A Window of Opportunity
“John Selig Outspoken” Podcast
Episode 30 January 13, 2008
Each of us in the LGBT community has a unique window of opportunity
during 2008. The mood in America is different during this presidential
election than any election year I remember.
Being both a news and political junkie I have been keeping myself
glued to both television news and the Internet. Though listening to the
TV pundits and political spindoctors and reading blogs and the
myriad of political coverage I receive via email each day becomes tiring
and unnerving after awhile, I have noticed three key trends this
First of all Democrats, Independents and Republican voters all want
change. Barack Obama was the first candidate to tap onto this fever. In
reading analysis of what is behind the Obama phenomenon Andrew Sullivan
of all people came up with the best analysis I have seen to date. Though
I’ve not been a fan of Andrew’s as he is far too
conservative for my taste, Sullivan’s insight into Obama’s
appeal to voters is right on target. Sullivan believes that Obama
appeals to voters who are upset with what has been going on in our
country and that Obama provides voters a way to both voice their anger
while enabling them to transcend it by providing a message of hope.
Candidates from both parties have been picking up on voters’
desire for change. Each is attempting to outdo their opponents by
running as the best change candidate.
Secondly, young people have been more involved with this election in
larger numbers than in any election in forty years. Typically voters 29
or younger just haven’t participated in the electoral process in
large numbers. 2008 is different. Young people are volunteering and they
are voting in unheard of numbers. The last time that I remember such
strong youth involvement in a presidential election was in 1968 at the
height of the unpopular Vietnam War when youth were being drafted to
fight the war. Demonstrations were taking place on college campuses and
protests were taking place in Washington, D.C., at the Democratic
National Convention in Chicago and on streets across the United
Thirdly, voter turnout for the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire
Primary set records. Not only are Democrats and Republicans voting, so
are Independents. There is little doubt that this trend will continue
throughout the rest of the primary season and into the General Election
on November 4th. The good news is that the Independents are tending to
vote more heavily in Democratic primaries than in the Republican ones.
Hopefully, this trend will continue throughout the rest of the primaries
and into the General Election on November 4th. Independent voters are
the ones who determine the outcome of presidential elections. Perhaps
even some Republicans who have been fed up with the antics of the Bush
Badministration will cross over and vote Democratic come November.
So what is this special window of opportunity that for the LGBT
community has in 2008? During this podcast Dr. Gary Gates, of the
Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law talked about the huge
increase in the number of samesex couples in states between the
coasts and especially in states that have passed constitutional
amendments against samesex marriage. He postulated that this is
because the country has become more accepting of gay people so we feel
more comfortable coming out. A larger percentage of gay people have been
out longer in the liberal states on both coasts. It isn’t that
people are moving in droves to red states and cities such as Utah and
Texas or Salt Lake City and Dallas. We have always been here. However,
we are now being public about who we are and are more willing to be
honest when surveyed by the census and other polls.
The 2008 election gives us a chance to take a huge step. We have,
perhaps the most important significant opportunity in our lives to come
out to family, friends, neighbors and coworkers, heck, even complete
strangers about what it is like to live in our country today as a
lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender American. We need to share our
stories. Most people have no idea about the prejudice that each of us
face and the impact it has on our daily lives.
I earn my living in the field of marketing and advertising. I’m
sure that you’ve heard about focus groups where people are invited
into a discussion group that is carefully controlled by a moderator and
also video taped. The clients sit behind a oneway mirror reading
meaning into every comment and nonverbal cue from the focus group.
Companies carefully test new products, brand positioning and advertising
creative to see what is most likely to catch on with consumers. I have
no doubt that religious fundamentalists developed the term
“special rights” in such a manner in an attempt to push
negative buttons and turn as many mainstream Americans against the LGBT
community as possible. Fortunately, through our coming out, we are
overcoming those negative images that prove false.
I think that most Americans are fairminded and mean well. It is
human nature to succumb to messages of hate more easily when they are
angered, scared or sense unfair advantage. Most straight people have no
idea that we can be fired from our jobs just because we are gay and that
we can be denied an apartment because of our sexual orientation or
gender identity. They have no idea that samesex couples and their
kids face tremendous discrimination by not being allowed to marry and
that civil unions will not be enough to overcome the disparity in
rights. Like us, most of mainstream America was horrified by the brutal
murder of Matthew Shepard. The difference is that they thought
Matthew’s brutal slaying was a rare occurrence; we know
differently. Much of America is tired of the political clout that
religious fundamentalists have held within the White House, the halls of
Congress and by the strict constructionist judges appointed by Bush. We
have a golden opportunity to shed light on further abuses foisted on
America by the fundamentalist right’s playing on their fears by
turning gays into scapegoats rather than focusing on the real problems
facing our country.
So here is my challenge to each of you. Tell your story and share the
impact on your life and the lives of your LGBT friends from the hateful
policies of the Bush Administration and social conservatives in
Congress. Talk about how “Don’t Ask Don’t tell”
hasn’t worked. Talk about why the Employee Nondiscrimination
Act and Hate Crime legislation are desperately needed. Talk about how
samesex couples having the right to marry won’t hurt
heterosexual marriages. Talk about the direct impact on your lives from
your loved ones, friends and acquaintances if they vote for candidates
who have pledged to do everything in their power to hurt us. Make them
walk a mile in your moccasins. Their voting for a hateful candidate is
the same thing as a personal attack by them against you whether or not
that is the intent of their votes! Trust me, having been raised by
a Jewish mother, guilt works wonders.
You have a chance this year to make a huge difference, as people are
primed to listen. Most of the electorate is downright angry about what
has happened to this country. My suggestion is to concentrate on people
in your lives who are Democrats, Independents and approachable moderate
Republicans. You are not going to change religious fundamentalists or
people in the Huckabee wing of the Republican Party.
Since most voters want change regardless of whether they are a
Republican, Independent or Democrat, if they identify with the
discrimination that you face and what it is like being a member of the
LGBT community, they will be less willing to accept hateful positions
taken by candidates who continue to pick on gays.
Young people are setting records in their involvement in the election
this year both as voters and as volunteers. Young people are far more
accepting of LGBT people and samesex marriage than their elders.
Be sure to tell young people which candidates are hateful and which are
supportive of LGBT rights and remind them to vote!
Finally, huge numbers of people are voting this year. Typically large
turnouts favor the party out of power. For the gay community to obtain
equal rights we need a supportive president but we also need supportive
senators, members of the house, governors and state legislators.
Furthermore, many of our rights are determined in the courts. Some
judges are elected and others are appointed by people running for
election this coming November. Do your homework on which candidates
support us and which don’t. Share your stories and let people know
which candidates will make our lives better and which will make them
Each of us must do our part to maximize the opportunity being
presented to us this year. First, make sure you are registered to vote.
Second, be sure to vote in your state’s primary and during the
general election on November 4th. Volunteer for candidates who are
supporting LGBT rights. Tell your stories to family, coworkers, friends
and acquaintances and write letters to the editor of your newspapers. Do
your part to make 2008 a turning point in the fight for gay rights!
None of us can afford to miss this window of opportunity!
“John Selig Outspoken” Episode 30 ››
© 2008 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.