The Amazing Vanishing Queers

This week, I read an open letter over at Incertus from Bradley, who was asking gay people not to boycott Ft. Lauderdale just because their mayor is a flaming asshat.

I commented (as is my wont):

"Personally, I've never been certain about "stay away" boycotts, especially as concerns LGBT issues -- precisely because the whole idea is to "disappear" us anyway (Get back in that closet, you pesky things you!).

I would suggest something more directed and visible: Have all the people of Ft. Lauderdale who hate Naugle's policies and homophobia put a sign up at their business (prominent and visible from the street) that says "Mayor Naugle is an Idiot", and instruct LGBT tourists to support these businesses exclusively -- at the same time, have STRAIGHT tourists who are gay-supportive boycott in a "stay-away" fashion."

I've been thinking about this a lot since I made that comment.

For over 20 years, I've advocated "coming out" (for both LGBT people and their supporters), as the single most effective strategy for combating homophobia.

In effect, an LGBT boycott of Ft. Lauderdale's as a tourist destination simply does precisely what Naugle wants: He waves his magic wand, opens the robo-toilet door (to the tune of a quarter million $$), and Poof! -- the poofs are gone!

I'm not going to go into prolonged, agonizing detail about the depth and breadth of Naugle's idiocy. Bradley, over at Incertus, has already done that, (and if you haven't read Incertus, I heartily recommend that you do so) -- Bradley even coined a new term for Naugle, et al, that I love: Crupid (Crazy AND Stupid).

In case you're not into a full surf-fest tonight -- suffice it to say: Naugle contends that gay public sex is a huge problem in Ft.L -- 8 arrests in two years! Yikes! (This is by Naugle's account -- 2 arrests by other accounts). Those 8 arrests constitute whopping .004% of the city's 185,000 people -- yes, that's right -- 4/100% of one percent are having it off in public bathrooms -- it's an epidemic, I tell you, an epidemic!!!!!

Naugle also says things like: "I don't use the word gay. I use the word homosexual. Most of them aren't gay. They're unhappy." But he also says: "I'm not homophobic, and I'm not a bigot."

Well, phew! I feel so relieved!

But back to my point . . . . . I'm almost sure I had a point . . . . . Ah! Yes!

I'm really not sure that "stay away" boycotts are truly effective for minority populations that bigots actually wish would simply "disappear". This includes LGBT people, immigrants (legal and illegal), people of color in regions where they are in the minority, religious minorities, etc. (Did I miss anyone?)

I think that "stay away" boycotts work very well in situations where you are part of an unseen/unheard majority (or near-majority), or where the functioning of day-to-day society rests heavily on your minority's provision of participation (think middle-class factory workers, civil rights actions in the segregrated South, and Cesar Chavez).

One of the problems with boycotts is that they require either a) significant numbers, or b) great stamina. Unless you can marshal a significant majority in order to create a high-profile impact immediately, you're going to have to rely on steady erosion of profits over time to change political and/or social attitudes.

Gay tourism currently accounts for about 11% of the Ft. Lauderdale tourist dollar each year. That's not too shabby. However -- it's not unthinkable that an infusion of homophobes who have been called to "Support Mayor Naugle" might intentionally visit Ft. Lauderdale when they might otherwise have trekked to Jesus Camp, and offset this. (Cuz Naugle has a dog! And a kid! And he married Barbie!!)

Make no mistake -- the loss of 11% of your annual income would probably get your attention. It would definitely get my attention.

But remember this one little detail: In order for a boycott of your business to work, you would have to KNOW that this 11% drop-off was lost due to a factor that you had some power over. Which means that every boycotter would have to let you know why they had stopped patronizing you.

It is, to me, a pretty apparent truth that you generally know much more about the people that DO spend money on your business than about the people that DON'T.

This is where Queer boycotts get problematic. A lot of LGBT folks are still in the closet. Many of them are unlikely to send a letter to the Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce or City Commissioners saying: "My name is ___________, and I'm (gay/lesbian/bi/trans), and even though I spent $_____ in Ft. Lauderdale last year when I visited your fair city, this year, I'm spending my money elsewhere, because your mayor is a bigoted asshat."

