I'll try and be as proactive and optimistic as possible but that might prove to be difficult in responding to last night's Marriage Equality GLBT Center Town Hall Meeting.
I was only able to be there for about 20minutes before having to leave for a previous commitment so I am admitting that I am not the best source to review this meeting. I did, however, do my homework and contact people who attended to get a good scope on what went down.
When I got there I was taken aback by the amount of people who showed up. There were damn near 300 people, if not more, crammed into a hot and stuffy room of the LGBT center. Having been to meetings like this in the past, with such large populations, I knew from the start that there would be a lot of talking and little doing. It's just impossible to organize with that amount of people with no clear cut plan for execution.
I arrived just before Tom Duane delivered a speech on how we have to commit ourselves to a lot of organizational -based ground work and how we can learn from the Prop 8 campaign in California. Afterward, the moderator opened the floor to questions and answers. I grumbled when this happened, not because I felt the Q&A was coming too soon but because The Center always insists on having people get up at a microphone and ask their questions. I hate this! The center seems convinced that people are incapable of standing up where they are and asking their question aloud. Instead, the whole meeting has to wait for people to get to the mic to ask their questions and it's just annoying. My whole 20minute experience there was a true test of patience and I found myself sighing again and again through the Center's relentless bureaucratic system of things. This always happens and I always can't stand it. Then again, I'm not the most patient of people. Just stand and speak up, people! Do we really need to waste all the time getting to "the mic?"
There did seem to be some structure. There was talk of placing your email address on to 1 of 3 lists: Those who want to be part of actions/demonstrations, people who want to do outreach/ground work and those who want to tackle politicians and political-based work. (I think.)
In the end the reactions I received from the meetings ranged from being a complete, frustrating waste of time to empowering to be there but wishing things were more organized. Here is a review from someone who attend longer than I did:
My friend, Chauncey Dandridge of The Cerebral Jester had this to say:
...It seemed a little like it was a bunch of people who have obviously done a tremendous amount of work for the cause just looking for an audience to shout at. it almost became the kind of forum that occurs at a protest with megaphones and cheers instead of a well organized political discussion. Don't get me wrong...there were a lot of amazing and important facts discussed but unorganized order in which everything was discussed definitely was a turn off and seemed ill prepared. I definitely am more motivated than I was before I got there but I really hope that they work on the sophistication of the itinerary for the next one they have. Another thing that resonated is the negative reaction to the fact that the room was filled with mostly gay white males instead of minorities and almost made us feel insignificant and that was definitely rough to hear. I understood what they meant about it being important for all races and religions to be represented and using gay Latinos to talk to Latino politicians and gay blacks to talk to black parishes etc. but it was definitely a very divisive argument and borderline racist. I think the time spent thanking everyone for coming was overshadowed by the idea that we (gay white males) need to get our Latino and black and Asian gay brothers and sisters involved. It's just not the type of thing you tell a room filled with gay white males who have rushed out of work or whatever else to be at a meeting that they certainly didn't have to be at and went to for some guidance.It's always the same, no matter what the meeting. Whether it's ACT UP, or Marriage Equality or The Queer Justice League it always comes down to 1) needing more outreach toward minority communities (always despite the fact that those who speak most about it never bring in the minority numbers they so often shout about.) 2) More organization and the "What's Next" question and 3) some aimless Q&A platform where nothing gets done.
The answer and question session went on forever and when that started I left because some of the questions were too personal and probably could have been answered if that person did their own research on the internet instead of wasting everyone's time at the meeting.
It seems as though those running the next upcoming meetings need to have a plan and structure and have the balls to stick with it. A simple outline, maybe a hand out so the audience can follow along:
A) This is where we're at.
B) This is what needs to get done.
C) This is how we plan to execute what needs to get done - open to suggestions.
Oye, but ya know, I still love it.