From the Editor: Expanding the Choir

By Andy Lien September 20, 2012

Categories: Causes, Our Affairs

I’m sitting at my desk just hours before leaving for my first vacation since taking this job over a year ago.  I’m pretty much crawling out of my skin, in a good way.  I also feel a little bit sassier—fortified—in my new orange VOTE NO t-shirt.  In my size.  I know.  They didn’t apparently exist, but now they do.  I’m stoked.

My destination is Seattle, Washington, for a bit…and then I’ll go up (north) to check out Vancouver and Whistler in Canada.  Knowing that these are extremely GLBT-friendly places to go, believe me: this isn’t the last you’ve heard of my trip.  Like any writer/photographer/editor worth her salt, I’ll make sure the whole thing will be documented for you.

What I’m curious about is what kind of reaction my VOTE NO shirt will get as I travel.  I’m big, it’s orange; together, we’ll be a visual force to reckon with.  I anticipate conversations, particularly at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport today.  But, I also anticipate friendliness, particularly in Washington, where marriage equality is also at the fore, as well as Gay Whistler, where same-sex marriage is celebrated.

It won’t always be comfortable.  For one thing, I don’t wear bright colors.  Those of you who encounter me in the wild know that it’s rare to see me in anything other than black, though I do make an attempt to be more chromatic at our events than I do on any other day.  This bright orange shirt visually propels me into your eyeballs.  Then, VOTE NO.  It’s in your face but not demanding that your attention stay with it.  Glance at me, look away.  Go ahead.  The impression has still been made…and, with it, will be a smile.

I’m friendly.  My message is one about love.  It’s a little touchy-feely when you think about it: make love, not war.  I come in peace and I hope to be received in peace as well.

Similarly, this approach can be applied to a little problem we’re having in this campaign.  Have you noticed how many of us are preaching to the choir?  Multiple people have mentioned this to me, how even Lavender is speaking to a mostly friendly audience…so how do we expand the campaign?  Of course everyone thumbs-ups our VOTE NO posts on Facebook—if our circles are only the like-minded folks, it makes sense.  How can we move past the choir to include more people?

A bright orange shirt and a smile both help.

What could be the equivalent in effect, but without the change of wardrobe or head-turning color?

I have a possible solution.

You know how many of us are just SO DONE and OVER the people from home? You know, the people we never have to deal with again unless we go home to high school reunions or run into them at the grocery store.  The people that we are even a little proud about being beyond…or for having left them behind.  Some of them aren’t proven to be intolerant, but they’re in that halo effect of a more narrow-minded childhood.  A painful young-adulthood.  A harrowing college experience before coming out.  Heck, a weird comment string on a shared friend’s Facebook post.  All of these are places that might leave us with a bad taste in our mouths in terms of dealing with people.  We write them off simply due to guilt by association.

I’ve noticed that there are the intolerant people and that there are the people who are still considering.  They’re very quiet people; they don’t comment or express “Like” over things, but they’re watching.  They won’t wear an orange t-shirt.  They’re the people who won’t stand on a soapbox, but will still be voting in November.

And they might VOTE NO.

Who are they?  I have my suspicions.  Think back to the people who were more neutral in your past.  The ones who you have had some sort of relationship with but wouldn’t call them close—the ones who you’ve encountered.  You could encounter them again…like on Facebook.  You could “friend” them.  You could have just as neutral of a relationship with them as you did the first go-round, but, this time, you’re different.  You’re open about your life and your goals.  You show them, kind of like wearing a t-shirt or putting up a lawn sign or posting a video on your own Facebook page, that you’re a person who they (still and now) know, who is negatively effected by this proposed amendment.  That you, by existing in their repertoire of people, deserve consideration.

Antagonism isn’t necessarily the way to go with these new-old friends.  Living and teaching by example is a less heavy-handed way of dealing with the issue of equal rights.  We’ve been talking about how telling our stories will make the difference in fighting this amendment—your Facebook page is telling your story.  And people are watching and taking notes.  Thankfully.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m from Cokato, a conservative community that’s west of the Twin Cities by about an hour.  I know there are people there who I’ve left geographically, but who I am happy to never say I’ve “left behind.”  They’re people who I can draw into the conversation simply by not letting up on this issue of VOTING NO.  They are people who I might not even know are part of the choir I’m preaching to.

Invite people into your choirs.  Preach by living your life.  Expand your circle of influence in a gentle way.  Or, heck, get your own blaze-orange VOTE NO t-shirt.

Whatever you do, don’t mistake all the thumbs-ups on VOTE NO posts as indicating a victory.  See them for what they are: encouragement.

With you…and with thanks,

Andy

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