At the Poly Living conference, planning defense and resistance
Last Saturday at Loving More's Poly Living conference, I ran a discussion for people to air their ideas on how the poly community can respond, protect, and defend itself under the Trump administration.
Here are my notes of what folks said.
The Poly Community’s Response in the Time of Trump
Discussion session at Poly Living East, PhiladelphiaFebruary 4, 2017Notes by Alan M.
A dozen people gathered at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning for animated discussion. Ideas that arose, sorted by category:
· PROVIDING FOR THE COMMON DEFENSE. We are small and insignificant compared to groups now under direct threat (immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, black communities, women, etc.), and we are small even compared to other sex- and gender-related groups who face common threats with us (LGBTQ, feminists, sex educators, sex info sites, the porn industry, BDSM, etc.). We must reach out to them as mutual strategic allies even if we don’t agree on everything.· Jim Fleckenstein: This is especially true when facing legal threats. A common legal defense can span many diverse groups and interests. For instance: credit-card companies cutting off service to sex-positive organizations, whether the companies are driven to it by new laws or just fear.· Jim continued: Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General nominee, wants to crack down on porn – he has talked about reviving the Meese Commission. All sex-positive or sex-ed sites may face threats of censorship, blocking or shutdown as a result: either directly by law, or indirectly by providers’ fears.· Poly support organizations, which means basically Loving More, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and the Relationship Equality Foundation (REF), should ally in particular with other sex- and relationship-related groups — medical information sites, therapists, AASECT, Woodhull, etc. — for group defense. Jim will bring the poly community’s concern to the NCSF board. Susan Wright of NCSF is already very involved with the Free Speech Coalition of the adult industry.· Personal alliances matter a lot in building support; not just organizational alliances. For instance, Loving More is known in the Colorado LGBT world for showing up at Colorado’s Pride Fest. Work with other groups on their own projects and defense; that’s how you win friends to be there for you.· In building coalitions, if you are afraid of being tarred by association with kinksters, nudists, swingers, strip clubs or practically anybody else, get over it. “You have to be ready to fight back from that corner,” said Jim F. “You have to look where you can find allies, and cultivate personal relationships with them.”· Also reach out to Humanist groups, because “their lawyers work day and night on separation of church and state.” The American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, American Atheists, etc. And never mind whether you’re a humanist or atheist yourself.· Join the Indivisible Movement. “It’s becoming a big thing” as a very broad-based coalition for resisting Trumpism in the political sphere.· “All over we’re seeing people come together that would never have come together before.”
· LEGAL / POLITICAL. Even in the absence of new laws, judges may feel empowered to rule badly in poly-related cases: discrimination in work, housing, etc., as well as the separate question of child custody in family courts. The proposed federal “Freedom of Religion Act” to legalize discrimination against LGBTs would also include us. (Not that we have much in the way of antidiscrimination law to take away.)· Jim pointed out that Fetlife’s owner shut down some of its more extreme fetish communities last month because of a threat that the entire site would lose its credit card processing privileges. In cases like this, said Jim, “look for allies where you least expect them.” For instance the gun industry, facing rejection by PayPal, credit card companies, etc., has found workarounds for transaction processing through sympathetic banks.· Have a website? Keep safe backups of your site (on local media such as a thumb drive stored away from your computer, as well as in the cloud).· The way authorities often try to shut down events is through a venue’s weak point: its local liquor license.
· LAWYERS AND LEGAL SUPPORT: Robyn Trask, director of Loving More, is compiling a list of lawyers available to handle poly cases. If you are such a lawyer, or know of any, go tell her: firstname.lastname@example.org. Loving More wants a large list to refer people to wherever they are. Update: The Polyamory Leadership Network is forming a working group on lawyers and legal matters.· Suggestion: we need a “What Lawyers Should Know About Polyamory” booklet along the lines of NCSF’s successful “What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory.”· Jim F.: Getting a handle on the legal needs of the poly community “will be one of the outcomes of our current Legal Survey. Everybody, please go fill it out!” It currently has 600+ responses; they want 1000+. Go do the survey even if you have no known legal needs, because it asks other relevant questions. Publicize it to your communities. The survey will guide Loving More/ NCSF/ REF/ ABSC in their directions in providing joint resources for the poly community. “By next year we should be able to move on this stuff.”
· MEDIA MESSAGING. Mischa Lin of Open Love NY said, let’s write up a document for people to use in discussions with media: talking points and sound bites about issues in the Trump climate. For instance, “The rise of fascism in this country is already impacting people like me,” and tell how.· Cultivate connections in the media. Know a sympathetic reporter or editor to call when you need them. Look for reporters who have covered other personal-freedom or alternative-lifestyle issues well. (You can search a reporter’s name on polyinthemedia.blogspot.com to see what they may have written about poly in the past decade.)· Robyn Trask continues to build Loving More’s list of good poly spokespeople she can send media to. She wants more, representing all branches of poly. This means you! Robyn has a good list of tips for dealing with the media, and helpful materials, and she’s eager to consult by phone to develop your media skills. Contact her at email@example.com, or better, phone her at 970-667-5683.
