The snow may be falling and Santa a-calling, but the gay rights renaissance spawned by Proposition 8 hasn’t cooled down a bit. As 2008 draws to a close, local gay rights activists have put together a number of events to help you make your holiday season merry and bright while continuing the fight for gay civil rights.
GLBT Toy Drive
From now until Dec. 23, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Utahns can help kids in need have a happy holiday by donating a toy for a patient at Primary Children’s Hospital to open Christmas morning.
Organizer Jacob Whipple said he got the idea for the toy drive when he noticed the similarities between gay people and children who must spend Christmas in a hospital bed: both, he said, have had their holiday taken away.
“For them they’ve lost their Christmas in a very unfair way, through being hurt or sick,” explained Whipple, the organizer of a Nov. 7 protest at Temple Square against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its involvement in the effort to pass Proposition 8. “Maybe because of those medical bills their families can’t afford to have a Christmas. And we as an LGBT community have also lost our Christmas in a very unfair way: We’ve had people vote to remove rights from us. In a way your wedding is your Christmas. It’s something you look forward to that makes you happy.”
The toy drive, he added, is part of a trend in the gay rights movement that has become particularly noticeable after Proposition 8’s passage: the drive to secure equality for all Americans. As part of this push, Whipple said that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should involve themselves in all aspects of their communities.
“[The toy drive] is about us getting out there and being seen, not just in rally or parades but in the community,” he said. “Let us do good works.”
New and unwrapped toys can be brought to the following locations during business hours until Dec. 23: Equality Utah (175 W 200 S); the Utah Pride Center (355 N 300 W); and QSaltLake’s offices (1055 E 2100 S, Ste. 205). Primary Children’s Hospital requests that gifts be left in their original containers and not be “gory” in nature (such as toy guns, toy swords or violent games), as the hospital is a place of healing. For a list of acceptable toys visit tinyurl.com/5j8rwc. Individuals wishing to donate toys specifically to gay families should let volunteers know when donating.
Questions should be directed to the individual collection centers or Jacob Whipple at AllForOneInitiative@yahoo.com.
LGBT Town Hall Meeting
Representatives from various Utah gay rights groups and gay-positive organizations will assemble for a town hall meeting on Dec. 14 to discuss their plans for securing more legislative protections for gay people in 2009 and to allow members of the community to ask questions and share ideas.
With the 2009 legislative session opening in a month and a half and President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration on the horizon, Whipple said that the meeting is essential to help the community organize, so that everyone knows “who is doing what and what is happening.”
“It would be worthwhile for us to have one unified voice instead of 1000 voices clamoring for 1000 different things in which case we would lose all creativity and lose all progress,” he said.
At the meeting, groups including Equality Utah, the Human Rights Campaign, PFFLAG, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, the ACLU of Utah and gay-friendly Mormon groups such as Family Fellowship and Affirmation/Reconciliation will discuss what their organizations do and their plans for the future. Attendees will then be able to ask questions and voice suggestions to, as Whipple puts it, “have a say in the movement that we’re trying to press forward.”
The meeting is currently slated to be held at the Tower Theater, although this location was still being confirmed at press time.
To go along with the town hall meeting, the Utah Pride Center is asking gay Utahns and their allies to voice their opinions about what the Center should do in the following months to support gay rights. The survey is available at utahpridecenter.org.
Day Without a Gay
The organizers of Join the Impact, the national grass roots group behind nationwide anti-Proposition 8 protests on Nov. 15, are calling for an economic boycott on Dec. 10.
Called “Day Without a Gay,” the boycott invites gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people not to participate in the U.S. economy for a day by taking the day off work, closing down their businesses, or simply packing a sack lunch if leaving work is not an option.
The day, however, is less about a strike and more about volunteering for gay rights and human rights organizations. Or, as Day Without a Gay’s Web site puts it: “shift[ing] our strong feelings about injustice toward service.”
Although the Utah Pride Center has no set agenda for the day, Media and Special Events Coordinator Doug Jennings said the Center would help to connect Utahns participating in the day to volunteer opportunities that are “as equality-focused as possible.”
“We’re definitely going to be keeping in mind [Equality Utah’s] Common Ground Initiative as well as variety of other activist organizations across country,” he said.
For more information, contact Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food Drive For Equality
Those living near Park City and looking for a worthy volunteer opportunity on Dec. 10 may want to consider the Food Drive for Equality, another event created by Join the Impact.
Until Dec. 20, volunteers in Park City will be collecting donations of food for people in need this holiday season. Donations will be taken to the Utah Food Bank, which distributes to individuals and pantries across the state, including the Utah AIDS Foundation’s food bank.
“The idea with the food drive is to have the emphasis on helping others,” said Mark Worthen, a Park City resident who has organized the drive. “To let the community know that the queers among them are regular folks who want to help other people.”
Worthen also said he hopes to draw a number of straight volunteers to the effort, including those who may have supported Proposition 8.
“I think when people with an open mind get to know us, they realize that some of the stereotypes they grew up with aren’t accurate and they have much more in common with us than they realize us,” he said.
Monetary contributions are also welcome, and volunteers are still needed to pick up donations. Worthen is also in search of space to store food until it can be driven to the bank.
Although the food drive is currently taking place only in Park City, Worthen encouraged individuals in other Utah cities — particularly in Salt Lake City — to organize their own efforts.
For more information on the food drive, or on organizing one in your area, visit tinyurl.com/5p9o44.
Light Up the Night
Worthen is organizing an additional event in Park City for this holiday season: a candlelight vigil on Dec. 20. Called Light Up the Night, this is the third nation-wide event being planned by Join the Impact this holiday season.
“As proposed the idea is an effort to educate the public about our lack of civil rights,” said Worthen, explaining that unlike previous peaceful demonstrations in Utah, Light Up the Night will be silent, with no chanting and no signs. Instead, he is considering asking gay people to wear t-shirts that read “2nd Class Citizen.”
“Though in Park City in December that may be a challenge,” he said, laughing.
For straight allies, Worthen suggested a shirt stating that a gay loved one is a second-class citizen.
“If we get a lot of family and friends to join us [wearing] shirts that say, my brother is a second-class citizen, then I think it can really work,” he said. “It’ll show people that not only we the queer people are angry about having our rights taken away in California, but so are our families.” So far, Worthen has also considered the possibility of asking participants to hand out fliers explaining the vigil to passers-by.
Although a location for the vigil had not been confirmed by press time, Worthen said he plans to talk to Park City officials about using Main Street for the event.
For more information about Light Up the Night visit tinyurl.com/5en94g.