Earlier this year I presented at a liberal college in Vermont. I faced something there more terrifying and difficult than in any other presentation. Usually people come down decidedly about the queer issues I present. They are hot or cold–hot for queer rights and the end of oppression or cold set against us. But at this school with an audience of about 350 students, I hit faced a lukewarm reaction. “Whatever. I don’t care.”
Throughout the show I felt like I was swimming in the pool of Jello. Afterwards I felt more exhausted and defeated than I have ever felt in any action or presentation I have done.
I am reminded of that as I prepare for my presentation tomorrow night among liberal Quakers here in New England. Sure there are allies gallore and folks who say they are more than willing to undo the oppressions of sexism, racism and homophobia, but very often I run into a strange phenomenon, one that I can fall into too. It is apathy dressed up in accomplishment.
Bring up a hot button issue and the most stifling form of defensiveness takes the forms of listing off all the many things the person or group has done to fix that issue. Not that these accomplishments need be minimized, but one of the problems with being progressive, ahead of the mainstream, is that we can get into the place of treading water as we wait for the mainstream to catch up.
So here is my dilemma. I will be with a group of people who for decades have been threshing (and thrashing) issues affect LGBTIQ folks. They have a good and solid history of speaking out, writing minutes, affecting change. But homophobia still exists in the Yearly Meeting and Monthly Meetings. Suicide is still the number one cause of death of LGBTIQ youth in the US, including Massachusetts where “gay marriage” has been legalized.
So when I stand on that stage after my show, taking questions and later in the week, and Friends ask me, “So what can I do?” What shall I say?
Thoughts? Insights? Suggestions?