Tuesday, February 22, 2005
by Wayne Besen
The unmitigated disaster of Election Night doomed any hope the gay and lesbian community had for a quick political fix at the national level. There will be no victory celebrations in Washington for some time to come. Indeed, when George W. Bush, who was secretly taped by his backstabbing friend Doug Wead saying that he would not "kick gays", is the GLBT community's protector, we know we are in deep trouble.
As dire as the situation is, it may finally force gay rights activists to do what they should have been doing all along, which is focus more on education. For too long, the community thought it could score a big victory at the top by lobbying Congress. In the process, a strong, dedicated lobbying powerhouse was built. This was a great advance that helped shore up the movement.
However, it has become painfully clear that lobbying alone will not carry the day - as politicians will rarely get out in front of the voters. To ultimately win at the top, it is crucial to bolster public support through programs designed to foster enlightenment and better understanding.
In a much-needed effort to educate America, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) launched its groundbreaking "Stay Close" advertising campaign, which debuted in New York and Washington. The ads emphasize family values by showing heterosexual celebrities and politicians warmly embracing their gay relatives.
Six separate ads highlight the relationships between: Actor Ben Affleck and his cousin, Jason; singer Cyndi Lauper and her sister, Elen; Congressman and Mrs. Richard Gephardt with their daughter, Chrissy; Latina media mogul, Cristina Saralegui with her brother Ignacio; singer Barbara Cook with her son Adam; and New York Congressman Gregory Meeks with his brother John. The cutting-edge advertisements can be viewed online at www.stayclose.org.
"People need this campaign-both gay and straight," said pop singer Cyndi Lauper in a PFLAG press release. "I want people to know that it's about changing hearts and minds. It's about moving from simple tolerance to understanding to acceptance. But, ultimately, it's about unconditional love."
Campaigns like "Stay Close" will lead the way in winning political victories tomorrow, but may save lives today. According to PFLAG:
· 69 percent of GLBT youth report experiencing some form of harassment or violence, with 46 percent reporting verbal harassment, 36 percent reporting sexual harassment, 12 percent reporting physical harassment, and 6 percent reporting physical assault.
· Gay and lesbian youths are two to three times more likely to commit suicide than other youths.
· Of 1.3 million homeless children on America's streets, 500,000 are thought to be GLBT kids thrown out by their parents.
The beauty of PFLAG's message is its simplicity. In an understated way, it makes the point that in order to have family values, a family must stay together. Parents that abandon their gay kids are practicing a twisted, conditional love that rots the very core of the family structure.
The alternative to the model of the love and acceptance displayed in the PFLAG campaign is the one put forward by the right wing group Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (FPFOX). This Virginia-based group was founded with the intention of mocking PFLAG. Their mission is to teach parents how to biblically justify rejecting their own children.
Exhibit A in the PFOX model is Alan Keyes. In 1999, he gave a blistering anti-gay speech at PFOX's annual conference. Last week when his daughter Maya Keyes came out of the closet he threw her out of his house and stopped paying for her college education. He still has not explained how making her homeless and uneducated will turn her straight.
With such an insidious agenda, it is no surprise that the president of PFOX, Richard Cohen, had once been involved in a cult that got into trouble for practicing nude therapy. Cohen was recently kicked out of the American Counseling Association, although that professional embarrassment hasn't stopped PFOX from using Cohen as their ideological guru.
Like PFLAG - their counterpart has had advertising campaigns, including a billboard in Virginia with the screaming headline, "Ex-Gays Prove That Change Is Possible". The group also ran similar ads in Washington.
One would think that before PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs would be so bold as to place a brash billboard above the highway, she would have changed her own child from gay to straight. However, her son is still openly gay. Perhaps, Griggs should have some success with her campaign at home before she literally takes it on the road.
It is clear that the PFLAG paradigm brings families together, while the PFOX model tears families apart.
More gay organizations should follow PFLAG's lead and produce ads that highlight love and family. When our community changes enough hearts, the votes of politicians will surely follow.
This is exactly what is needed. Thank you for stating it so clearly.
posted by sttropezbutler, at
All of us "stranded" here in the square states have been saying this for years, but the bicoastal-centric advocacy groups have arrogantly thought they knew better. PFLAG has been much better than HRC, etc. at connecting with ordinary people in middle America, where the voters are.
But why did this ad campaign debut in New York and Washington? That's still singing to the choir. If it had debuted in Tulsa or Des Moines or Columbus, then I'd be impressed. That, after all, is where the message really needs to be carried.
posted by Jim Burroway, at
I couldn't agree with this article more!! We also need to get some of the major networks to show our gay families and the fact that we are just as every day in our concerns and our lives as heterosexuals.
posted by Bartholemieux, at
It's all about Civil Rights: Gay Rights are God-given rights granted by the almighty and the U.S. Constitution...
Where else can you openly discriminate against millions of people and say it isn't discrimination?
Stay Close helps promote family values that some how go astray when someone announces "what he or she is" not what they decided to become; but what and who they are.
Please, drop the hate. Love that person who yesterday, before you knew about their sexuality, you loved them...They did not change...YOU did!
Love them, grant them civil rights allowed under the law...and by all means....STAY CLOSE.
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