Tag Archives: Proposition 8

The people in your neighborhood

If you’re a regular reader of The Active Voice, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been blogging as regularly as in the past. I’m usually predictable; every week, like clockwork, I publish a new blog post on Sunday mornings. In my first year of blogging, I don’t think I took a single week off.  But lately, I’ve missed quite a few Sundays here and there, and I wanted to take some time to explain why.

You see, I have this neighbor that lives a few doors down from me. I’ve mentioned this neighbor in passing in a few of my blog posts. However, I’ve not talked about him openly – instead, he’s lurked in the shadows of my writing, but never making an overt appearance. So here he is, out in the open: He is mentally ill, drinks a lot, and doesn’t take his medication regularly. Some of his behavior is just irritating – for example, he hoards junk in his yard (and occasionally his junk spills over into the alley we share). Often, his behavior is completely distracting – a couple of Saturdays ago, for example, when I sat down to write a blog post, I threw in the towel because my powers of concentration couldn’t compete with his yelling. Sometimes he yells at his dog, sometimes he yells at actual people, and sometimes he yells at I-don’t-know-what. On a few occasions, his behavior has been just plain scary – without going into detail, let’s just say that I’ve gotten to know the patrol officers in our neighborhood quite well. I’ve taken time off work because of it. I’ve lost sleep because of it. And, as you all can attest, I’ve missed blog deadlines because of it. It’s a situation that’s been draining, to say the least.

Many of my close friends know about this. All of them have expressed concern, sympathy, empathy, and anger. And more than a few have asked the obvious question:

“Have you thought about moving?”

Given what we’ve experienced, it’s a fair question. However, I often find myself reacting with irritation to that question, and to others like it. Variations on this question include, “Have you considered moving to the suburbs?” Or “Wouldn’t you like to live out in nature?” All of these questions are embedded, I think, with an implicit, unstated assumption. What’s really being asked is, “Have you thought about moving to a safer neighborhood?”

Safer. What is a “safe neighborhood,” anyway? Many people use crime mapping as a way of getting a feel for neighborhood safety. If you check out your local police jurisdiction’s crime mapping tool, and a bunch of red dots pop up in your zip code, that often causes people to hit the panic button. It’s even worse if you look up your local sex offender registry – and a bunch of red dots pop up in your zip code.

The “broken windows” theory is another way many people gauge neighborhood safety. Philip Zimbardo, a social psychologist at Stanford University, first tested this theory in 1969 by abandoning two cars – one in the Bronx, the other in the affluent community of Palo Alto, California. The car in the Bronx was completely stripped within 24 hours. The Palo Alto car? It sat for more than a week, untouched. The broken windows theory encompasses not only windows but litter, graffiti, unkempt yards, peeling paint – anything that points to what Zimbardo called a “no one cares” attitude. If people don’t care enough to maintain their own property, the reasoning goes, then they’re not going to care enough about the safety of their neighbors, either. (Of course, there’s always the possibility that the residents care very deeply about their neighborhood, and have a strong sense of pride in their community, but they don’t have the money, or the physical capability, or the time or bandwidth to fix up their property. Just sayin’.)

So we’ve got crime mapping, and we’ve got broken windows. The thing is, if I want to find a neighborhood that is accepting of LGBTQ people – or accepting of diversity in general – neither tool is going to be particularly helpful. In fact, these tools are likely to detract me from the very neighborhoods that accept and embrace diversity the most.

Consider this: In 2008, the majority of voters in every city in Sacramento County (except for Sacramento itself) voted Yes on Proposition 8. Voters in Placer County, which is adjacent to Sacramento County (and which boasts towns and cities that are considered to be “very safe”) voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 8. The same was true for voters in El Dorado County, another seemingly-“safe” suburban outpost of Sacramento. If you’re queer, and you lived in those areas in 2008, your neighborhood would have been littered with “Yes on 8” signs. Frankly, that wouldn’t make me feel very safe. Sacramento, in contrast, has one of the highest LGBTQ populations per capita (and, in 2008, lots of “No on 8” signs), and many LGBTQ residents are concentrated within specific neighborhoods. Including my own.

