Out Against the Right: An Organizing Handbook for Queer Activists and Grassroots Organizers
For lesbian activists and grassroots organizers fighting the Christian Right.

What's Wrong With This Picture? A Critique of the Mainstream Campaign Model.

Here are some actual ways that mainstream campaigns have chosen to use this campaign model -- ways that show why they have created so much controversy:
  • Lesbian and gay activists in groups separate from the campaign who want to do a visibility event or action have been called up by members of the central campaign and told not to do it or they will be responsible for losing the vote.
  • Yard signs with messages different from the mainstream campaign's put up in various public places have been removed by the campaign manager.
  • Volunteers for the campaign, when participating in a phone banking or canvassing effort, have been prohibited from using the words "lesbian", "gay", or "homosexual" when describing the initiative to voters.
  • Members of lesbian and gay groups organizing volunteer days for their organizations to do door-to-door literature drops have been told to keep their butch dykes and femme fags from participating.
  • Volunteers for campaigns have been required to sign contracts stating that they will not speak to the press or write letters to the editor without approval from the Executive Committee, effectively preventing them from being vocal about their own lives, even when the actions or events have been organized by groups other that the mainstream campaign.

You may think such experiences are rare, but these are only a few examples of the many experiences people have had. They may sound drastic and it may seem like the lesbian and gay folks in your town would never allow it, but it has happened and needs to be understood in context. People panic during a campaign. Lesbians and gay men who, in January before the vote, advocated everyone coming out and talking to their townspeople about their lives, will suddenly switch midstream (usually around July or August) and start advocating what we call the "closet approach". We think this community panic ordinarily coincides with the hiring of a campaign manager and a full-time staff who push for a tightly controlled single message, centralized campaign as the only hope.

But, even if we didn't have such harrowing experiences to describe, we would still think that the mainstream campaign strategy is problematic because it enforces the closet, treats lesbian and gay activists as volunteer followers while professionals are paid leaders, and it eliminates many communities from the campaign debate.

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