Jail Storms

How one blogger, in tandem with GetEQUAL, made the reluctant transition to activist

by Zack Rosen
Published on July 30, 2010, 10:45am | Comments

Lets talk about my ass. In particular, lets talk about how often I sit on it. I think my desk chair knows more about me than my boyfriend and my dog combined, and that's saying something. Though my website, The New Gay, I've dedicated the last three years of my life to making a difference within gay culture, and that's come at the cost of actually participating in it.

Most of this has to do with time, and my lack of it. One is usually given the choice of either documenting life or participating in it. Rarely both. I think this counts double in the gay world. In our hyper-organized ''subculture'' most burgeoning activists are given a choice: Either do it our way, or stand in it. I had a lot of time to think about this Wednesday as I sat in a jail cell for seven hours, playing word games with my fellow arrestees and debating the nature of making change.

Activism can be anything. This week, for me, activism meant staging a protest in the capitol Rotunda, holding up pro-ENDA signs and shouting for Nancy Pelosi to keep her promise to force a vote until the cops handcuffed us and lead us, politely as possible, to the nearby holding center.

At last week's NetRoots Nation conference we heard a lot of different things about what it can mean to get out there and be counted. For some it was working from the inside, playing ball for the greater good. Others choose to hit with their words, using talent and a keyboard to make folks care. Others advocate causing a ruckus and making demands. But too few people gave credence to all three.

GetEQUAL has become a whipping boy of sorts in the media, as many take umbrage to the fact that they are acting outside the rules, not waiting their turn, jeopardizing what others want in the name of what they want. But there is no ''they.'' It's all us, and we're going to let our hair turn gray in the heteronormative gulag if we sit around on our hands waiting for a majority vote from the inside.

What I did Wednesday felt better than anything I did last week, including a couple blowjobs. There are talented, engaged people in this world who are dying for a chance to make change and they should not be told by anyone that their tactics are wrong. I approached GetEQUAL first as a curious bystander, and discovered over the course of several weeks that they were inclusive of most everyone's agendas. This was not a great wall of opinion to cross. I've never felt so heard in my attempts to just do something, and that is why I put myself on the line.

I've been out of jail for more than 24 hours, and that feeling hasn't left me yet. Even better, I still feel it as I sit here in this chair. Everyone who cares should do something, and there is no something that is wrong. The Human Rights Campaign plays just as valuable a role as the lone man with the picket sign. If you try to have one without the other, they both lose.

What I did with GetEQUAL was an exception. If I did it all the time, I'd lose the momentum I hope to galvanize for my little online ramblings. But I can always remember this: The people I got arrested with, and the supporters and well-wishers that made it tenable, are people too. They took time out of their own lives to come together for a small moment towards a bigger cause.

I'm back on my ass today, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. It's nice to remember that this is just as important as when I was on my ass yesterday on a chrome bench, waiting to be fingerprinted. People don't have to go to jail or picket if they don't want to. They can work on the cause they see as most important, and be part of a larger movement as they do so. We might not be sitting on our asses together, in a physical space, but we are certainly doing something of note.

Zack Rosen is editor-in-chief of The New Gay.


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