Cynical And Southern: Dyke Dollars And My First Experience With Queer Activism
I’ve never held a sign. I’ve never signed a petition. I’ve never stood in front of a congressman’s office and fought for my rights. I am thankful for all the people who do all of those things. Because of those people marriage is now legal in some of our states.
I view myself as a different kind of activist. I am in interpersonal activist. Since I realized my sexuality at 19 years old I’ve been the catalyst of people reconsidering what the word “gay” means. But I’ve always wondered which activist actions really do make a change and which ones are counterproductive.
My first experience around other queer “activists” was in 1995. I had just moved to Buffalo New York and my friend Sadie took me to the LGBT meeting at the University Of Buffalo. I was from a small town where openly gay people were scarce. It was quite intimidating to be in a room full of hip and intelligent queers who were my peers.
As early as the second meeting I found myself at odds with the LGBT club. The entire meeting was spent taking dollars bills, drawing pink triangles on them, and writing “Dyke Dollar” on them.
I remember the phrase “Dyke Dollars” being tossed around the room dozens of times. I cringed each time. I remember leaving the meeting feeling like I’d just spend the dumbest two hours of my life. As a fellow gay I felt I had much more important and profound things to do than to deface government capital. It only took one pink triangle to dissipate my enchantment with the LGBT club.
I understand the point of the “Dyke Dollar” at the time was to give the message to the general public that gay people had money to spend too. But so what? Should every minority group begin marking their commerce we’d just end up with a wallet full of dollar bill graffiti. This early experience with queer activism was such a turn off.
In the sixteen years since that meeting, in my own quiet way, I’ve changed the world. When the homophobic biker gang I met through a friend found out I was gay they didn’t hate me because of it. They realized that gay could mean more than they originally realized. When my good friend’s wife met me she hated gay people. She told me after getting to know me she realized that gay people are just “normal” (whatever that means). I allow people their ignorance but slowly and quietly disassemble it by showing I’m a good person.
I stand by something I realized sixteen years ago. The best way to change the world is to be yourself. When people see dollar bills with minority scribbling it doesn’t defuse their hatred or enlighten them. But when people see that their neighbor or co-worker is an awesome person who just happens to be gay, the impact could potentially be huge.
All the political people who picketed on the front lines have made a change in the world. Their work is valuable and essential. But it is important to realize that if that kind of work isn’t for you there’s still a way to make a difference in your own way. Just be you.
There’s a chance that the person most impacted by the Dyke Dollars was this person who was in the room while they were being created. I realized that day I was a black sheep amongst the black sheep. I left the room with the money in my wallet unscathed.
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