Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What's the Matter With Texas -- Part Two

Texas offers few incentives to return. Don’t get me wrong, there are good people there. Some close friends live in Texas. Indeed, I might have no choice but to return next year if I cannot secure another academic post.

The second news story that captured my attention last week, however, reminded me that Texas can be both vindictive and exploitative. You get two for the price of one.

The Associated Press posted a story last week about a new push by the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau to attract gay visitors. “Wow,” I thought, “Dallas sure has some chutzpah given the state’s unforgivable treatment of queers.” Don't worry, though, the creators of the campaign are clear that it will not actually bring about equality in Texas.

Last year, 76 percent of Texas voters approved an amendment that guaranteed heterosexuals’ special privileges to marry. Every corner of Texas jumped on the anti-gay bandwagon during that campaign. A month before the vote, the Ku Klux Klan rallied in favor of depriving queer folk of their rights in the allegedly “liberal” capital, Austin.

This past election day, Texan voters returned Rick Perry to the governor’s mansion for another four years. Perry had been vocally and vehemently anti-gay throughout his first term. He also stepped forward as the most influential supporter of the anti-gay amendment in 2005. When asked directly about the consequences that the amendment would have on real-life queer Texans, Perry responded, “Texans made a decision about marriage and if there's a state that has more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's a better place for them to live.” Yep, in short, the Texas Governor told gay people to get out of the state.

Trust me, I personally took Perry’s statement to heart. You don’t have to tell me twice. I know when I am not wanted. That’s why I moved to Massachusetts, even if it is only for a year. Consider me a Perry Refugee. Let’s just hope that I am not repatriated.

So, you can imagine my surprise that the Dallas convention bureau would tell gay people that the city will “power up your pride like no other destination.” Really? No other destination? More than San Francisco? More than New York? More than Boston? More than Chicago? More than Santa Fe? Really?

Just what does Dallas have to infuse us queer folk with a new sense of empowerment? Well, I mean beyond its giant glass erection.



Apparently Dallas’ tourism board can cater to all the really best gay stereotypes. The queer section of the web-site promises “majestic architecture, hip fashion, culinary marvels and arts venues galore.” Ah, gee, no plugs for fabulous opportunities to style other people’s hair or arrange their flowers?

Texan-conservatives already voiced their disapproval of the Visitor’s Bureau. Cathie Adams, president of the right-wing Dallas-based Texas Eagle Forum, suggested that attracting queers to the city would scare the horses. "To promote same-sex activities that would be offensive to the majority of families is not profitable, economically or socially," she said. "If you are wanting families to move into the city of Dallas, are you going to show them such a promotion? I doubt it. Those families would go to Collin County."

How did the mastermind of the queer-focused travel campaign respond to such a critique? What marvelous insight did he have that would “power up” our queer pride in the face of Adams’ homophobia?

“It is unlikely that most people will ever view their targeted appeals,” he said, “unless they are members of the gay community.” No need to fret. Those good majority of homophobic Texan families won’t even notice the campaign. Doesn’t that make you feel good, queer folk? When did Dallas become that person who pretended to like us in adolescence, but really just mistreated us? “Oh, hey queers," Dallas tells us, “Don’t worry, we are so best friends! Totally, I mean it! Just, like, we are going to be ‘secret friends.’ We won’t tell anybody at school that we are friends. Also, if I run into you in public, I am gong to pretend like I don’t know you at all. It will be, like, a fun game that only the secret friends know that we are playing, because we are secret friends. [pause] Can I borrow ten bucks?”



Make no mistake, the director of the visitor’s bureau launched this campaign with nothing but dollar signs in his eyes. "It's not about being politically correct,” he said, “It's about being economically correct." He gloried in the fact that gay travelers spend an average of $100 more per day than hetero travelers. In other words, the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau is more than happy to give us whatever message we want to get our money. Fighting for our rights, though, or ensuring queers’ safety within the city or state just doesn’t pay. We are free to leave our cash on the counter, but not to be treated like full humans deserving of actual respect.

What leaves me even more frustrated is that at least one queer organization has fallen for this transparently self-serving pitch. The Washington-based Family Pride Coalition hosted their annual conference in Dallas within the past few months. Apparently they fell for a dazzling presentation by the visitor’s bureau. Yeah, that makes a great deal of sense. Need a place to focus on queer families? Let’s go to a state where three-quarters of the voters felt they should not exist at all. Yet, 250 queer folk (and presumably many with their families in tow) brought their cash to Dallas for this conference. That is the same as giving a school-yard bully a candy bar to show him that he is wrong for slugging you. This entry could have just as easily been titled, “What’s the Matter with Queer Rights Groups.”

