Direct action group more about grandstanding than getting results; true credit goes to longterm efforts in getting gay-friendly officials elected
***image1***I want to address the issue of Queer LiberAction’s overall efficacy in achieving real results. Ultimately, that is how every organization should be judged, by how effective or ineffective they are in achieving clearly defined long-term goals.
Last week, Queer LiberAction told us in a column in the Dallas Voice Viewpoints pages that they met and did what they do best which was to hammer out a "direct action" plan. Yet they failed to evince just what that direct action plan is or what it entails.
We are now familiar with the sporadic protest rallies and "Milk Box" events — but many of us in the community want to know what happens after these events disperse and the protesters go home?
Does QL’s "direct action" plan only last for 30 minutes? Where’s the follow through after these rallies? I don’t see any at all and I still don’t know what the raison d’Ãªtre of the QL organization really is.
QL claims, quite incredulously, that they are the ones who got the attention of the city of Fort Worth via their various "direct action" events. Really?
In truth, the reality is much different. How do I know? I spoke with Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who has been a personal friend of mine for nearly 20 years.
On June 28 and in the days that followed, Joel conveyed information to Stonewall Democrats leaders (in both the Dallas and Tarrant County chapters) to keep us apprised of what was happening.
He had been in contact with state Rep. Lon Burnam and state Sen. Wendy Davis, both Democrats, who are the elected Texas representatives for the area in which the Rainbow Lounge is located.
The Dallas Voice meanwhile posted frequent updates to the Instant Tea blog on their Web site, which other news organizations picked up on and within hours the story hit the AP newswire, MSNBC.com and the New York Times.
It was a combination of these developments that got the attention of the city of Fort Worth, as opposed to anything that QL did.
At another QL "direct action" event on July 12, they posted a lengthy list of itemized demands on the doors of the Tarrant County Courthouse and Fort Worth City Hall.
This was reminiscent of Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation in Europe, but I fail to understand how this means of communication was at all relevant or effective in 21st century society, with electronic means of communications readily available at our fingertips.
A Blackberry or iPhone would have been a more effective means of communication with city leaders if that were truly their goal.
Perhaps the goal wasn’t about real communication, but more about the drama and showmanship involved in the actual physical posting of a long list of demands. This makes for high drama at its best, but in the end was completely unnecessary and certainly not effective in achieving any real results.
Yet, even this event was only a prelude to the kind of "direct action" that we would all experience on the evening of July 14 at the Fort Worth City Council meeting.
Stonewall Dallas President Erin Moore and I personally attended that meeting to show our support and to let those in the Fort Worth LGBT community know that they had our support as a standby resource from Dallas if need be. We did not attend to step on any toes in Fort Worth, and certainly had no plans to embarrass the Fort Worth community.
Unfortunately that happened anyway when QL decided that they couldn’t wait their turn to speak at the podium that evening. QL decided to interrupt the meeting and proceeded to verbally berate the mayor of Fort Worth.
They decided to use a rare opportunity to grandstand and jump on stage again in a desperate attempt to keep their 15 minutes of fame going.
It was sad.
If QL had done any homework at all on Fort Worth, they would know that the LGBT community there is a laid-back and fairly reticent one.
But no, QL went in like they were in Greenwich Village or the Castro in the early 1970s. It was definitely the wrong approach to use in Fort Worth.
I attended the initial impromptu candlelight vigil on behalf of Chad Gibson.
However, I fail to see the need for ongoing rallies every other week after it was made absolutely clear that our elected officials had the matter well under control.
Queer Liberaction’s voice that evening at City Hall was definitely the loudest and most obnoxious, but it was far from being the most effective.
Fort Worth has many articulate and very capable leaders who have somewhat reluctantly stepped to the forefront in an otherwise reticent community to see that this incident and impending investigations would be handled properly and appropriately.
QL’s grandstanding antics were simply not needed and frankly unwelcome.
Finally, QL had the audacity to state that the past several weeks have proven once again that "direct action" gets results; a statement that is utterly ridiculous.
The results came about through many years of hard work by longtime activists and well- established organizations in the community to get the right people elected to office so that when an event like this happens, we not only have a voice but more importantly the political clout and leverage necessary to implement changes in policy and to see that investigations take place and that various departments and agencies are held accountable.
On Tuesday, July 21, I invited Joel Burns and his appointee on the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission, Lisa Thomas, to speak to our monthly membership meeting. They graciously accepted and during that meeting Burns made it known in no uncertain terms that the recently passed resolution requesting and authorizing an independent "outside" investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office happened only as a result of organizations like Stonewall Democrats and our long-term efforts to register voters and to make certain that we elect LGBT-friendly representatives to both local and state office.
He further went on to say that without these key LGBT-friendly elected officials currently in office, this incident could have turned out much differently than it did and the positive changes we are going to see moving forward at the Fort Worth Police Department and TABC may not have occurred at all!
Burns’ statement to Stonewall is confirmation of real long-term results on behalf of the North Texas LGBT community. Forty years ago, we didn’t have LGBT elected officials and allies to rely on; today we do, and it makes a world of difference as we’ve recently seen.
It takes a lot more work than just holding 30-minute protest rallies to reach the point where we are today — a place where we have a voice inside of government as opposed to a voice on the outside that has to be amplified by a portable megaphone.
Jay Narey is vice president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, and has been recently nominated by Dallas City Councilmember Ann Margolin to serve on the MLK Community Center Board for District 13.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 31, 2009.