LGBT folks often ask me what can they do to help in our battle for equal rights. Most people do not have a lot of time to spare. They want to help out but are intimidated in not knowing what to do.
Much of what I do is really quite easy to accomplish, it doesn’t take any personal connections and can be done in 30 minutes or less. Here is a simple process I have put together that I call “The 30-Minute LGBT Activist” that can be used to take on a bite-sized project. The specifics can be adapted depending upon situation. I am going to use an example of a recent news story I saw last week on KDAF-TV, the Dallas/Ft. Worth CW-TV affiliate. Their news program, “NewsFlix,” aired a segment on Bruce Jenner’s rumored gender identity reassignment. Regardless of the opportunity involved there are a number of common steps I use when I take on an issue.
LGBT Knowledge Resources
There is an endless amount of information available on LGBT issues and it really can be quite daunting to know where to turn when and issue arises. Obviously the nature of the issue will dictate which source(s) will have the information you need. The list I am providing at the end of this post is by no means exhaustive but it is a good start for anybody to begin his or her search. Each of these resources are worth reviewing in advance and checking on from time to time for updates to give yourself a good overview of what is going on that impacts gay people.
When an issue arises first thing I do is find out as much as possible about what took place, get information on the different organizations involved and turn to resources that have expertise within the LGBT community about the issue at hand.
Make a Game Plan
Once a topic comes to mind make a quick game plan on what you can do to help. Your actions can vary from publicizing what happened to making a few phone calls to writing a letter to the editor to publicizing what happened or a combination of all of the above.
As an example, if a student is bullied at a local school you can find out the phone number for the school and the principal’s name. Also find out what the school/community did about it and what further action is needed.
Next, put together a brief message describing what happened, what you want everybody to do (call the principal) and a few bullet points that people who call the principal can use as talking points. Then post your message on Facebook and email it to contacts. You can also post the message in the comment sections of any online articles about the incident in both the LGBT and mainstream media and as a comment on anybody discussing the issue on Facebook. You can also send information about the incident and what you have done to LGBT organizations and media sources that might be interested.
Last week I was watching a local newscast on KDAF-TV’s “NewsFix” news show and they had a story on Bruce Jenner’s rumored gender transitioning. There has been a bunch of media attention to Bruce Jenner lately and apparently he is going to be getting his own reality show shortly apart from The Kardashians. Now mind you Bruce Jenner has not said anything publicly to confirm or deny these rumors. Not only did I find the tone of the story itself offensive, the introductory comments by the newscasters leading into the story were snide, mocking and off-putting. The story was not one that would make any transgender person feel comfortable.
Today a story with a similar tone would not have been run about a gay man or lesbian. Media has become much more savvy on how to cover stories involving sexual orientation over the past ten to fifteen years. Although there has been some progress on the public’s understanding and acceptance of gender identity there is still a great deal of progress that needs to be made, As I watched the segment about Bruce Jenner titled “Trans Jenner” I thought about the discomfort and even anger that was likely to be felt by any transgender people watching. I decided I needed to do my part to confront this.
An hour after the newscast I went into my 30-minute activist mode and got to work. I did a Google search for information that I knew I would need. I got the correct name of the TV station and the news show, the website for the station and a link to the “Trans Jenner” segment from the NewsFix page on the website. I also obtained the general phone number for KDAF-TV as well as one for the news department. I had recently read about the particularly high rate of suicide attempts by people who are transgender and I searched on “transgender suicide” and found research information from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law that said that more than 41% of people who have identified as transgender have attempted suicide. The Williams Institute is one of the organizations I have provided information in the resource list below.
With all the information I needed at hand I put my plan into action. First, I went to GLAAD’s website, to their “Take Action” section, and selected “Report Incident.” I also have a link to GLAAD as part of the resource list below. GLAAD works closely with media and will contact them when LGBT issues are not handled properly. GLAAD does a great deal of training with the media and through their efforts LGBT news coverage and portrayal of LGBT characters on TV and in films has improved significantly over the years. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals are years ahead of coverage of transgender people. I completed the information requested on the form and included a link to the “Trans Jenner” segment itself. Upon submission of the form I received an email from GLAAD stating that they had received the completed form.
