“[T]he job of the gay community is not to deal with extremists who would castigate us or put us on an island and drop an H-bomb on us. The fact of the matter is that there is a small percentage of people in America who understand the true nature of the homosexual community. There is another small percentage who will never understand us. Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.”
–Bayard Rustin; From Montgomery to Stonewall (1986)
In other words, for those of us who define ourselves as LGBT people and/or civil rights activists, our job in large part not to change the minds of people such as James Dobson (Focus On The Family), Donald E. Wildmon (American Family Association) or even Peter LaBarbera (Americans For Truth About Homosexuality) regarding LGBT people. It is instead to make sure that those who express anti-LGBT sentiments in public feel a sorrow-for-getting-caught expressing their homophobic and/or transphobic feelings, or an unwanted price for expressing those feelings.
At least, that’s how Bayard Rustin seemed to be describing “our job.”
The grassroots LGBT Civil Rights movement seems to instictively do just that regarding perceived anti-LGBT sentiments. Look at what happened to Tim Hardaway a couple of years ago, and more recently to the Manhunt Chairman, the non-profit theater director from Sacramento, the L.A. Film Festival director from Los Angeles, and now the recent news of how the manager of the El Coyote restaurant has resigned — sentiment perceived to be anti-LGBT has been getting harder and harder to publicly express without significant consequence.
This quote seems an interesting quote by an African American and gay civil rights leader on one of the goals of civil rights movements — I know it’s a thought I more than occasionally push into the marketplace of LGBT, civil rights ideas.
So, do you think controlling anti-LGBT sentiment is one of our primary jobs as LGBT people and/or civil rights activists? Do you think that the ways by which it’s being done by LGBT people now is what Bayard Rustin had in mind?