Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Day Without a Gay: I Think I'll Stay Gay Tomorrow, Thank You Very Much

I've spent quite a bit of time trying to decide what I think about Day Without a Gay. When I first heard of it about a month ago on Facebook, I didn't think much of it. There's a Facebook group for just about everything, so I wanted to wait and see if it actually caught on. Thing is, tomorrow is my birthday, so now that the big ol' gay protest is apparently going down, I figured I should at least develop an opinion on the subject.

The purpose of Day Without a Gay, according to its website, is that "On December 10, you are encouraged not to call in sick to work. You are encouraged to call in 'gay'--and donate your time to service!" This is all fine and dandy, I suppose, but it just sort of rubs me the wrong way.

I mean, I get it. We're trying to increase exposure of the gay community's importance by showing how many of us there are while at the same time providing service to the community and looking like super great human beings. Blah blah blah. These things I 100% support.

However, I just don't know if I'm behind the way it's being done. Why, exactly, must we take a day off work to provide this service? What's the point of all of us just not showing up for work? Couldn't the service occur on the weekend, or after work, or during my lunch break or something?

My understanding of the argument is that if we all don't show up, then society will be able to see what huge role we play in society. *Gasp* Who will cut our hair? Who will teach our gym classes and golf lessons? Will there be anyone to host the cable news?

Okay. I get that. But what's the point of not going to work? Proposition 8 didn't pass because people were unaware that homos decorate all the houses and produce all the theater, it passed because of ignorance and fear of gay people and the way that we love. We don't need to be staying home from work, we need to be talking to people about the similarities between us and how we can work together to accept and understand each other.

I remember when I was in college and the immigrant community organized a similar event. Throughout the country, immigrants banded together to show their impact on the economy by staying home from work for one day. THAT made sense. See, the whole argument they were trying to make was that their community plays an enormous role in the economy of the United States, and they were tired of being exploited for their contribution while at the same time being put down for their status as an immigrant.

The Gays are totally different. Labor and employment rights are not the reason for Day Without a Gay.[1] In fact, the stated reason for it is a reaction to referendums and legislation which have taken away or limited our right to marry and adopt children. Someone explain to me what this has to do with going to work, and how it will help things for me to just not show up?

It seems to me that the only people/companies/organizations that are going to be affected by this action are the ones who are already supportive of the gay rights movement. See, being able to just "call in gay" is a luxury of either people who have flex time off (read: rich folks with cushy jobs) or people who work in jobs who support this event and will look the other way and allow this to be counted as a sick day. I know for sure that if I had called into my retail job saying "I'm calling in gay" they would have said "yeah, okay, see you in 15 minutes." Working people don't just have the ability to skip a day, and the insinuation that they could is just plain elitist and annoying. People have to feed their families, pay their rent, buy new shoes, whatever. I'm not going to get into a "in these tough times" diatribe, but the idea that taking a day off is as simple as one phone call ignores the reality of most people in the United States.

I have to be honest. I'm not really one for a protest. A stern call to my Congress person? Sure thing. A letter in support of a cause? Yessiree. A door knock or fifty for the candidate of my choice? I'll be there for you, my friend. But a huddled group of people yelling "we're here, we're queer, get used to it" is just not really my style. I realize that's not really what we're doing here, but it seems analogous. This type of action is not what will convince people of acceptance and understanding. Acceptance and understanding has to come from, you know, FUCKING UNDERSTANDING. How does not going to work one day promote understanding? I imagine the conversation going like this:

  • "Hey boss, you know how my being a homo sort of freaks you out?"
  • "Why yes, good employee, it really does scare me a bit."
  • "Well, boss, I've decided that in order to help you understand my importance to the community around me, I'm not going to come to work tomorrow. Instead, I'm going to volunteer at the Red Cross."
  • "Wait. Hmmm. What? Couldn't you volunteer on the weekend? Wait. What does this have to do with you being a homo again?"
  • "You see boss, we homos care about the community. So I'm not coming to work. I'm doing community service."
  • "Community service is good, but tell me about the homo thing again? That part's still pretty scary. Why not come to work? I'm confused..."

    I'm not saying that a group reaction and effort is a bad thing; in fact, I believe it is necessary. Also, I sincerely believe that the people who planned this event did so because they wanted to do something big after Prop 8 passed to show how many people support LGBT equality. I just think that in the end, Day Without a Gay misses the point and ends up coming across sophomoric and out of touch.

    I'd love to know what you all think.

    [1] Please do not misconstrue my words to mean that no members of the LGBT community deals with labor or employment issues because of their gender identity or sexuality. I realize that this is a large problem, and I'm excited to talk about the ENDA in another post soon. All I'm saying is that those things are unrelated to this.

    byrneme said...

    who will cook our delicious gluten free, vegan, organic, sustainable, local foods??? Obviously me. I can't call in gay. I've talked about this event with people at the co-op, and they actually wanted me to come in drag or wear rainbow ribbons... Kind of like the day of silence. We wore ribbons for world AIDS day too... honestly what it comes down to is that I simply cannot afford to call in gay, but I fully support those who can, and think its lovely how much chatter this event has caused. Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY (a little early, I know). AB

    Kate Mills said...

    Uh, I never was really into that overt self-promotion stuff like day of silence with duct tape over my mouth or day without a gay. Uh, truthfully I was pretty annoyed by the whole event. Ditto to you, Karly.

    uh, some people don't get it...you get me, Karly?

    Jess Focht-Perlberg said...

    I hear you, Karly. I was kind of confused by the whole thing too. And while I do appreciate a place for protest in our civic sphere, I think both the method and message of the action needs to be deliberate, thoughtful and well- placed.

    My favorite part of any of your amazingly well-articulated and from the heart diatribes is the f-bomb somewhere in the middle. Its like, "wait for it, wait for it...THERE it is!" :) There is just no substitution for the peculiar force of the f-bomb. I digress...

    Anyway, thank you for another valuable perspective. Well said.