A new critical point: Together we have achieved something stunning. The most damaging bills to the LGBT community in the Tennessee General Assembly are disposed of for now--the anti-transgender student bathroom bill and the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act. That allows us to make a decisive shift in our work to the subtle, sneaky bills that are also damaging.
To get an orientation to the sneaky bills, read this TEP op-ed in The Tennessean.
What you'll find below is a set of actions and reflections designed to help you play a part in unmasking the sneaky bills and fighting them. If you live in Middle Tennessee, you have a built-in advantage because you are closer to many of the events and I hope you'll attend some of them. But there will be steps anyone in Tennessee can take. Regardless of where you are, March 31 through April 7 is a good week in which to make your voice heard. Look through the calendar and do as much as you can. Also try to use the time to read the reflection questions and think about your role as an equality advocate.
Friday, March 31
March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility and that provides a good focus for the day as we head into a busy legislative week.
3. Whether you are a trans person or an ally, consider devoting a social media post to the holiday. It can be as simple as "Happy Transgender Visibility Day." Does that make you activist? No, it takes far more than a Facebook post to make you an advocate, but you may help start a conversation or send a signal that someone needs to see. No one at TEP would ever suggest that a social media post is enough to make you an activist.
4. Read this piece by GLAAD and examine your own use of terminology. Make a commitment to change any ways of speaking or writing that are inaccurate and disrespectful.
5. Check this link for next week's events related to state legislation and mark your calendars. For example, the April 5 subcommittee meeting about the Business License to Discriminate bill can be found at the link.
1. Had you ever considered all the anti-LGBT bills in Tennessee affect transgender and gender non-conforming people? Yes, even the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act does. Have you been speaking about certain bills as if they only affect gay, lesbian, and bisexual people?
2. Put yourself in the place of someone who is about to speak to a state legislator. What have you heard about what many legislators think about gender, the gender spectrum, and trans and gender non-conforming people? What do YOU think might convince them to shift their thinking to a more inclusive position?
Saturday, April 1
1. Attend TTPC's Letter writing party at 1pm in West Nashville. RSVP at the link.
2. Consider planning your own letter writing party against the #SlateofHate bills in Tennessee. It only requires you and a few friends or many friends gathering to write letters against negative bills. We can help you. Contact us at [email protected] .
1. What is your own preferred way to communicate with legislators? In person, email, phone calls, writing a letter? And why is that? If you are reluctant to use one or more forms of communication with legislators, what would make it easier for you and would that allow you to have more of an impact on the legislative process?
2. What effect does it have on you when a legislator answers your message or ignores it? Does it affect your ability to sustain your advocacy if you feel legislators aren't listening or aren't demonstrating that they are listening? On the other hand, are there times when you know you got through and made a difference with your message?
3. If the bills you are communicating with legislators about are sneaky or subtly written, how do you communicate differently or with more urgency to make your point? How do you convince your friends that a bill really affects the LGBT community when it doesn't appear to do so?
Sunday, April 2
1. Consider sending emails to Representatives Bill Beck, G.A. Hardaway, and Andrew Farmer thanking them for asking tough questions about the TN Natural Marriage Defense Act that got the bill sidelined for the year. Their email addresses are [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] .
2. Study the Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study on Tennessee. Think about how the findings have an impact on Tennessee politics with respect to LGBT issues.
3. Take a minute to learn about the "Religious Left" at this link.
3. Are there clergy you know you could join this list against the #SlateofHate ? Can you help recruit them? Will you reach out TODAY?
1. If you're a person of faith, do you find it easy or difficult to make common cause on issues with people who hold no faith or no particular faith? Likewise, if you are not a person of faith or not a member of a faith community, what is helpful and what is a barrier to you working with people of faith on LGBT issues?
2. Whether you're a person of faith or not, what values do you think you share with legislators or other people who are socially conservative? If your fundamental values are different, what works for you in having a conversation about LGBT issues over the divide?
Monday, April 3
1. Consider attending the We Are Watching rally at the Capitol in Nashville with other progressive activists resisting a variety of oppressive bills. RSVP here. TEP will provide signs about relevant bills.
2. If you can't attend the event, will you publicize the link?
3. Give the protesters some back up. Tell your state senator and your state representative that you support the We Are Watching protesters who show up at the Capitol every Monday. That is a way to amplify their work and join it. You can find your state senator and your state representative at this link. Look for the "Find My Legislator" tab.
1. Are you comfortable protesting? Are you supposed to be comfortable protesting? What are your preferred ways to taking action against discriminatory bills?
