Gays Against Guns Keep Doing Their Thing And Their Thing Is A Good Thing.

When I was in high school, I earned weekend money by playing in a band which performed at various school dances, weddings and bar-mitzvas around town. At some point we got a gig in a private club somewhere on the Jersey shore which featured a group of very talented female impersonators performing a gay version of the Radio City Rockettes.  The club was private because in those days, the 1950’s, you didn’t walk around advertising the fact that you were gay. And you certainly didn’t let it be known that a bunch of ‘female imps’ as they were known, were performing on a public stage.

gag             I got friendly with the members of this troupe and I never imagined that I would ever see the Supreme Court of the United States proclaim that these talented artists could live and behave any way they chose to be.  Which is why, believe it or not, I remain convinced that someday gun violence will also come to an end, because ending gun violence rests on a moral imperative – thou shall not kill – and morality will sooner or later always win.

In that regard, I take a special interest in the doings of an organization, Gays Against Guns (GAG,) whose mission can best be described in a statement from their website: “Gays Against Guns NY is an inclusive group of LGBTQ people and their allies committed to nonviolently breaking the gun industry’s chain of death–investors, manufacturers, the NRA and other lobby groups, and their puppets in Congress that block good gun laws.”

There are other GAG chapters around the country, but the New York group has provided some of the most original responses to the continued flood of gun violence, in particular some very engaging videos that spell out their message loud, hip and clear.  Their latest production is a theatrical performance with original lyrics set to the song ‘My Funny Valentine,’ which is apropos as I am writing these words on February 14, which happens to be Valentine’s Day.

This brief musical theater is staged in the Union Square subway station in New York City, and features a character made up like Trump and another character playing the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre.  The lyrics, of course, reflect the group’s concerns about gun violence, along with the flinging around of a pile of money obviously representing the dough spent by the NRA on the Trump campaign.  The musical performance jumps back and forth between the subway platform and above ground next to the famed arch in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park.  It’s a funny, lively spoof on the relationship between the NRA and Trump but it has its serious side as well, particularly a scene above ground where players in the troupe display pictures of a gay couple, both of whom were shot to death during the massacre in The Pulse.

When you finish viewing this video, jump to another video which shows members of the GAG group staging an appearance in front of the NRA booth at last year’s New Jersey State Fair. Now you would think that at a state fair, particularly at a booth for the NRA, that the appearance of a gay group talking about gun violence might provoke some rather heated or even nasty comments from the passing crowd. But watch this video closely and you’ll see that with the exception of one older guy who appeared to be either confused or pissed off, most of the crowd were polite in their reaction to the GAG folks, and engaged them in brief discussions about gun violence in a proper and respectful way.

I think that this country has come a long way in its attitudes towards LGBTQ. Not that there won’t always be a few hardy souls coming out of the woodwork to lay claim to the idea that non-traditional lifestyles are the Devil’s own work. But think about how a culture has changed as regards LGBTQ and don’t dismiss the idea that the same culture change can’t happen when it comes to guns.

Gays Against Guns Wants You To Join Their Boycott To Support GVP.

Back after the horrendous event at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I wrote that the emergence of the LGBTQ community in the gun violence prevention (GVP) space was not only a positive development for LGBTQ activism, but would be an important alliance for GVP insofar as changing our cultural views on guns might benefit from lessons learned by LGBTQ when it came to changing cultural views about gays.  Now I’m beginning to wonder whether rather than forging an alliance between the two communities, the GVP folks might want to sit down and take some specific lessons from their new-found friends in LGBTQ.

gayslogo2           And what has moved me to consider that perhaps LGBTQ activists might become the vanguard for GVP is a new strategy that is being rolled out by the Gays Against Guns group that, as far as I am concerned, is the non plus ultra way to deal with gun violence and other issues which demonstrate that it’s simply too easy in the United States for anyone to get their hands on a gun. The strategy involves boycotting companies and products that offer discounts and deals to members of the NRA, the list of such discounts partners now runs to more than 2,000 vendors on the NRA website, which also has a section listing discounts from major chains..

I want to make clear that what follows is not (read: not) in any way shape or form a suggestion or proposal to engage in any kind of boycott or other financial attack on the individual business owners who comprise probably 95% of the NRA discount list.  For the most part these folks own gun shops or other, independent retail outlets whose inventory caters to the shooting crowd.  Many, if not most are NRA members themselves and it would be wrong to suggest or even imply that such individuals should suffer in any way because the NRA takes extreme stances on certain issues related to the violence caused by guns.

On the other hand, the NRA website offers member discounts from major corporations all the way from A to Z.  Want medical, life, property or insurance against cancer and other health risks?  It’s all there.  Hearing aids, automobiles, moving services, wine or cigars – it’s all there.  Now maybe the NRA hasn’t yet reached the level of the AARP, which rewards its members with a free cup of coffee with any item bought at Burger King, but don’t for a moment think that such discounts aren’t being considered or planned.

The NRA obviously doesn’t have a membership list which compares to the AARP, but the Wyndham Hotel company, which operates nearly 8,000 hotels in 73 countries and includes such brands as Ramada, Travelodge and Days Inn, lists itself as an NRA discount partner in order to help fill its more than 680,000 nightly rooms. And like it or not, corporations, particularly large corporations are public entities, and they deserve to know if a marketing partner takes a public stance with which potential customers happen to disagree.

The reason I mention Wyndham is that Gays Against Guns has launched a boycott against the company’s brands and has also announced a boycott of Hertz and FedEx because all three companies offer discounts to members of the NRA.  Money that major corporations share with the NRA through member discounts isn’t necessarily chump change.  First Bancard, which underwrites an NRA Visa card, has sent the gun organization more than $24 million, which represents a cut of the underwriting revenue earned by people using the card.

Cash has a funny way of making more noise than words, which is why boycotts are often the most effective way for people to make their feelings heard.  I never imagined that in my lifetime I would see an end to apartheid in South Africa, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and a dismantling of the deKlerk regime. But it happened in 1994 and boycotts in the U.S. and other countries helped pave the change. Would the boys in Fairfax sit up and notice if revenue from boycotted partners started to drift away?