Having fallen down the rabbit hole a couple times myself, I'm hoping to prevent others from joining me. Its funny how it starts out. One or two clear problems present themselves - there's a need for a public bisexual voice at a major glbt conference.. There's a author claiming he has proof we don't exist. There's not enough money to have an international bi conference without sponsorship. Clear needs with specific actions required, resulting in a "win" at a specific time.
The thing about queer politics is there is no finish line. There's no obvious resting place. there's always some newly out person dealing with family rejection or loss of housing. There's aways a peer group looking to get your help on an issue or an event. Where so many activists go wrong is when they don't notice that more and more of their time is being devoted to these needs- at a cost to their own family, friends, and free time. The wise ones remember to keep their core intact, realizing that there will never be enough time to do everything asked of them.
This month, I've had a perfect storm of events which have grounded me some what:
* Pakistan - I have a Pakistani penpal, trying to minister to GLBT people in his community. As I was waiting for a moment to respond to a partnership plan, bombs attacked Bhutto's return parade, killing 130 people. My penpal's efforts are under constant threat of attack in a country whose extremists believe they must control their existence by any means necessary.
* ALS - A family member was recently diagnosed with a fatal disease and is regressing much faster than expected. It's extremely humbling to face someone whom I've avoided spending time with so I could do more and more "queer stuff", only to be faced with how little time we have left.
* ENDA - watching the fervor around ENDA in the blog and activists community while all the thrashing barely made a blip on the national scene has caused me to scratch my head. Why all the thrashing, daily emails, phone calls on a bill that has next to zero chance of passing in the senate and exactly zero chance of avoiding a presidential veto? Don't get me wrong - I believe both in ENDA in the abstract and what we were really fighting for - a truly united GLBT community. If our communities don't stand together when given the opportunity to gain rights at the expense of others, there's no reason for them to stand for us when faced with a similar choice.
But that fight is not an emergency where everything has to be dropped or else the world is going to end. It's a battle in a 30+ year cultural war - pitting the HRC mind set of ensuring the rights of the "acceptable" against the Task Force mindset of uniting grassroots efforts by standing together and working through our differences. There will be another battle next year.
Someone told me, in response to an email stating I couldn't attend a specific meeting without understanding it's purpose - "Sorry you have a dying family member, but we're behind on ICB (conference planning) and don't have time to wait around for you."
That's when it hit me. We get so focused on the next bi event or next queer action, we forget to look out for each other. Heck, even paying jobs figure out how to let people handle medical emergencies!
I've starting watching me mentors more closely. they've learned to pace themselves. They take time to witness the birth of their grand child, or to prepare for a class. Unlike the majority of bi activists, who seem to last about 2 years before burning out, they've come to realize that this is a marathon. If, at the end of the day, your friends and family have been chased away, there's no one to share your victories with.
With that in mind, I'll be taking my first break away from email in 1.5 years. I'll be out next week. I'm betting the world won't fall apart without me at the wheel.