In addition, at least four other sessions at Poly Living discussed related issues:
-- Robyn and Jesus’s “Taking Our Movement Forward” session about Loving More’s own plans,-- Lusty Guy’s “Voter Team Meeting” about building an effective resistance,-- A lunch meeting of 15 Polyamory Leadership Network members to discuss what was on their minds,-- Mim Chapman’s closing keynote talk, “Rainbow Poly: Becoming Radical Defenders of Diversity.”
A few additional points gleaned from these:
· Cunning Minx: There’s an app called Countable that serves you bills coming up in Congress and how to contact your representatives about them. Phoning is better than writing, and actually easier. You’ll get a polite staffer who listens to your request for how to vote on the bill and tallies it. Brief is fine. This may take you 15 seconds.· Volunteer at your LGBTQ center; you will build relationships and gain activist allies. Ditto volunteering for other activist/ political groups. In groups you’re already in, come out as poly so that they know a poly person and know you have concerns about the current environment.· Pick up new challenges that take you a bit out of your comfort zone. Try new projects, go new places, reach out to different kinds of people than you usually do. In diversity is strength, and “Life rewards people who move in the direction of greatest courage.”· Lusty guy: “Fucking vote! Turn out the vote. Run for office.”· “There has been incredible progress in the last 14 days, as well as incredible degradation.”· Lusty Guy: “Two things have been scientifically shown, over and over, to change people’s behavior more than anything else: (1) What they think people around them are doing, and (2) Thinking that someone is observing them.” Activists who know this can pretty much skip all other persuasion techniques you may have heard of.
This was the second such poly-conference discussion; I moderated the first at Beyond The Love in Columbus, Ohio, last November just after the election. Here are the notes from that.
Finally, I recommend that you read David Frum's What Effective Protest Could Look Like, in The Atlantic. Frum is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush who is now crossing the police lines, as he puts it, to the side of the Resistance to help save the Republic. Key parts:
As I step through the police lines, I bring a message with me: Your demonstrations are engineered to fail. They didn’t stop the Iraq war. They won’t stop Donald Trump.
With the rarest exceptions — and perhaps the January 21 demonstration will prove to be one — left-liberal demonstrations are exercises in catharsis, the release of emotions. Their operating principle is self-expression, not persuasion.
It’s possible I’m not the right person to offer the following analysis. Yet it’s also a good rule to seek wisdom wherever it may be found. So here’s what I have to offer from the right, amid the storms of the Trump era:
The more conservative protests are, the more radical they are.
You want to scare Trump? Be orderly, polite, and visibly patriotic.
...Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag. Open with the Pledge of Allegiance. Close by singing the Star Spangled Banner like these protesters at LAX.... Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.
...Donald Trump has made clear that he wants to wage a Nixon-style culture war: cops against criminals, soldiers against pacifists, hard hats against hippies. Don’t be complicit. If you want to beat him, you have to reject his categories.
...The classic military formula for success: concentrate superior force at a single point. The Occupy Wall Street movement fizzled out in large part because of its ridiculously fissiparous list of demands and its failure to generate a leadership that could cull that list into anything actionable. Successful movements are built upon concrete single demands that can readily be translated into practical action: “Votes for women.” “End the draft.” “Overturn Roe v. Wade.” “Tougher punishments for drunk driving.”
People can say “yes” to such specific demands for many different reasons. Supporters are not called upon to agree on everything, but just one thing....
So it should be for critics of President Trump. “Pass a law requiring the Treasury to release the President’s tax returns.” “An independent commission to investigate Russian meddling in the election.” “Divest from the companies.” These are limited asks with broad appeal.
Protests are fun; meetings are effective.
...Bodies in the street represent only potential power, not actual power. ... The difference between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party was that only the second movement translated the energy and excitement of its early mass meetings into steady organizational work aimed at winning elections.
...Protests are useful mostly to the extent that they mobilize people to participate in the follow-up meetings to realize the protest’s goals. Collect names and addresses. Form Facebook groups. Keep in touch. Don’t argue: recruit.
...Outrage may get you started, but only hope keeps you going. Hope, as Vaclav Havel insisted, is an expression of the state of our minds, not a description of the state of the world. It powers you to undertake the daunting but essential mission: unlimited efforts for limited goals. You’re not trying to save the world. Just to pass one law. It doesn’t sound like much. It could be everything.