After the Orlando shooting the LGBTQ community revved up and got really energetic and involved in the Gun Violence Prevention campaign. And like many others, I saw the emerging LGBTQ – GVP alliance as a wonderful step forward, if only because the LGBTQ community has been able to accomplish what the GVP community still finds it difficult to achieve, namely, to create a broad-based cultural change in public attitudes about guns.
In 1994, when a watered-down Brady bill was passed (the original bill called for background checks on all transfers,) we were still ten years away from gay marriage being legal in a single state, Bill Clinton had just laid down the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ doctrine for the military under which 13,000 armed services members were discharged from active duty, and discrimination in federally-assisted housing wasn’t prohibited until 2012.
Meanwhile, here we are in 2016 hoping that if Donald Trump remains a private citizen come November 8th, that HRC will finally, maybe get a chance to sign an expanded background checks bill come the following year. So the GVP community can learn a lot from its alliance with LGBTQ, along with having a much-expanded reservoir of activists who can help carry the GVP load.
How long did it take LGBTQ to make some serious noise about guns? Two weeks after the horrifying events at The Pulse, gay activists on June 26 displayed GVP messages and slogans at gay-rights parades in New York, Chicago, Orlando and other cities not just in the U.S. but across the globe. And just this past weekend, a newly formed group, Gays Against Guns, pulled off a public event that, to my mind, was a wonder to behold.
What made this event so important in terms of what it says about how the LGBTQ community will quickly define its response to gun violence in dramatic and effective ways? The fact that it was a demonstration held in front of two New York City Reebok-Cross Fit locations which were promoting this year’s CrossFit games. Now what in God’s name does a chain of workout gyms connected to a company that makes athletic clothing have to do with guns? Well, in fact it had nothing to do with guns until the game’s organizers announced they were going to award Glock pistols to the winning male and female CrossFit participants, as well as to all the members of the winning team.
It turns out, of course, that the Glock prizes were nothing more than an advertising gimmick for the games (and the workout gyms) concocted up by the games’ founder who was a Navy SEAL and claims to have become a competitive shooter over the last six years. And since CrossFit markets its “Fittest on Earth” workout regimens to a demographic heavily weighted toward 1st Responders, muscle builders and para-military jocks, substituting a Glock pistol for some Olympic-style gold makes good marketing sense.
The demonstrations by Gays Against Guns immediately resulted in a kind of non-apology apology by Reebok who said on the one hand they didn’t agree with the Glock giveaway but on the other hand had no control over the selection of prizes that were announced at the games. As usual, Gun-mob Nation immediately swung into action, denouncing the LGBTQ demonstrations as nothing more than a stupid response to the ‘skyrocketing’ increase in new gun owners, particularly women and gays.
Let me break the news gently to the CrossFit Games organizers, to Reebok and to the Gun-mob Nation noisemakers who are simply lying when pretend there is a tidal wave of gay interest in guns. There is a tidal wave about guns developing in the LGBTQ community, but it’s not a tidal wave about guns, it’s a tidal wave about the violence caused by guns. And it’s a tidal wave that will lift up and help GVP accomplish for gun violence what LGBTQ has accomplished for the right of every American to be treated like everyone else. Which includes not getting shot.