2. What do you think the value of protesting is? How can protests draw attention to discriminatory bills?
Tuesday, April 4
1. Attend TEP's final Advancing Equality Day on the Hill. See the schedule here. If you want to join an existing appointment and get connected with your district captain, email me at [email protected] .
2. If you can't attend Advancing Equality Day on the Hill, email your state senator and your state representative and tell them you support the people who are on the Hill today working for LGBT equality and fighting discriminatory legislation. You can find their names and email addresses by going to the Legislature's website. Click the "Find My Legislator" tab.
3. Consider visiting your legislators a different week. If you would like help setting up an appointment and getting talking points for your meeting, contact me AFTER APRIL 4 at [email protected] .
1. Is meeting with elected officials new to you? What would make you prepared to speak effectively with them about LGBT issues? If it's something you've done for years, have you learned more about the process that has made you more effective each time or do you feel stuck?
2. Why don't more LGBT people and allies come to events like Advancing Equality Days on the Hill? Is it because they interfere with work or school? Is it the distance? Is it that they think they wouldn't know what to say? What would be the impact on LGBT issues if 300 people or more participated in events like Advancing Equality Days on the Hill?
Wednesday, April 5
1. Attend the House State Government Subcommittee meeting at Legislative Plaza in Nashville. RSVP here. The Business License to Discriminate bill will be up for a vote.
2. If you can't attend, consider sharing the link that morning.
3. In the morning, email the subcommittee members and ask them to vote NO on HB54. You can find their names here. When you click on the picture, it takes you to their page and you can find their email addresses. Put in the subject line of your email: Vote NO on HB54. The body can be something like:
"Dear Representative __________, please vote NO on HB54 this afternoon. The bill ties the hands of government in contracting with the private sector. It opens the door to lawsuits against government and it enables discrimination against LGBT people. It's a bad deal for taxpayers. Thanks for considering my views. (Your name + your street address)"
4. If the bill passes in subcommittee, are you willing to write a letter to the editor about the bill? If so, contact me at [email protected]
1. Why do so many legislators in Tennessee care more about discrimination against business than they do about discrimination against LGBT people? What can we do to shift the concern?
2. Why has there been so little media coverage of this bill? What has the media focused on in terms of legislative issues this year? Why is that so?
Thursday, April 6
1. Read about the sneaky LGBT Erasure bill. It is SB1085/HB1111. Now compare it to SB30/HB33. The bill was not on notice (or up for a vote) this week, but we expect it to be on notice soon. Reading the bill helps you prepare.
2. If you're not in the TEP Facebook group, join it and read the last few posts to be up to date on what happened with legislation this week and what is coming up. We post frequently. You can also join the TEP email list here. If you're more of a Twitter person, you can follow us at TNEQUALITY.
3. How have you taken time for yourself? Many people don't invest much time in advocacy, but some people invest a great deal of time in advocacy. If you are spending a lot of time on legislative advocacy, you may want to think about how you are handling the stress. There are many online resources with suggestions. This link provides just one of many. In terms of the legislative calendar, there are some meetings on Thursday, but Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are good days to take it at a slower pace. Make sure you are stepping away when you need to. The work will be there when you return.
1. Is the new political situation with anti-LGBT discrimination at the state level coupled with setbacks at the federal level resulting in higher levels of fear, anxiety, or depression for you? Is it resulting in more physical danger for you? What friends and professionals can you speak with about what is going on with you? If you're doing OK, are you noticing these signs in the lives of friends?
2. Do you find that participating in activism/advocacy gives you more confidence and a sense of community that helps you deal with the stress of the new political situation?
Friday, April 6
1. If you took Thursday off, which we support, check the TEP Facebook group for what is coming up with #SlateofHate legislation. Or you can check Twitter at TNEQUALITY. You can also check this link at the main TEP Facebook page.
2. If you're in Nashville, consider attending this Nashville Grizzlies event in support of TEP at Play. If you can't attend, consider making a small monthly contribution to TEP at this link. If you prefer to make a one-time donation, you can do so at this link. TEP is grateful to have the support of the Nashville Grizzlies and so many people across the state.
3. Do YOU want to host a house party in which a TEP representative comes to you and talks about state legislation and/or LGBT advocacy? Contact us at [email protected] .
1. Have you ever given to LGBT causes? Why or why not?
2. Do people in your part of Tennessee take LGBT advocacy seriously? If not, what could change that?
3. Is there a TEP committee in your community? If so, and you're unsure how to be involved, contact me at [email protected] .
4. What would enhance rural LGBT advocacy in Tennessee? Do you see it as critical to victories in the Legislature?