As most of you know, I'm a vocal, bossy, and sometimes obstinate LGBT rights activist.
A couple of years ago I did a series on how to change the world in five easy steps. In light of the new era, I think it's time for a reboot! 20+ years as a grassroots activist has taught me a few things I'm happy to pass on to a new generation. One so hurt and pissed off they're drowning in frustration.
|Women's March on Washington via photopin (license)|
For Millennials, this is the first taste of a rogue government in the States. One that doesn't represent the people and displays no desire to do so. I'm hearing the same things I felt during my first trip on this hellish roller coaster.
I can't take how horrible this feels.
I need to do something but don't know where to start.
How do I deal with all this ugliness?
It's time to do more than self-medicate that churning puddle of frustration sloshing back and forth between irritation and rage, eating a hole in your stomach. As a member of the LGBT community, protests and demonstrations are part of your heritage. I mean, come on. Who hasn't heard of Pride? It might look like a tribute to spring break, but it's the grandchild of a movement of people who were as frustrated as you are now, marching through the streets, demanding to be recognized and respected.
It's time to get back to our roots, people!
Let's start with step one:
Focus your passion
The most important thing I've learned as an activist is to maintain a narrow focus. Whichever issue you choose to make your own, you have to become an expert on the subject. You can talk out of your ass if you want, but when the other side starts doing the same thing you'll have a hard time refuting the nonsense unless you know the facts. Personal experience is one piece. Understanding the issues facing the rest of the LGBT community is the other.
Not everyone has had your history or shared your pitfalls. Some had it worse. Some had it better. Many continue to struggle. You have to be able to speak to the issues of the general population of LGBTs. If you expand that focus to include women's rights, POC issues, immigration, etc., you'll need to be an expert on all of it. Unless you intend to sacrifice your social life (not a good idea) and annoy everyone by being unable to discuss anything but your chosen issues (an even worse idea) it's better to maintain a tighter focus.
Pick one issue. The one that breaks your heart the most, and concentrate on that. We'll get into why that's important in the next part of the series, but for now, trust me. If you take on too much, you'll drown. This will be a relentless four years. Limit yourself to what you can shoulder for at least that long.
Don't worry that choosing one leaves out so many others. You're not in this alone. There are millions of activists worldwide, each with their own passion for a cause. Nothing will end up ignored.
It's damn frustrating when so much is wrong, but you can't do everything. You're only one person, and unless you have celebrity status or a friend with a public platform, your opportunities to help will be small. So will everyone else's. That's how grassroots activism works. Pissed off people with small circles of influence combine their efforts into something bigger -- say a throng of thousands that brought JFK Airport to a standstill over the Muslim ban.
You can help change things.
We all can.
We have to because the other option leaves too many vulnerable people at the mercy of a cold and heartless administration.
Check back next week for part two - plugging into the activist network.