Friday, February 27, 2009

Some more thoughts on equality, civil rights and gay marriage

To piggy back on some of what Brandon was saying, there's an interesting article in the current issue of Colorlines (March/April) on racial justice organizing and it's integral role in the development of the LGBTTQQI movement. It addresses some of the conflict that rose up in a post Prop 8 blame game, with some notable vocal finger-pointers like Washington's own Dan Savage.
I also find myself wondering what we are talking about when we talk about "the movement", what the goals are, what the vision is and how our values are reflected in our strategies and praxis.

Equality Day is coming up on March 12th. Groups from around Washington State are coming to lobby at the Capitol on a host of issues ranging from marriage equality to safe schools. Stonewall Youth is going to hold a post Capitol debrief and discussion at 3:30 at the Stonewall office (call for directions). We hope that this will bring together an intergenerational group and create a space where we can talk about the challenges and victories happening in social justice organizing right now. We'll be having a free dinner as well! We invite anyone from our community to attend.

For more information e-mail us at or call 360-705-2738.

What Are We Trying To Be Equal To?

So as some people may know, Equality Day is approaching. Equality day is an event that takes place to give voice to queer supporters of civil rights and mainly advocates for gay marriage in Washington State. Although I find it important to be given the same rights as my fellow heterosexuals, I always feel like I lack the enthusiasm I see around me when rallying for this particular issue.

I was speaking with a very good friend of mine who explained to me that gay marriage is not necessarily a right, but more of a privilege that is placed in this very complex system of institutions. When I think of the Spirit of Stonewall my mind automatically jumps to the Gene Compton Cafeteria Riots in 1967 or the Stonewall Riots of 1969. I think of the Gay Liberation Front and the other radical groups that started the queer movement off with a bang, making connections with other radicals like the Black Panther Party. I now see that our voice looks a lot different than it did forty years ago, which I believe is both good and bad. But now I see us comparing Queer lifestyles to fit into a heteronormative society, which in the end doesn't do much to end oppression. I often times feel frustrated that the only things that get a large amount of visibility are queer families that have two parents or couples that have been together for a significant amount of time. I feel like we shouldn't have to have those things to be treated as a human being to begin with.

There is a story that I would like to share to help communicate my point. There were once six blindfolded people who were asked to approach an elephant and touch what they were told to touch. The first blindfolded man was guided to the elephants leg and said that he was touching a pillar; the second touched the tail said it was a rope; the third felt the trunk and said it was a tree branch; the fourth felt the ear and said it was a hand fan; the fifth felt the belly and said it was like a wall; and the last person put his hand on the tusk and said it was a solid pipe. So if we only see marriage equality and we don't include other things, then we aren't seeing the whole elephant.

In the end I am in full support of Queer people having the choice to marry because it is only right. But I would also like to keep in mind hundreds of other problems that are linked to the liberation of people. Once marriage equality is achieved, is that the end of our movement? On the day LGBTIQQ people can get married are we going to be able to say without blinking that we are not oppressed? Does harassment stop in schools and on the streets? Will the police look at queer relationships the same as heterosexual ones when dealing with things like domestic violence? Will courts view sexual violence in the queer community the same? Will the rise of Queer rights be taught in our history books? Once we are given gay marriage, do we side with the white male dominated, heterosexual christian nation that thrives on keeping people of color in jail, low income people without health care or resources, and undocumented workers in fear? Do we continue to be "ONE NATION UNDER GOD?"

Monday, February 16, 2009

U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship

Check out this article, what will they think of next?
The military is initiating a new program to offer expedited citizenship for people who enlist.

Can we make opportunities out of crisis?

As many in our Olympia community know and are coming to terms with, the current economic crisis has severe implications on all of our lives. The impacts are not just being seen on television and in other parts of the country, but in our day to day lives, in the smallest, and largest of ways. The effect on grassroots and community based organizations is only beginning to be felt, with most people talking about bracing for the difficulties of the next calendar year. The need for services is up, and sadly, our abilities as organizations is being hindered by our current climate.

At Stonewall, we're saddened to hear of the recent decisions that have affected groups and organizations that we see ourselves in solidarity with, Bread and Roses and Olympia Salvage being two of them. These organizations have meant so much to Olympia, and in their wake, we are faced with the realities, that the needs that they addressed are not going away, putting increased strain on others to respond and provide support for people.

So what do we do when the structures we have trained people to turn to no longer exist? What happens when those structures are not there, while the reason they were created still is?

Stonewall Youth is facing similar concerns. Several of our funders are not operating in 2009. Our disproportionate dependence on grant money has finally kicked us in the rear, and while we have made considerable strides over the past few years to shift this, it has still been difficult.
Honestly, all of us are a little freaked out right now. But we're trying to maintain a mentality, a commitment to seeing these challenges as important to our processes as an organization. In movements there are shifts and developments, and we'd like to think that Stonewall has a place doing work within it. We want to be able to adjust to what lies before us, to think about what needs to change and what we want to build from here.

We wanted to start a blog because we want to connect to our community. We want to have conversations about what is happening, and build shared understanding. We also want to share in the work of how we create community in Olympia and how groups support one another.
Is the internet a strange place to try to initiate this conversation? Perhaps, but we want to be open with people about what we're doing, we want a public forum for dialogue, and honestly, if there's one thing I've learned from being staff here, it's the importance of giving up some old, crabby technophobe ways, and using the internet as a resource.

We love Olympia, and are constantly inspired by what happens here. Please connect with us, share your thoughts, and let's come up with ways to be creative with how we are making change!

posted by Kristyn and Brandon