Since Nov. 8, many people have begun accepting the fact that Donald Trump won the Electoral College and now they’re researching resistance and finding ways to fight back. #LGBTQ communities, people of color and other targets of right-wing attacks have mourned and started researching ways to continue surviving. When it’s time to organize and form a resistance, how does one start?
There’s a vast amount of information about activism, so it can be hard to know where to begin. What’s the most effective way to make a difference for positive change? That’s a tough question to answer, but with so many ways to get involved, it’s clear that there’s a place for everybody.
The #LGBTQ rights movement stands as a remarkable example of how quickly significant change can happen. Since a small group of trans women of color, drag queens and homeless queer youth fought back against police violence at Cooper’s Donuts and Stonewall, gay rights advocates have expanded into a considerable political force. Now, as Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence enter the White House with a Republican congressional majority, it’s a crucial time to defend our civil rights.
Even if you’re not particularly interested in #politics or you’ve never done anything like this before, there’s more than enough room for you to help. Since the election, a “secret” Facebook group of Hillary Clinton supporters, called Pantsuit Nation, has grown to over three million people. Though it’s not an advocacy group, many of the members are participating in political organizing for the first time.
Part One includes resources for well-being and survival. Part Two discusses methods of resistance to work for social change. Please note that neither Fusion Magazine nor I, the author, necessarily endorse or share affiliations with any of the organizations or individuals whose resources are described here. This article is solely to share information. Although much of this information pertains to LGBTQ people in northeast Ohio, some of it is relevant to LGBTQ people anywhere in the US.
Get Out The Vote
First and foremost: Register to vote and mark your calendar for the 2018 midterm election, which will be Nov. 6 2018. The entire House of Representatives and about one third of the Senate will be re-elected or replaced. Voting in midterm elections is vital because Congress can be a powerful check on the executive branch. Additionally, 39 governorships and many other state and local positions will be contested.
Many people vote only once every four years or they don’t vote at all. So, elections and ballot initiatives, referendums and recalls at the state and local levels are crucial. Your voice carries more power in these elections.
Some people are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. If you believe that voting doesn’t matter because all politicians are the same, you can compare here how different politicians have voted on various issues. Also, it’s unlikely that politicians would spend time on voter suppression efforts and gerrymandering if voting didn’t matter.
When the 2018 elections roll around, join or start a Get Out The Vote campaign. These consist of contacting eligible voters, by mail, phone and in person, to encourage them to vote. Canvassers and phonebankers are generally nonconfrontational and do not argue with prospective voters.
Contact Your Representatives
Calling or writing to congressional representatives is like voting but you can start now. A congressional intern shared her experience that calling your representatives is more effective than emailing, writing letters, or using social media. Here is more information, along with an FAQ, about calling your representatives.
This is a longer read, but it’s a comprehensive guide described as, “Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.” The authors explain that meeting with your representatives in person is a great way to communicate your concerns and enact change.
How to find your representatives and their contact information.
Here is a spreadsheet with phone numbers and calling scripts on various issues. It’s updated with a new issue every week.
Join Local Organizations.
Because there is strength in numbers, joining a local organization can be a great way to make a real difference. Many local organizations directly advocate for change both during and between election cycles.
Some examples of progressive local organizations include Kent on Climate, Democratic Socialists of America in Portage County and Akron, Kent Socialist Collective, Cleveland Antifa, Equality Ohio, TransOhio, Canapi (HIV/LGBTQ advocacy network), Black United Students and Action Together Northeast Ohio.
You can also become a Planned Parenthood escort for pregnant people seeking a safe abortion procedure. Writing letters to the editor is another great way to reach an audience to speak about LGBTQ rights and those of other minorities.
Petitions, Canvassing and Phonebanking
Many local grassroots organizations and campaigns encourage volunteers to knock on doors or make phone calls for their cause. Gathering signatures to petition the government or put an issue on the ballot is another way to take action. Here is more detailed information about how to properly collect petition signatures in Ohio.
