The recent election brought a lot of joy to people asking for change. It was a victory for the first African-American President in the history of the United States. President-elect Barack Obama gives hope to those who desperately sought it in both the United States and the world.
Obama’s election promised the change that so many had wanted. At the same time, however, another change took place that many in the GLBT community didn’t think would happen, or hoped wouldn’t happen.
In June, when the California Supreme Court struck down laws denying same-sex couples the right to marry, it seemed like a milestone in overturning obstacles to gay marriage. Many saw California’s acceptance as the turning of the tide against gay marriage bans. Many believed that because the nation’s most populous state accepted same-sex marriage, other states would follow its lead.
Then, Proposition 8 emerged, its framers hoping to add an amendment to the California Constitution banning same sex marriage. On November 4, it passed, turning the tide back against gay marriage.
Since then, an avalanche of protests has catalyzed both private citizens and public figures outraged by Prop 8’s passage.
Lavender recently talked by phone with Oscar Nunez, star of NBC’s The Office, who is speaking out against discrimination in a way many in the GLBT community and Hollywood elite have not.
Nunez, who acknowledges “the gay community is great at organizing things,” asserts that protesting is not the answer to changing minds.
According to Nunez, “The way to do it is to go into the communities [of the poor, or a minority], and make friends with them. A lot of people may not know gay people in these communities. Go in there for something they need—books in the library, things for the schoolyard, or whatever the community needs. And the gay community can go in there, and the proceeds go to the community. Don’t bring up Prop 8 or anything. Just do it because it feels good.”
Nunez thinks that by doing the foregoing, by just showing people who you are—not what you stand for—things can and will change.
“The next time they go into the booth,” Nunez says, “they’ll think twice about it—that it turned out they [gay people] were nice guys, and they were there to help, not to change your mind. If out of 100 people, you change 10 or 20 people, you get more than if you went in with an angry protests.”
It’s by this method that Nunez believes Obama won the closely watched election.
In Nunez’s view, “Obama did that. He was convinced that the majority of people are good. Don’t bother wasting your energy [on the hateful, or those so set against you]. Go to the decent people who just don’t know any better. They can’t identify who they are hating if they don’t know who they are hating. This is how Obama won. He stayed above the fray. He let the people know who he was, and trusted them.”
Nunez continues this observation with regard to the gay community networking with other communities: “[They] just don’t know a gay person, so when they go in the booth, they need to know you—know you aren’t going to destroy [their] family, not going to harm [them].”
Many argue change needs to come from all sides—the gay community not only must bring change to the communities that may not know better, but also to the people who know exactly what they are doing. They feel people like the religious conservatives who were behind the Prop 8 passage and many like them produce such outcomes, not those who vote based on lack of knowledge, or fear of change put forth by such proponents.
Nunez states otherwise: “Who cares about religious groups? You can’t beat dogma. You can’t talk anyone out of their faith. You just need to appeal to people’s better nature. There are people who will hate you no matter what you do.”
Perhaps Nunez is right. Maybe change won’t come from trying to change those who hate for the simple fact that someone is different.
But Nunez’s message is clear on how to bring about change: “Go help—one minority community helping another minority community. Convince the people in the poor communities there is nothing to fear—we are actually here to help you. It’s just a pain in the ass. We shouldn’t be discussing this. It’s nonsense. Stop arguing. Help each other, and then say, ‘Go vote your conscience.’ It’s just all about fear.”