Today, I had the pleasure of addressing a class of MSW students at the University of Pittsburgh. The class focuses on policy and I used my work in the LGBTQ community to illustrate how advocacy can drive real social change. It was an interesting experience. Another speaker works for local government and a third is a private consultant on governmental affairs. Three very different perspectives.
The panel gave me the luxury of revisiting some of my older posts as I searched for good examples of letters to the editors of local papers (and accompanying commentary I could distrbute to a classroom). I also went back to the March 2008 Blog for Equality campaign which I think included 14 local bloggers and was the brainchild of local blogger, Bram from The Pittsburgh Comet. Hard to believe it was just one year ago we were gearing off to beat back a Marriage Amendment. Our Allegheny County Human Rights Ordinance may be stuck in committee, but at least we are focused on creating positive legislation instead of simply warding off another attack. That's progress.
My presentation today focused on building relationships with and educating our elected officials, the media and the general public. I discussed some fundamentals of lobbying and media relations, but I hope my key point was clear — we must come out of our closets to create real social change. We must come out as members of the LGBTQ community and as family and friends of the LGBTQ community. I was reminded briefly today of the price of being out and, while regretable, we cannot allow bigotry to stand in the way of progress.
Western Pennsylvania faces many challenges in the struggle to organize for this type of social change. Someone asked me this morning why we cannot seem to get our act together and I just don't have an answer. I have to take some ownership for my part in the breakdown because my patience has been wearing more and more thin as the years roll by. I'm weary of the same broken promises and unfullfilled plans. I'm also tired of being scapegoated for having an opinion that doesn't conform to organizational expectations. Finally, there is just the simple exhaustion of defending systems and structures that aren't working.
It is too tempting to wallow in self-pity and despair. I still believe the fight is worth, well, the fight. I still believe you deserve to know what is really happening behind the scenes so you can make informed decisions about how to join the fight. And I still believe that I have the right to express my own opinion, not the responsibility to be the mouthpiece for others.
It would be great to see some other LGBT bloggers begin to emerge. For those of you wanting to do something for the community, give blogging some consideration. You are your own boss. You pick your agenda. You'll get readers simply because there aren't many of doing it. Blog a little each day and folks will come back to read what you have to say. You might even change some minds. NetRoots Nation is coming to town in August (national blogging convention) and I'm working with the LGBT Blogging Initiative and the LGBT Blogging Caucus to organize the welcome reception. It promises to be a doozy. I actually feel kind of guilty that my main queer activity for the coming months will be a party instead of “real” advocacy, but maybe the party will inspire some new people to start blogging.