I usually use this column to talk about writing – things I’m working on, my approach to the craft, and other random thoughts that occur to me about stories and books and publishing in general.
Every now and then, I veer off into a little hope punk – the inspirational side of things, reminding folks that there is still good in the world, even when everything seems so dark.
But today, I have something heavy weighing upon my soul.
A month or so ago, Pastor Casey Tinnan, a local gay pastor here in the Sacramento area and a man who has been instrumental in improving the lives of queer youth up in Placer County through a support group called the Landing Spot, was targeted by Project Veritas.
Veritas is the handiwork of James O’Keefe III (who has been fined for his inflamatory videos before and has recently been booted out of the group), and is the right-wing organization that used to go after abortion clinics by posing as actual human beings by filming them and then editing what they said out of context.
In Pastor Tinnan’s case Veritas’s representatives posed as the parents of a transgender child, and taped the meeting without notification or permission.
The resulting, heavily edited video made him out to be a groomer (the right wing word du jour for queer folk) steering kids into the (supposed) evils of queerness, and resulted in local schools severing ties with the Landing Spot.
Then one evening, a couple “Proud Boys” (just calling them that gives me hives) showed up on his front lawn with a bullhorn, calling him a pedophile and a groomer and demanding that he come out to face them. It’s not hard to imagine the same thing happening to any of us who have been vocal about our identities and have tried to help others be proud of who they are.
It’s a campaign of fear and intimidation being waged on women, on people of color, and on the queer community all across the country. Books are being banned, choices being taken away, trans kids are losing their health care and support systems, and history lessons are being sanitized to show only the white, straight point of view.
We thought we were “safe” from it all here in California – after all, the state is a liberal bastion.
And then this weekend, another of these orchestrated scare events took place at a local shop called Poppy + Pot, not five miles from where we live. A small group of right wing protesters, including the so-called “Proud Boys,” showed up to protest the shop’s monthly drag queen story hour.
Apparently they were quickly surrounded by counter-protesters, and left the scene in a hurry, so that’s something we can be proud of as a community.
But the fact that these purveyors of hatred and lies feel empowered to come into our towns and cities and attack us for who we are gives me chills. And it’s quickly getting out of hand.
To their credit, the shop owners – a husband-and-wife team (a “black queer owned business”) came out of this weekend’s events more galvanized than ever in their support of the queer community:
Instead of backing down and canceling the monthly event, they say they now feel obligated to continue with their message, and their community is standing behind them.
But we have to take note of what’s happening around us, and take the opportunity to step in and help when we can. With apologies to Pastor Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the “woke”, and I did not speak out—because I didn’t really know what woke meant.
Then they came for the trans folks, and I did not speak out—because I was not trans.
Then they came for the drag queens, and I did not speak out—because I had never done drag in my life.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Mark and I have fought these battles before, and we’d hoped that after we won marriage equality, all of this rage and these lies would fade away, consigned to the dustbin of history. But our 45th president ripped the bandaid off, exposing the vile elements of racism, misogyny, queerphobia and all the rest, and we’ve been bleeding ever since. Having lost the fight against our marriage rights, they’ve chosen a new target, our trans family and friends, and our drag queens.
It didn’t go well for them at Stonewall, and we have to make sure it doesn’t go well for them here.
We can start by standing up together and saying ENOUGH. We have to rise up as a society and say that these attacks on our siblings, friends, neighbors and family are NOT OKAY. We have to be like that crowd that showed up at Poppy + Pot and chased the neo nazis away.
One of the most beautiful things I’ve have ever witnessed was in the early 2010’s, when Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church was regularly “protesting” (ie jeering and catcalling) at funerals of US service men and women, because somehow screaming at military families was a protest against gay marriage.
In many places, the locals gathered and put on angel costumes and wings to block out the hateful folks.
The video below explains one such counter protest:
The angels make me cry every time I see them, in the same way that I cry when I see the wonderful folks at PFLAG at our annual pride events, holding out their arms to give each of us queer kids a hug, no matter our age or family background.
We need more of this today. We have to find ways to stand up to this tide of rage and lies and provocation, a path back to the sacred heart of who we were (and want to be) as a nation.
And we have to do it together, black and white and brown, young and old, queer and straight, on the spectrum, men and women, all of us who have been marginalized by our culture and have finally found our voice. And our power.
So say it with me:
Enough. This has to stop.
Then let’s do something about it.