Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reaching conservatives

I've been invited by CA Faith for Equality to join a discussion this month on how to open up dialogue within Asian/Pacific Islander religious communities about gay and lesbian issues. In other words, they are looking for input on how to reach the most conservative communities among us with the message of tolerance for gay and lesbian people.

I'm encouraged that some people are concerned about this. I'm still not sure how much of my opinion I'll feel comfortable sharing, but I can say here that the outreach strategies that most pro-gay groups normally employ wouldn't make the slightest dent in conservative circles. My conservative friends wouldn't be interested in attending a candlelight vigil, a gay and lesbian film festival, or any event that involves meditating while holding hands in a circle. They generally distrust the media, which in their eyes has discredited itself by failing to represent their views even-handedly. Case in point is today's headline in the news section of my NetZero page:

"Anti-gay 'quacks' to descend on Dallas"

It turns out this story is about a NARTH conference to be held in
Dallas-Fort Worth for reparative therapists the weekend of October 26-28. The headline does not call them "reparative therapists" but "'quacks'" which is a quote from the mouth of Wayne Bessen, founder of Truth Wins Out, whose group plans to protest the event. Why put his words in the headline of the article? Is this objective reporting? And why use the word "descend"? All they are doing is meeting for their own conference. They are not planning to march, harass the gay community of Dallas, or hold a public protest against gay marriage while they are there.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about reparative therapy, what a lot of hogwash I think it is. But how does a story like this, which reports on a NARTH conference for what appears to be no good reason except to stir up bile against NARTH members, do any good for the gay and lesbian cause? Those who already agree that reparative therapy is quack science get to jeer, and those who have more conservative leanings on social issues will view this as more evidence that the news media has been hijacked by liberals. As a result, I fear that many of the informative human interest stories that the media sometimes runs on the lives of gay and lesbian people are dismissed by conservatives as more liberal propaganda. It is all of a piece with: "Anti-gay 'quacks' to descend on Dallas."

How honest can I be about my concerns at this upcoming community discussion? Realistically, I doubt I'll feel free to be entirely frank about what I think needs to be done to "reach conservatives." It's next Wednesday, the 17th. I'll let you know how it goes.