Well over half of the U.S. states have passed hateful measures against queer folk. Yet, they rarely suffer any consequences for these actions. Indeed, we queer folk don’t even discuss the possibilities of economic boycotts or staged protests. Most of the major queer rights organizations are much too busy cultivating sympathy for Lance Bass’ recent hangnail.

In the meantime, Texas gets to have their pink Barbie cake and eat it too. Campaigns, like the Dallas effort, takes the language of queer rights and twists it to serve the status quo. The gay liberation movement demanded that we be treated as equals and recognized as equal citizens in our cities, states, and nations. Advertisers have decided that they can tell us that we are equal in jargon and make their sales pitch feel like we are striking a blow for sexual liberation by staying at the local Hilton. The state treats queers as a cross between Beelzebub and an ATM machine.

Many of us have limitations about how much we can move away from evil states like Texas. We, though, have total control over where we vacation. What would happen if every queer person decided that they will not give one extra dollar to any city or state that refused to guarantee queer equality? Campaigns that promise to “empower” us by giving us the chance to spend our money do nothing to advance our cause. Texas disfigures our real goals to make a buck while also keeping us in a subservient position to the majority.

23 comments:

Joe said...

Another winner, Gay Prof.

dykewife said...

a&e has a special coming up, i saw the advertisement for it this evening...it led with "what if all the gays went on strike" and then they shows the date (sorry, i can't remember it but their site might have something on it) and then their logo changed colours to a rainbow. perhaps it might be interesting.

dykewife said...

oh, and go read the link of an article i have on my site. you might find it interesting.

tornwordo said...

You should probably just give up and move to Canada like I did.

vuboq said...

OMG! Lance Bass has a hangnail?!?!?! I hadn't heard! Where do we send get well cards? I must mobilize the masses!

I've decided to boycott Texas ... and Virginia.

MaggieMay said...

What a great couple of posts. I don't have anything smart to add here, just want to tell you how much I appreciate you writing on these two topics, gravitas-filled as they are.

Laura Elizabeth said...

"Indeed, we queer folk don’t even discuss the possibilities of economic boycotts or staged protests."

Why?

In general I'm wondering whatever happened to the protest movements of the '60's and '70's. It's almost as if no one cares about anything enough to fight for it anymore.

"What would happen if every queer person decided that they will not give one extra dollar to any city or state that refused to guarantee queer equality?"

Not just every queer person, but every person who believes that human dignity and equality are basic, natural, rights of all human beings.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is just a catalogue of increasingly horrid facts and stupidities. You left out the one I read about in the Times recently about a Houston landscaping company refusing to do business with a gay couple, which when I read it disgusted me. Couldn't find the original story but here is another link:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uslatest/story/0,,-6204163,00.html

Since i never really have any reason to go to Texas, even to change planes, it is easy for me to "Just Say No." But I love your Beezlebub Cosmic Cash Machine comment! Ain't it the truth? We just need to learn how to spend our money, and vote with our feet. I'll take my Golden Calf and play in my own friendly corner, thank you very much.

Seeker Onos said...

"What would happen if every queer person decided that they will not give one extra dollar to any city or state that refused to guarantee queer equality?"

Major cities have tended to be a bit more queer-friendly than the surrounding countryside. As applied to Dallas, you might even consider that venue a positive sign, as the alternatives in the past were much less welcoming.

Of course, it doesn't make it seem any less fair to paye your money and then get smacked in the back of your head by the cashier on the way out.

Massive boycotting of non-LGBT freiendly cities?

Hmmm. On the one hand, that would be a considerable amount of cash leaving the marketplace. Abercrombie and Fitch's in affected cities might be forced to close down.

On the other... (at least inside the USA) I think you'd be hard pressed to find too many cities or states with such a liberal policy of guaranteeing queer equality.

San Fran and Boston are probably the only safe commercial havens. NYC gets knocked off the list, since the NYS Supreme Court shot down gay marriage. I think Chicago is in a similar situation.

And then, while you were at it... you'd have to consider boycotting manufacturers themselves, because they would then have to fight for your queer business by lobbying the Donkey Kongress to enact some sort of Equality Ammendment.

