Sunday, February 5, 2017

Want to Be an Activist? #LGBTQ #bethechange

Last week I promised you a blog post about plugging into the activist network, and here it is!

What Is Activism?

Let's talk about what activism is and what it isn't. In the case of the LGBTQ+ community, the ultimate goal is to educate the public and create legislation that secures rights we don't yet have or protects the ones we do. Activists stand on the front line, representing the cause.

We want to get people on our side. Protests are one way to gain attention. So is speaking out against injustice. Bullying isn't. I'll talk about this more next week, but for now, it's enough to say trolling the online trolls and hating on the haters doesn't help the cause. An online platform of name-calling and threats isn't activism. It's pointless harassment.

How Do You Do It?

As members of the LGBTQ+ community, activism is our heritage. People have been fighting for our rights for decades. As a result, we already have a large network of non-profit organizations in place. Getting involved is as easy as picking your passion and contacting one of those organizations.

I talked last week about focusing your passion. Here is why that's important. The current regime is attacking the LGBTQ+ community from multiple angles. Women's rights. Immigration rights. POC rights. Trans rights. Healthcare. We're affected by all of that so if you decide to stand against everything that touches us, prepare to be inundated. 

A tight focus also means you can block out half the online screaming and ranting without missing something important.

My advice is to start small. Basic LGBTQ+ rights involve fighting 'religious freedom' bills, reparative therapy, marriage equality (still unsettled in several states), adoption rights, making schools safe for our kids, and employment rights. (It's legal in 13 states to fire someone for being LGBTQ+). Even that much should keep us busy because all of those are on the current administration's docket. 

Your focus may shift over time, and that's okay. I didn't start out as an LGBTQ+ activist. My journey began with homeless and abused kids. Years later, here I am.

Start by signing up for alerts from your favorite LGBTQ+ organization. Send them an email and let them know you want to volunteer. Most of them have numerous events during the year and are always looking for people to hang out at their booths and hand out literature, gather petition signatures, etc. It's a great way to meet others who share your passion.

What if I live in the middle of nowhere?

Rural communities can make activism challenging. At the same time, it provides great opportunities. Many organizations are looking to expand their footprint this year. Contact your preferred non-profit and ask if they need volunteers in your area. You might be surprised by the response!

At the very least, you can use their email alerts to contact politicians about major legislation. Don't worry if you're in a state that doesn't support equality. Many federal bills have to pass through a committee before they go anywhere else for a vote. You can voice your opinion with the committee members regardless of your state of residence.

Above all else, stay connected! Breaks are important (I'll take about that in part four), but so is knowing what's happening with our rights. As POTUS demonstrated last week, things can happen fast. Being plugged in means the difference between helping to block a dangerous bill and being left behind to complain about it when it's too late to do anything but bitch on Facebook.

Here's a list of some of the largest LGBTQ+ non-profits in the US. Feel free to do a search for your state to see what else is available.

Do you have questions I didn't answer? Leave them in the comments below.

Next week - Bullying versus activism: where to draw the line.

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