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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Activism is Teamwork 

In my previous blog entry, I wrote about the lack of committment from the Deaf GLBT communities in activism. I said that it was easy to talk and criticize others. It is much harder to do the labor of activism. Way harder!

One commenter asked why don't I do it. My first reaction was that "I have!" Well, ok, not exactly the type of activism that Larry Kramer had in mind. Yet, I hesitate. Why? Because I have been involved with some organizations, geared towards Deaf GLBT's, and it has been quite pathetic.

Let me give an example. Lambda Society of Gallaudet University (LSGU), which is now Rainbow Society (RS), totally sucks. I'm sorry to say that but it's true. When I first joined, it was quite active and members are contributing. This organization were ran by different people, such as Barbara Hathaway, Patrick Gillespie, Drew Budai, Alan Wilding and a few others. Almost immediately when these people graduated from Gally, LSGU plummeted. Deaf GLBT students started meting out bullshit excuses for not getting involved. The number one excuse was that they didn't have money. Membership was $20 for a year. It was reduced to $10 for a year. The "members" wanted free membership. Now, how the heck is an organization supposed to run with no money coming in to kick off for the year?!? I hated hearing this excuse. They have no money but they magically have money to go out and buy drugs and alcohol or make a last minute trip to NYC, Canada or someplace else.

On my junior year, I joined the board as Public Relations. My job was to encourage members and non-members to attend general meetings and fundraising events. It was my job to get people to do community service, as all organizations were required to do as well but had to meet a minimum number of people in order to get credit. I was also responsible for notifying various other organizations and departments (Campus Activities) of LSGU's events and such. (I was also a Student Congress Senator for LSGU but that was an easy job.)

Anyways, for one whole year, I watched the steady decline of attendance, along with my fellow officers. I witnessed the empty promises made by members to show up for fundraisers and other events. The officers were the ones that stayed behind and did everything. It becomes frustrating and discouraging. Like Kramer felt, your own gay pride starts to deflate. The officers did everything to to keep up the morale by offering free food and drinks at the meeting. We had meetings off-campus. We had social time at the office. Nothing worked. It was like everyone rather be out partying at someone's house or at a bar, drunk and high. They'd rather be with their new boyfriends/girlfriends/fuck buddies.

The officers and I were so so so friggin' happy for the next election. None of us ran again. The following year was no different, excpet during the time when 2 students were murdered. The GLBT students banded together for fear the murders were hate crimes and that they could be potentials victims. But once the real murderer was caught, everyone went back to their own ways. These officers experienced the same thing that the previous officers did. Then, the following year, same thing, while the membership pool was getting smaller and smaller. The cycle repeated yearly. I get these info from fellow gay Gallaudetians.

At one point, LSGU was threatened to be closed down. The members cried out "no!". So, it remained, along with a new name, Rainbow Society. Well, guess what? The pattern is still repeating. That makes me wonder why in the world did they want to keep RS running when no one is showing up for anything. Fund is practically non-existent. There are cobwebs on their record of community service. I believe it was last year or 2, that RS had stopped doing the traditional Mardi Gras fundraising event.

I guess it was fun during its heydays and I had the opportunity to experience that during its last productive years. Now, as a graduate student, ask me to come back to RS, you can be sure that I'll say "no thanks".

I think that Capital Metropolitan Rainbow Alliance (CMRA) is a good social Deaf gay organization in the DC Metro area. However, it's run by the same older gay Deafies. Where are the young queers? Sure, most of them rather be asleep on Saturdays (when general meetings are held every other month), recovering from the night before. When there are fundraising events, it's the same older group of people. I'd go regardless but these last few months, I haven't been going. I asked a couple of other people why they don't go. They'd go but they'd like their friends to go as well. I think that's natural. We like it when we see close friends and familiar faces.

Cliff and I set up a forum for Deaf queers, The Kitchen. We thought it would be a wonderful opportunity for Deaf queers from across the nation (even from the 4 corners of the earth), to get together online and share ideas and such. We knew that people would want to share fun ideas, events, gossips but we thought that there would be some serious discussions about politics, activism and such. Nope, not happening. It just seems people would rather chat online and maybe hook up for a little satisfaction.

I think that's good and all that but what about balance? What about the serious stuff?

It all comes down to this. Right now, this is the E Generation. E is for Entertainment. Everyone is in this "entertain me" mode. No one wants to do the work. No one wants to volunteer. People expect to show up someplace, such as organizations, schools, bars and the like and to be entertained. If there's no entertainment, then it's "boo" time and complaints are made within a nanosecond.

I'd like to think that I did my part. Ok, not the AIDS protest, not the gay rights protest, the AIDS Walk or that sorta thing. But, now, I'm like fuck it! I should be selfish like everyone else and say the collective chant, "entertain me!"

You see, it's so easy to get discouraged and I'm one of those that can be discouraged after some rounds of negative criticism. Yet, I still tell myself not to give up. Ok, so maybe I won't do this community-wide activism. Maybe I'd best go on a personal level. Keep myself safe. Look out for new information. Keep up with news. Share my thoughts and ideas with fellow friends and maybe they'll share with their friends and so on.

I believe that activism requires teamwork. It's so easy to nominate others to do the work. It's easy to say "why don't you do it?" It's easy to retort "why don't you do it too?" Then, we just end up in circles and go nowhere. Isn't that what everybody is doing?

There are so many factors. I think one of the biggest factors, and Kramer said this as well, is that many young queers do not know what they want. What do we want? What do the members of RS want? What do CMRA and RAD want? What does The Kitchen want? What do you want as a member of the GLBT communities? What do I want?

Money is another issue. One, especially an organization, cannot do much without financial contribution from members. Are we selfish?

Before I close, I realize that I might be too "harsh" on the Deaf GLBT's. I know that other organizations are struggling, such as NAD. I've heard so much negativism about NAD and its officers and members. Maybe the mainstreamed GLBT organizations are experiencing the same thing as well. I'd like to hear from them. But as a Deaf gay person, I'm focusing on Deaf GLBT issues and organizations. Isn't it long overdue for us to get off our asses and fight for our rights, instead of just pointing fingers to the next person to do it?

Well, ta ta for now... I guess I'll add more to this entry when something else pops up.