(That's the message that I would encourage every LGBT person who does decide to boycott Ft. L this year to send, BTW.)

Because: Vanishing without a trace does absolutely nothing to help a movement that is about visibility.

(If I could emphasize that statement any more with my limited html skills, I would.)

Some of you may have recognized this post as the tired old rant of a retired activist, or, more hopefully, as a partial primer on the dynamics of successful boycott.

I participated in my own oppression as a lesbian for years and years and years, by not coming out. I opted to disappear rather than speak up. One of the lasting lessons that I learned was: If you want someone to recognize and affirm/accept you as you are, shutting up and going away just doesn't really work all that well.

So, this year, I hope that there is a veritable plethora of lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals, and trannies in Ft. Lauderdale, being themselves, shopping only at merchants who proudly display the sign "I Think Jim Naugle is Crupid!" (or, more simply: "Flush Naugle!"), letting these merchants know that this is why they are shopping there, and happily enjoying themselves. (After all, we are "teh gay" -- we have a reputation to uphold.)

And as for Mayor Naugle, my position has not changed:

"I don't mind straight people, as long as they act queer in public."

Posted byPortlyDyke at 4:16 PM  


Brian said... August 26, 2007 at 7:57 AM  

Thanks for the compliments, PD. Amy has been posting her correspondence with Naugle in the comments, and I'll be doing the same in a post some time today (waiting to see if he replies to my latest response). Bradley said last night that he'd be writing Naugle today as well. We're going to keep this up, if only to show the outside world that the mayor is not the voice of the citizenry, but only of himself and his tiny band of homobigots.

Amy said... August 27, 2007 at 4:28 PM  

BTW, Fort Lauderdale in general is a very gay-friendly place (hence the tourism!) -- Naugle is the distinct minority, and it was SECONDS after he started making his crupid (although I prefer stubatshit) statements that you started seeing "Flush Naugle" trailing the planes over the beach (instead of "Wet T-Shirt Contest, 241 drinks..."), etc. Wilton Manors (part of Ft Laud) is (proudly!) one of the gayest zip codes in the USA -- in short, I guess I'm saying is: hey, all LGBT folks, why not show Naugle a thing or two by, yes, coming here?! We want you! All people of all kinds, come here! You will be welcomed! You can join us for a nice "thowing rotten oranges at Naugle" fest!

Richard said... August 27, 2007 at 9:39 PM  

I'm curious why you feel it would be best for gay-supportive straight tourists to stay away, rather than have them also exclusively patronize the "Mayor Naugle is an Idiot" stores as well. It seems to me the two groups working in concert would have a much greater impact vis-a-vis the sane business people of Ft. Lauderdale vs. the Naugle supporters, especially if one or more homophobic groups attempt a counter-boycott by exclusively supporting the Nauglites.

(I link-hopped over here from the Monday Blogwhoring thread at Shakesville, BTW)

PortlyDyke said... August 27, 2007 at 9:56 PM  

My strategic answer to that, Richard, is that any "stay-away" boycott by straights would also need to be accompanied by letters to the Ft. L. Chamber and Council saying "I'm straight and I'm staying away because of your homophobic policies".

Believe it or not, straight people who espouse gay-supportive attitudes do actually have more majority street-cred and political sway than gay people who espouse gay-supportive attitudes.

If the support for gay marriage is inching up toward 46% nationwide (that's not just support for gays, but for gay marriage), then we are talking about the following possible scenario:

A 36% drop in straight patronage in Ft. L (with letters as described above), which would be quite an economic impact, combined with a continuing and more visible gay presence in Ft. L -- that would be something that would get your attention, wouldn't it?

On the other hand, I'd be fully in support of all gays and queer-supporting straights showing up in Ft. L, as long as everyone made it very clear why they were there. Maybe everyone could agree to inundate the city, wearing "I'm queer and I love Ft. L!" buttons.

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