Let’s add race to the mix. On the average, less than 25% of residents in the “safer” suburbs of Sacramento are people of color. In contrast, people of color comprise more than 55% of the residents within Sacramento city limits, often with concentrations in specific neighborhoods. These numbers have a significant impact on one’s perception of racism (or lack of perception, as it may be). According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, compared to Whites in diverse urban areas, White people who live in ethnically homogeneous suburban or rural areas are highly likely to say that none of their community’s institutions treat African-Americans less fairly than Whites – that racism just doesn’t happen. In other words, Whites in the “safer” suburban areas didn’t see racism – even though it was probably occurring right under their noses. If you’re a person of color looking for a place to live, and your potential neighbors think racism doesn’t exist in their community, they might not have your back if an act of racism does occur. I imagine that might not feel so safe.

So my perception of “safety” is a little different than what the typical, traditional benchmarks tend to be.  My neighborhood has its share of red dots on the map, enough to scare some people away. As for the “broken windows” thing, while many houses are well-kept, others are, well, not. But my neighborhood also has Pride flags and prayer flags (REAL ones, not flags hung by people who think they’re cool), knit-bombed streetlights and ethnic markets, pink houses and front-yard vegetable gardens. One neighbor watched the 1969 moon landing with his buddy in what is now my living room. Another was born in the 1920s in the house she currently lives in. And another, of course, struggles with alcoholism and mental illness.

So, to answer the question: No. I’m not moving.  And no, I haven’t dropped off the radar – I still plan to continue writing. Thanks to all of you who read so faithfully, and who pick up even after I miss a week or two.



Filed under LGBT families, racism, Sacramento

The power of fear

Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), which provides protections for transgender students by requiring schools to allow students to participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities (such as bathrooms and locker rooms) that match their gender identity. Almost immediately after the law was signed – surprise! – several groups began to fight to overturn it. Their tactic is similar to what they did with Proposition 8 – gather at least 500,000 signatures so they can get a referendum on the ballot, and then convince people to vote to overturn the law. And they’re moving fast – signature-gatherers, both paid and volunteer, have been spotted throughout the state of California, mostly on college campuses and in front of Wal-Mart stores and other shopping centers.

Who are these people? They’re the usual suspects. Frank Schubert. The Capitol Resource Institute. The Pacific Justice Institute. If you followed the Proposition 8 battle, you might be familiar with these names. Frank Schubert was the political strategist who successfully ran the Proposition 8 ballot campaign. The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is a conservative legal defense organization that, in addition to unsuccessfully defending Proposition 8, has also unsuccessfully opposed bans on sexual orientation change therapy. The Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) is a conservative watchdog organization that was another one of the Proposition 8 players. Now Schubert is directing the anti-AB 1266 efforts, and PJI and CRI are contributing money, manpower, and bandwidth. (As an aside, Frank Schubert was born, raised, and still lives in Sacramento. Both the PJI and CRI are also in Sacramento. These people are in my freakin’ backyard.)

These groups lost the Proposition 8 battle. And they lost hard. Now they’re turning their attention to the transgender community – and they’re out for blood. You see, they might have lost, but they learned some important – and dangerous – lessons along the way. Probably the most important thing they took away from the 2008 campaign is that fear is a very effective persuasion tactic. So effective that, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis, in the final weeks of the 2008 campaign, it was parents with children under the age of 18 who were most likely to change their minds and switch to a “yes” vote. And why was that? Because the Proposition 8 supporters saturated the airwaves with fear-based television ads targeting children – and more than 687,000 voters changed their minds because of those ads.   

So now, with AB 1266 under fire, these folks have now upgraded to Fear Tactics 2.0. A perfect example of this is the site launched by PJI called GenderInsanity.com, which provides information about the “School Bathroom Bill,” and then supports that “information” with the following vignettes:

Picture this … your 7 year-old daughter comes home from school in tears. You ask her what’s wrong and she says she’s afraid to go to the bathroom at school because a boy comes in while she’s there. Outraged, you call the school to demand an explanation. You’re told that your daughter is telling the truth, but because the boy says he wants to be a girl, their hands are tied. “It’s the law.”  Sound far-fetched? Think again. This is exactly what lies ahead under new legislation pending in the California legislature. But there’s more … much more. 

The next section is titled “Camping Nightmares,” and the scenario goes like this:

Imagine your 12 year-old son goes on an overnight camping trip with the Boy Scouts. The Scout troop leader nervously tells you that one of their newest members has been assigned to his tent, and even though she has lived most of her life as a girl, everyone needs to treat her like just another Boy Scout, since that’s now what she wants and “it’s the law.” 