Next, I phoned the news department at KDAF-TV. I politely introduced myself by name and explained my displeasure with the “Trans Jenner” news story and especially the manner in which the story was introduced by the news anchors. I then mentioned that upwards of 41% of people who are transgender attempt suicide. I then asked the person on the phone if he though that a person who was transgender or who was questioning their gender identity would be less or more likely to attempt suicide after watching KDAF’s “Trans Jenner” segment. I could tell that my question made him pause and think. I complimented the station in their improved coverage on gay and lesbian issues but mentioned that they needed to educate themselves more on issues involving transgender people. I also mentioned that I had contacted GLAAD about the segment. He responded that he thought that it would be a good idea for me to leave a message on the news director’s voice mail. Once I reached the news director’s voiced mail I left a detailed message covering what I hat just told the person who took my call.
Then I went to the website for our local LGBT newspaper and left a brief description of the “Trans Jenner” segment and what I had done in response it. I included a link to the segment and the phone number for the KDAF News Department in case they wanted to follow-up. I also posted on Facebook, including a link to the segment and the KDAF phone numbers and I invited people to watch the story and contact the station themselves.
I was able to do all of the above well within 30 minutes. As to what happened as a result of my efforts I received a comment on my Facebook post from a friend the next morning that the link to “Trans Jenner” on KDAF’s website was no longer working. Obviously, somebody at the station must have decided to remove the “Trans Jenner” segment from the site after listening to my complaint. Hopefully it also gave KDAF-TV’s news team pause for thought. As to what steps were taken by GLAAD that is beyond my control. I did my part by informing them.
I encourage others to become 30-Minute LGBT Activists. It really is quite easy to do, you can make a difference and after you take on a small project you will be surprised how empowered you will feel.
Freedom to Marry
Works to obtain same-sex marriage in all 50 states
A national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work
Equality Texas advocates and lobbies for elimination of discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Equality Texas Foundation educates and engages the public about policies and their effect on Texans of all sexual orientations and gender identities/expressions
The Trevor Project
National organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people ages 13-24
Family Acceptance Project
A research, intervention, education and polity initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for LGBT children and youth, including suicide, homelessness and HIV – in the context of their families; connected with San Francisco State University
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network)
The leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law
Dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. A national think tank at UCLA School of Law, the Williams Institute produces high-quality research with real-world relevance and disseminates it to judges, legislators, policymakers, media and the public
PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Education, support and advocacy for parents, families, friends, allies of LGBTQ people with 350 local chapters in all 50 states
It Gets Better Project
Communicates to LGBT youth that it gets better through over 50,000 user-created videos from celebrities, organizations, politicians, media personalities and activists
Truth Wins Out
Works to demolish underpinnings of homophobia by debunking harmful lies, discrediting hateful myths and countering anti-gay organizations such as the Family Research Council, American Family Association, organizations conducting reparative therapy, ex-gay organizations, etc.
GLMA (Healthcare Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality)
World’s largest and oldest association of LGBT healthcare professionals
Human Rights Campaign
The largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBT Americans; represents 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide, holds Black-Tie dinners around the country
National LGBTQ Task Force
Nation’s oldest LGBTQ advocacy group advancing full freedom, justice and equality. Conducts annual “Creating Change Conference” for activists
National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)
Programs focus on employment, immigration, youth, elder law, transgender law, sports, marriage, relationship protections, reproductive rights and family law to create safer homes, safer jobs and a more just world for LGBT people
National Center for Transgender Equality
Dedicated to advancing the equality of transgendered people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment
(formerly Gays and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation)
Works with print, broadcast and online news sources to bring people powerful stories from the LGBT community that build support for equality and when news outlets get it wrong, GLAAD is there to respond and advocate for fairness and accuracy
Family Equality Council
Changing attitudes and policies to ensure all families are respected, loved and celebrated; especially families with parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
Out & Equal
Shaping the future of global LGBT workplace equality and inclusion
Straight Spouse Network
An international organization that provides personal, confidential support and information to heterosexual spouse/partners, current or former, of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender mates and mixed-orientation or transgender/non-transgender couples for constructively resolving coming-out problems
Southern Poverty Law Center
Based in Montgomery, Alabama the SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups; dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society; using litigation, education and other forms of advocacy
The Huffington Post / Gay Voices
LGBT section of The Huffington Post
The Bilerico Project
LGBT news blog
LGBT magazine (online edition) – liberal blog from John Aravosis, well known gay activist – covers general news as well as LGBT issues
A site with homosexual tendencies (blog)
Liberal blog hosted by LGBT activist John Aravosis that covers mainstream and LGBT news
A multiple award-winning (Advocate Magazine, Bloggies, Best Of Blogs, etc) blog focused on issues of interest to the LGBT community
Online version of The Dallas Voice newspaper serving North Texas