Military Violates Medical Standards
Four Films

Because We Can

I had two columns this month. The second appeared yesterday and is entitled "Because We Can."

One night my boyfriend at the time was making fun of me. He thought that at that moment I was walking rather nelly. I asked if he wanted me to walk like a man, and then I imitated the scene from the movie "The Birdcage" when Robin Williams tells Nathan Lane to walk like John Wayne.
A movie like "The Birdcage" is important. Why? Because it is silly and absurd. It is campy, and it is precisely for this reason that it is important. We have plenty of serious gay fiction and serious gay movies and those have their important role. The movie "Angels in America" had a profound impact on my life. And films like "Philadelphia," "The Hours" and "Brokeback Mountain" are important in representing our struggles to a wider audience.
This is Pride Week in the GLBT community. It is a time for us to celebrate and have fun. Why should we do this? . . . [Read More]

I forgot to link the regular column that appeared two weeks ago. So, I'm just going to post it in its entirety.

A Pride Month Reflection on GLBT Activism

Lauren Topliffe did something that none of her predecessors have done and in doing it, she effected an important change. Do you know Lauren? I think you should. She is the Oklahoma Baptist University student who came out in Newsweek the week after the Equality Ride visited the campus in March.

I know of no previous OBU student who came out in such a courageous fashion while still a student (and I’m an alum, so I have some firsthand knowledge). When Lauren came out, she didn’t know what OBU’s reaction would be. According to the old policy, she probably would have been asked to leave or removed from school. There are many student stories from the past that would have suggested this outcome.

So what happened? Nothing. OBU has a new policy on human sexuality. Their public statements to the press at the time of the Equality Ride visit was that being gay did not violate the school’s policy. Lauren has been assured that her coming out publicly is not a violation of school policy.

This is a huge step for Oklahoma Baptist University which was made possible because of the courage of Lauren Topliffe. Her action was made possible because of the courage and commitment of all the Equality Riders who spent two months traveling the country advocating for equality on the campuses of religious and military schools.

Because of Lauren, other students have felt the courage to come out and have since found ways to unite. Plus the student newspaper, The Bison, had an article or letter-to-the-editor debating homosexuality pretty much every week this semester. That sort of dialogue is good, especially in a place where even the discussion of homosexuality has often been left hiding in the closet.

The Equality Ride is just part of a growing LGBT youth activist movement. This summer Pamela Disel, a local young woman who was part of the ride, will be organizing an activist house of LGBT youth, including some other riders, Kevin Mumaugh from Laramie, Wyoming and Kate Riley from Bel Air, Maryland. They will begin some activism locally as part of a national effort coordinated with others in various cities.

As I’ve communicated with these activists and others, I come back to questions that I am constantly considering. What should be our tactics in gay rights activism? What is our overall strategy? What even is our goal?

One reason I think about these things all the time is because there is little agreement in our community. And little motivation to work together on projects that we even agree on.

Just recently I was attending a birthday party where I got in a forceful, yet enjoyable, debate with someone about the short term tactics and even the long term objectives of the gay rights cause in Oklahoma. We had dramatically different views of the subject, such that it is difficult to consider us both part of the same movement. A third voice said that the cause in Oklahoma was pretty much lost and that we simply needed to lament.

I personally can’t take on every issue that needs to be addressed. How do I pick which ones to devote myself to at any given time?

Plus, we all have different roles to play in the larger cause. Jim Roth’s role is different from Richard Ogden’s, which is different from Paula Sophia’s or Jim Nimmo’s or Joe Quigley’s or Kathy McCallie’s.

In one of my many conversations on this topic, my friend Alex Easton said that the best activism was just living our lives as out gay people at work, with family, etc. And with that I agree. It seems that the most dramatic changes come from us simply standing up and sharing who we are. As Lauren’s courage illustrates.


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