But I think... that most Americans are decidedly conservative on the issue of Queer Equality, despite last week's election results.

GayProf said...

Joe: Thanks.

DykeWife: I will look for that special. It sounds kind of like a take off of the "Day without Immigrants" film.

Torn: I always keep an eye on job listings in Canada. Sadly, there are very few in my particular field.

VUBOQ: Lance will appreciate the sympathy, I am sure.

Maggie: Thanks.

Laura Elizabeth: Yes, our allies would also help our cause. Many people, like yourself, would be willing to side with us. To start, though, the momentum has to come from within the community. To date, we have not seen much.

Oso: You are anticipating the third entry in the series. ;-)

Seeker: Granted, the entire U.S. could really be boycotted. To be effective, however, we would need to target specific areas one-by-one. Boycotts only work if a) there is organization b) people know about it and c) people commit to follow it. Nobody is going to travel exclusively to Boston (though I think they should). Therefore, we need to start with one state at a time. Texas seems like a good place to start, especially since they are aggressively trying to take our money.

Elizabeth McClung said...

gays have an do protest, at least when it comes to beer. And the long running Sandals Resort ban on gay couples was broken.....by the liberal mayor of London.

I dunno, why can't gays group together in fanatical groups like Christians? We could have our own Values Site and send in thousands of FCC complaints every time there is an anti-gay presentation on Prime Time TV (so, pretty much daily) -

As for Travel, Ironically Florida credited gay tourists for single handedly saving Florida economy after 9/11, but still passed a raft of anti-gay legislation (including keeping gay magazines out of libraries). But where else is there to go - last year more gays came to Canada than ever before - but let's face it, that gets old and we have to go somewhere other than amsterdam, boston, P-town and San Francisco.

The boycott did work on Cincinatti - it only took 12 years I think - so, at that rate, we should have the west coast ready for gay travel by at least....2050?

Since as you pointed out earlier, Texas still can't get over that thier constitutional right to hold black slaves has been taken away - I don't think they are going to be embracing any new minorities as equals anytime soon.

Cooper said...

I completely second maggiemay!

Awesome writing. Wonderful mind behind that writing.

We in Canada would love to have you, GayProf.

Anonymous said...

Oooo, multiple parts? Niiiiice! This is either Hannibal redux or the Thorn Birds! I guess we'll find out which in the next installment...

Also, props to Seeker Onos on the A & F comment. That and the Crabtree and Evelyns! What will Texas do without their triple milled English soap fragranced with rare, exotic herbs from a Swiss hillside?

Ooops, time for my pot pie!

Will said...

I have a cousin who moved with his family to San Antonio as part of their final career military wanderings. They liked it and settled permanently. Their political and social viewpoints have never been mine.

Fritz had a teaching/lecture gig there several years ago and I tagged along for the three days. Nothing overt happened, but I doubt I would ever want to go back. Like you, I've learned not to venture where I'm not wanted, particularly when I'm not wanted with such a vengeance.

Chad said...

Thank you for writing this.

There's quite a bit to talk about, but you touched on a topic that's been on my mind lately, about how gay political inactivity goes hand-in-hand with the alleged "cultural toleration" we receive via the national media.

Then again, one would be hard pressed to find a progressive movement in the United States that is still very organized and active on the national level.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pair of essays, you should have them published.

Rebekah said...

You just write so damn well.

Anonymous said...

Chad makes a good point. What progressive organizing is alive and well in this day? We beat ourselves up all the time for not doing enough (and I do think we sould hold ourselves to higher standards) but who is doing a better job?

The rights of immigrants seem to be well defended--at least from what I have seen in MA. They appear (we appear) to be doing well. What else though? Who has a good model for us to emulate?

Whit

diablo said...

can you give me the one-minute elevator speech version? i don't have the attention span to read past the second paragraph!

Earl Cootie said...

I'm all for avoiding Texas! Unfortunately, my parents live there, and I owe them a visit since they visited here last summer. I keep hoping my dad will retire so they could move away, but they'd probably just move back to Oklahoma which could possibly be worse than Texas. (Less arrogance, just as much false piety, but not much to see or do.)

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Anonymous said...

I'm from the UK and this is a much more liberal place where we accept people for different backgrounds and cultures. You should check out the gay festivals, clubs, and rights.
Hetrosexuals like myself live side by side with gay people, and many are seen as role models for their sense of style and wit, with many featured on the televsion and our tabliods.

Regards Simon dumville
YourBroadcaster

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