do nothing after the rally is over. Bandwagon jumping.

I got out to a rally or two in the wake of Election Day, but I wasn't impressed, inspired or moved. When I find an activity I think is worthy of my time and effort, I will participate. Rallies and demonstrations aren't that activity; they don't do it for me.

I am more interested in changing "Yes on 8" votes to "No on 8" votes by provoking thought and discussion. I don't think rallies accomplish this. I think they used to, but they're outdated and ineffective in today's society.

The rallies of the 1960s are flash points with purpose and meaning. Given my perspective towards the rallies of the past, I have been asking myself, "Why don't I feel the same way towards today's rallies?" I couldn't come up with an answer.

Then I was discussing this with a good friend of mine, Brad, and he finally gave me the answer I'd been searching for: it's the Internet and the Media.

Essentially, Brad said (and I agree), that in the '60s, gathering en masse was probably the only truly effective way to get a message across. Media wasn't even close to what it is today. Millions of people HAD to gather in one spot in order for lawmakers to see that the people meant business about change and it could effect voting. The numbers of people involved were shocking. It was new; unexpected. In the '60s, thousands, if not millions, of people in one place was a staggering thing to even read about!

Today, a person in "Anytown, U.S.A." watches one of the myriad of cable news outlets and sees that few a rallies happened across the country and the reaction is "Big whoop; so what?" It's no longer out of the ordinary. It's commonplace.

In addition, now all you have to do is make a smart YouTube video and minds and perspectives can change within a few minutes. So can votes.

Under no circumstances am I suggesting total apathy because I feel the rallies and this "Day Without Gays" thing won't accomplish much. I think we need to be smarter and savvier about our choices so we don't look foolish or actually hurt a cause we're trying to further.

Some people have said, "Well, Paul - where's your great idea? I don't hear you coming up with something."

Fair point!

Truth be told, I wish I were the 'great idea man." My mind is more logical and observant than lofty and creative. I'll make an attempt and toss out a couple of bones.

I am always up for good debate. Why not have "moderate" gay leaders and "moderate" religious leaders participate in a summit? It needs to be something that lasts more than an hour; perhaps a weekend. The two sides should actually sit down and TALK about what the main issues are. Call it a negotiation that might bring about change.

Ten minute increments on television with people yelling over each other will accomplish nothing.

I suggest "moderates" because extremes on either side will never listen to each other. You cannot argue logic with someone who is irrational; it won't work. Middle ground and a willingness to listen is where it starts.

If not a summit, then I think we need to get out into the communities that voted for measures like Proposition 8 and work with them to create dialogues that might bring about positive change. How that would be accomplished is probably better thought up by more creative minds than I.

Lastly, something came to mind just this past week. This is not so much an idea as an observation.

In 1992, when a Colorado vote disallowed protection for gays in employment or housing, Barbra Streisand gave an impassioned speech at an AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit where she wound up "accidentally" sparking a boycott of Colorado. She said, "If asked, we must refuse to play where they discriminate."

That boycott sure got some attention. It was effective. The next time a vote on the issue came around in Colorado, the gays won.

The majority of the reaction in the last month has been directed towards the passage of Proposition 8 in California and not so much on measures in three other states. Several people I know are now referring to themselves as "second-class citizens."

So, if these people are essentially as up in arms today as the gay community was in 1992, why haven't I heard a call for a total boycott of California? Or Florida? Or Arkansas?

THAT might get some attention, wouldn't it? People might see how badly they need their gays then, right?

Hmmmmm.....

Just a thought.

Peace out.