I have had a couple of comments here urging me to boycott California products and services or urging me to buy products in Massachusetts instead of my home state. And while I respect those who are making such suggestions and the fact that they want to make a difference, these are, unfortunately, highly problematic suggestions for a few reasons:
1. I live in California. To purchase products and services in other states is virtually impossible. Am I to send my car to Massachusetts to have it smogged? Am I to fly to Connecticut for my next haircut? Should I take a train to Canada to shop for groceries? I’m sorry folks, but those of us living in California need to buy local products for many reasons, one of those being simple practicality. It is not practical–or even rational–for me to boycott products in my hometown and state.
2. Considering how much travelling and shipping I would have to do, buying goods and services outside of my state would be incredibly ecologically irresponsible. I am not willing to increase my carbon footprint for the very minimal statement my purchase would make.
3. If I were to boycott local goods and services from my state, I would be hurting my already ailing local and state economy. Our state is in a major budget crisis. As Californians, our schools are in trouble; our hospitals, fire departments, and all social services department are hurting. Our businesses are hurting. We as individuals are hurting. When people stop buying our goods and services, no statement is made about same-sex marriage. Instead, we citizens are just made to suffer more.
4. Many business owners in California are gay or gay friendly. I am proud to support these businesses and others should be too. Many of these business owners gave a significant amount of money to the No on 8 campaign, and many of these people continue to fight for our rights. Our hairstylist talked numerous people into voting No on 8. She’s not gay, but she does support us. Some of my favorite bars, restaurants, and wineries are owned or operated by gay people. I’m not about to punish them for something they fought against. No way.
5. Nearly fifty percent of Californians voted no on Prop 8. There are others who support our cause who did not vote for one reason or another. I am not willing to harm those of us who were against this initiative to make a statement, and I would urge others to avoid hurting them as well. When boycotting California goods and services, how are you to know what the business-owner’s politics or sexual orientation may be? This is just too risky.
6. Such a boycott is misdirected. Boycotting goods and services in California won’t do a thing to help our cause. It will harm individuals; it will harm our state social services, but how are businesses to know that you’re boycotting them because you support same-sex marriage? It’s just not a reasonable response.
There is other talk about boycotts. Boycotting businesses owned and operated by the LDS church may help a bit more than trying to punish 52% of Californians the way they did; working to repeal the LDS church’s tax-exempt status (see the link under Activism on the right) may be even more effective. John Aravosis over at Americablog is suggesting we boycott tourism in Utah, but this too may hurt those many families who may have had nothing to do with this.
All of this is problematic. I guess I’m not much of a punitive activist because I don’t see it working to make change. The major funding behind Yes on 8 came from the LDS church, but there were church members who quietly opposed this, even wards who opposed what the church was asking them to do. So do we hurt everyone who is LDS because we are angry and hurt?
I’m inclined to say that we need to work this from a positive perspective. What can we do to change people’s hearts? I know, for one, that we could use more exposure. So many people think of gay folks and images from pride parades flood their brains. They think about drag queens and people in leather, and while I don’t have any sort of problem with drag or leather, I do think that these images are unusual and even scary to people who don’t know any gay people. Perhaps if they saw that the majority of us are relatively normal people, they would begin to shift. I know that when Gavin Newsome began issuing marriage licenses in San Francisco in 2004, people were so surprised to see the gay couples on TV. I heard people say, “They’re so normal!” “Wow, they have kids like we do!” and so many other comments that led me to believe these people just don’t have regular exposure to queer folk.
One action J and I have taken is to be publicly out–with our students, with our community. We’ve never been particularly closeted, but there have been so many times when we have wanted to hold hands in public but haven’t. Now we do. We have both taught so many classes, avoiding any mention of a pronoun in reference to our partners; no more. J actually brought our wedding album to share with her students on Thursday just to give them a face to place on this initiative. My students on Wednesday, after I came out to them Monday, offered their condolensces and expressed their disappointment in fellow Californians. Visibility is important, and it’s something we never had through the No on 8 campaign.
There are so many more actions we can take. Please, feel free to share any positive actions you have taken or positive actions you would suggest taking to help work toward same-sex marriage and adoption rights throughout our country.