“Hello YouTube!”…..that phrase has been uttered by my family about 345 times over four years. That is exactly how long we have been doing YouTube videos and here we are nearly four years later, on the cusp of what could be a landmark Supreme Court decision regarding Prop 8…and we are still making videos. I remember being so angry during the Prop 8 campaign as commercial after commercial on TV told blatant lies about my family and my life. I couldn’t believe stuff like that was even allowed to air on television. The more I saw, the more the polls would teeter on a knife’s edge and all we could do was watch as others endlessly talked about my family and my personal rights as if they were things….not the lives of real human beings seeking the same happiness as anyone else.
As those who opposed marriage equality continued to lie and fear monger, I kept hoping and waiting for the commercials to air that would set the record straight. Were were the guys who were going to call out the liars? Where was the compassion, empathy…or better yet, the truth? As our side showed living room conversations with the parents of gay people…and straight celebrities…the question ultimately became, why are they not showing us, as gay people, telling our own stories? Those commercials never came. It was our anger, and frustration with that that led us to one poorly filmed video over a dinner of chicken nuggets that has launched us onto this journey of trying to show what a gay family is…and is not.
I’d like to say that four years later, our side has taken a few notes from the failures of the Prop 8 campaign, but sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case as pro-equality organizations are repeating the mistakes of the past for fear of offending people.
But I think Britney can say it better than I can. Take it away girl….
In an article from the Associated Press, author Patrick Condon discusses the strategy of marriage equality groups to place gay people and same-sex families in the background as they continue to pour large amounts of money into TV ads and media sources that largely feature straight people talking about us…or at least the issue of gay marriage as an abstract concept. And as he also notes…this previously attempted tactic has not gone unnoticed by the gay community, who is starting to wonder what the heck is going on. After all, some of the money that is making these ads possible is coming from our wallets too.
To my recollection, the “No on 8” campaign never really said why they declined to show gay people or gay families with kids, it was always kind of understood that they felt that showing us would push away a segment of the population they felt they desperately needed to reach in order to tip teetering poll numbers into a win…but for whom images of us may have been too much for them to accept. A bit of flawed reasoning for sure…but also one that appears to be playing out again:
…But even as gay people and same-sex relationships gain acceptance through pop culture staples such as “Modern Family” and “Glee,” the idea is still seen as dicey by media strategists involved in the ballot campaigns, resulting in ads that usually involve only straight people talking about the issue….
And in the words of one of these media strategists, the reason why is because they fear that we are still “too icky” for some….
…”The moderate tough guys we need to flip to win a couple of these races are still the ones who say that gays are gross,” said Andy Szekeres, a Denver-based fundraising consultant who has worked on several state campaigns and had access to focus group data. “Pushing people to an uncomfortable place, it’s something you can’t do in a TV ad,” said Szekeres, who is gay.
O.K….I am not a media strategist but I have a few choice words for Mr. Szekers and anyone who believes this tripe. This reasoning infuriates me and it makes no sense…. if the mere act of seeing a gay person on television is too much for this person…how in the hell are they ever going to be inclined to vote for our rights?! If their constitution…or “values” as we refer to it cannot stand to see a gay person…or go the further step of listening to their story and getting to know them….how is that person going to be less offended by us in the voting booth? It just doesn’t follow. While on the one hand, the testimonies of straight allies do go a very long way in helping those on the fence see this issue in a different light, omitting gay people from ads…and by also not refuting outright lies told against us…we are sending the message that we have something to be ashamed of….and who’s likely to vote for that?
The same guys who think that “gay is gross” also tend to be people who prefer talking to someone who has a firm handshake, and look them squarely in the eye, and just tell it the way it is. If we can’t do the verbal equivalent of that, then we are sending the message that maybe we do have something to hide or be ashamed of…maybe they really are icky. And any person who still holds to those views in spite of us meeting them face to face?….we were never likely to reach those people anyway. Those are not those people for whom the issue is undecided.
The main tool anti-equality groups have ever had has been fear. They use the fear that we are an immoral force bent on unraveling the bonds of family and country. They use fear bred by ignorance of us as human beings with equal values, hopes, and dreams. The only way to fight that fear is by erasing the ignorance of who gay people really are and what our lives are really like. Pushing us to the background for fear of offending people does not offer them the opportunity to make that leap in understanding and any gain we make at the ballot box will be temporary, at best. If you are a gay person living in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, or Washington State…call your pro marriage equality org and let them know that you are not something to be ashamed of. Let them know that they are not going to win the battle by hiding those for whom it is fought. Or as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out is quoted, “If we don’t show ourselves, people aren’t going to get comfortable with who we are.”
Originally printed on Gay Family Values.
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