Sunday, May 27, 2012

Comments at the Third Annual Harvey Milk March and Rally

Today I had the incredible honor to address the crowd at the third annual Harvey Milk March and Rally on the front steps of the Texas State Capitol in Austin. These are my prepared comments on that occasion:

I stand before the doors of this grand temple to democracy today; these doors I have walked through more times than I can count; these doors whose creek and polish have welcomed me time and time again and I say to you:

You don’t know the power you have.

Next January 8th the people who work behind those doors will return to begin making decisions that affect your lives.

You have the power to turn their minds towards the path of equality.

You have the power to tell them, face to face, your story of how inequality affects you and the ones you love.

You have the power to carry with you the spirits of those we’ve lost: to disease, to violent hatred, to the self-hate generated by a society that over and over again tells our children that they are not acceptable.

Over the next seven months most of the people who work behind those doors will not hear from a single constituent about our state’s continued systemic enmity towards queer people.

I’m going to say that again: most of the people who work behind those doors never hear from their constituents about queer issues.

We, gathered here today, at the doors of this grand temple to democracy, have the power to change that.

We have the power to tell those nestled in the seats of privilege the stories of our vibrant, varied community,

We have the power to speak for ourselves, to speak for the silenced and to speak for those just finding their voices and to say with a loud clear voice “I am here, and you are hurting me.”

One of the things Harvey taught us is the importance of coming out. He knew that it is harder for everyday people to hate us when they know us.

Well... the people who work behind those doors are everyday people, and it is harder for them to hate us if they know us.

So it is not enough to come out to your parents.

It is not enough to come out to your employer.

It is not enough to come out to your dog walker, your green grocer or your barber...

You must, you must, you must come out to your lawmaker!

In the days of Harvey Milk, the rallying cry was “out of the bars and into the streets.” On this day, on this day just over 82 years since Harvey’s birth, I propose a new rallying cry:

Out of the bars and through those doors; and

Off of grindr and into the workplace; and

out of the closet and into the classroom; and

off of facebook and onto the phones; and

off of twitter and into the voting booth; and

back into the bars to pick-up reinforcements; and

never give up; and

never shut up; and

never, ever stop hoping

because you have more power than you know;

and together, together we can harness that power to tell the people who work behind those doors about our lives, our stories, our Texas;

and that is how we win.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

House Candidate's Homophobic Tweet Stirs Controversy

Pat Carlson

Republican Candidate for Texas House Pat Carlson is in hot water as news of her recent homophobic tweet becomes viral.

Carlson is the former president of the Texas chapter of the Phyllis Schlafly-founded Eagle Forum, an ultra-conservative organization that last session (while Carlson was president) worked to defeat nearly every piece of legislation in Texas designed to improve the lives of LGBT Texans, including testifying against anti-bullying bills HB 1942 and HB 1386, and surrogate parenting bill HB 910.

In other words she has quite literally made a career of homophobia.

Even given Carlson's curricula vitae, the blinding ignorance betrayed by this tweet still comes as a bit of a shock:

"Don't be fooled by anti-bullying rhetoric. Not about kids, it's about LGBT's getting their foot in door of schools."
The link in the tweet refers back to Carlson's campaign website, patcarlsoncampaign.com, but the linked page has been removed.

It would, I'm sure, shock Mrs. Carlson to the core to learn that LGBT people are already in schools, even private christian schools; many of them have even infiltrated home school classrooms...

 ...they're called students.

That's the reason that so very many people - gay and straight, cis- and transgender, Republican and Democrat - have become concerned about anti-LGBT bullying in schools: because real students are suffering the consequences. Perhaps if Carlson was as concerned with the well being of actual flesh-and-blood kids as she is about defending her ideology she would understand that.

The good news is that Pat Carlson has almost no chance of being elected to the House. Carlson originally entered the race running for House District 91, the seat being vacated by Kelly Hancock (R-Fort Worth), but during all of the back and forth involved in redistricting she found herself in House District 93 running against incumbent Barbara Nash (R-Arlington). Nash, incidentally, voted for last year's anti-bullying bill HB 1942 (which, admittedly, had no specific protections for LGBT students).

It is much harder to unseat an incumbent than to win an open seat, on top of which Carlson is up against two opponents in the Republican primary: Nash and Matt Krause, both of whom have soundly out-fundraised her (as of last week Nash's and Krause's campaigns had $101,965 and $23,201 respectively, whereas Carlson has gone $8,200 in debt). Of course fundraising is not the only measure of a candidate's viability, but it often gives a glimpse into the level of community support a person has, particularly when the fundraising totals are so lopsidedly against one candidate in a crowded field, and these totals tell me that Carlson is running a serious deficit of community support.

Of course stranger things have happened in Texas politics than an underfunded candidate from far outside the political mainstream being elected, so the threat of Carlson, and her radical agenda, having a voice in the Texas House is still very real.

A change.org petition has been started calling on Carlson to retract her statement.