Vote With Your Wallet
Boycotts can be highly effective. They entail deliberately refraining from purchasing or otherwise financially supporting a company or product. Recently, a massive boycott in North Carolina by musicians, academic and sports conferences, and job creators helped eject the state’s anti-LGBTQ governor and shift public opinion towards opposition of the blatantly transphobic House Bill 2.
Also, here is a list of companies and products connected to President-Elect Trump. People have boycotted these and have contacted the companies’ personnel to voice their concerns.
Another way to vote with your wallet is to donate to nonprofit groups and other organizations that support the LGBTQ community and civil rights. Some examples of groups that do various kinds of work on LGBTQ issues are the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality Ohio, TransOhio, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Lambda Legal, the Transgender Law Center, Trans Lifeline, The Trevor Project, #Kent State’s LGBTQ Emergency Fund and its LGBTQ student center, and even this publication.
Direct Action for Resistance
Protests, demonstrations and rallies are opportunities to publicly and collectively voice support or dissent on political issues. Since they are loud and public, these events can gain mass media attention which helps influence public opinion and raise awareness.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his fellow civil rights movement activists regularly employed civil disobedience in resistance against the Jim Crow segregation laws.
More recently, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director, Mara Keisling, took a photo of a ladies’ room door at the North Carolina’s governor’s office. By doing so, she publicized an act of civil disobedience. She broke a law which prohibited her from using that restroom, to demonstrate her opposition. In December, former governor Pat McCrory, who championed the anti-LGBTQ HB2, conceded defeat.
The recent victory at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is another example of successful protest.
Sit ins and walkouts have also been tools of civil rights leaders for decades and they are still regularly employed. At Kent State, Black United Students organized a walk out/unity circle during the week of the election. This was a chance for students to come together in solidarity amidst the unsafe political climate during and after Trump’s campaign.
Know and Defend Your Rights
While exercising our First Amendment right to speech and peaceful assembly, people may run into law enforcement and counter-protesters. Knowing your constitutional rights can help protect you. Here are some resources for more information on this:
- American Civil Liberties Union: Know Your Rights
- Center for Constitutional Rights: Legal Briefing for People Considering Non-Violent Civil Disobedience
- Library of Congress: Right to Peaceful Assembly
Also, Kent students have access to some free legal help via Student Legal Services.
Ally as a Verb
Many cis and straight people consider themselves LGBTQ allies because they personally have nothing against LGBTQ people or their equal rights. However, if these allies want to help LGBTQ people even more, they may consider taking a more active role.
White LGBTQ people can also learn more about how to be effective allies to people of color.
Clearly and publicly identifying oneself as an ally can be valuable. LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a safety pin. Since Trump’s electoral college victory, many people wear safety pins, denoting that they oppose prejudice against marginalized groups.
Allies can also wear T-shirts and buttons or post stickers in support of LGBTQ rights and other issues.
Importantly, allies may be able to speak out in support of minorities’ rights without personally feeling the brunt of #discrimination. They can join organized social justice efforts and they can also engage in conversations with people in their daily lives. A simple statement in resistance to prejudice can go a long way. If somebody says something like, “I hate those tr-nny f-ggots,” or they use a racial slur, allies can reply, “I don’t share those views and I think that’s hurtful.” Planting the seed of tolerance and compassion can be hugely beneficial.
Interfere Acts of Hate
This cartoon illustrates how bystanders can painlessly and effectively interfere when someone is harassing someone else.
Smartphones with video cameras have become a common tool of mass communication. These are particularly helpful for recording acts of hate and violence. Seeing how an interaction could become public can dissuade people from acting violently.
Use Your Talents for Resistance
What interests you? Although quilting or the performing arts may not seem to have much in common with political activism, many people have found ways to use their own personal skill sets to help make the world a better place. So, if you’ve got a hobby or specific knowledge base, consider ways you can get creative and help fight for LGBTQ and other civil rights.
I definitely believe that art is the best way to produce social change.
—Pedro Reyes, artist and activist.
Additional Info and Further Reading