The last section is titled, “Dreams Shattered,” and it states the following:

Finally, think about your teenage daughter … a star athlete whose basketball team is poised to make a deep run in the playoffs. Until, you learn, their main rival has recruited a hulking center who decided he could break more records and block more shots by identifying as a girl.

Think this could never happen? That’s exactly why it’s happening. Frustrated citizens have tuned out their lawmakers, fed up with politics as usual that only seem concerned about taking care of special interests and big donors. But now we have reached a line in the sand—a degree of insanity that calls for action. We can’t stay on the sidelines anymore. We have to let our lawmakers know that we’re not going to let them destroy the last remnants of common sense through mindless “gender identity” mandates. 

These people are pros – and they’ve been doing their homework. Their tactics are a textbook example of Michigan State University communication professor Kim Witte’s Extended Parallel Process Model (EPPM), a theory of the effectiveness of “fear appeals” – scare tactics, if you will. If a fear-based campaign is going to be effective, according to this theory, the first thing you need to do is scare the daylights out of people with a tangible threat. Then you have to (1) give people a sense of self-efficacy –  essentially convince people that they have the power to do what’s necessary to eliminate the threat; (2) give them a perception of response efficacy – that taking action will be effective, and not a fruitless waste of time; (3) create a sense of susceptibility – that the threat is likely to impact them personally in some way; and (4) convince people of the severity of the threat.

If you go back and read the vignettes from GenderInsanity.com, you’ll see clear attempts to induce fear and to encourage all four response factors. If all four factors are present, the outcome, according to Witte, is danger control. And danger control is exactly what the anti-AB 1266 people are after.

I’m not a fear-based person – rather, I tend to live in the realm of optimism and empowerment. However, I am a realist, and I know that LGBTQ activists, advocates, and allies can also learn a thing or two from the Proposition 8 battle. Two lessons, right off the bat:

(1) Don’t get complacent. Supporters of marriage equality really didn’t think Proposition 8 was going to pass – until it did. Even if gathering 500,000 signatures before November 7th seems like an impossible task, don’t let that be an excuse for inaction. More than one million people signed the petition to get Proposition 8 on the ballot. Anything can happen.

(2) Don’t ever assume that someone else will fight the fight for you. Get out there and get active. Carry flyers with you – the Transgender Law Center has a good one – and be prepared to hand them out if you see signature-gatherers. Join the Facebook group “Support All Students. Decline to Sign!” and use the flyers posted there, which are very clear and to the point. Check out the resources available at SupportAllStudents.org. If you’re a college student, go to your campus LGBTQ group and get them active.

The bottom line is this: If we don’t do what it takes to prevent people from signing that petition, we’ve got another Proposition 8 on our hands. And the opponents of AB 1266 aren’t willing to lose again.

How’s that for a scare tactic?

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Filed under children, gender nonconformity, human rights, psychological research, Sacramento, same-sex marriage, transgender, transphobia, Uncategorized

Fast and furious – but not over


That’s how I’m feeling as I try to write this post. Blocked.

Why do I feel blocked? It can’t be because there isn’t anything to write about. Two major Supreme Court decisions have resulted in a tectonic shift in the LGBTQ rights movement. The federal government no longer defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. Same-sex couples in California can get married if they wish.

And now, sitting in front of my computer, I feel . . . blocked.

It’s not just the Supreme Court decisions that are rendering me speechless. It’s the fact that so much change has been happening so quickly. Think about what’s happened – just in 2013:

On January 21, Barack Obama became the first president to discuss gay rights in his inaugural address.

On April 13, Jason Collins became the first professional athlete to come out of the closet.

On June 19, the Board of Directors of Exodus International, the largest ex-gay ministry in the world, announced last week that it was shuttering its reparative therapy operations, issuing an apology to the individuals who had been harmed by attempts to treat their homosexuality.

And on June 26 – well, you know the rest.

These are events that have impacted three of our country’s major social institutions – religion, professional sports, marriage – just in this past year. If we cast our net wider and look at state-by-state events, we continue to see significant institiutional change. California, for example, recently issued a ban on insurance discrimination against transgender patients. In addition, the California Assembly passed a bill that would provide transgender students equal access to facilities and programs based on their gender identity. And a week before the SCOTUS decisions, Colorado’s state civil rights division ruled that, by preventing 6-year-old transgender student Coy Mathis from using the girls’ restroom, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District acted in a discriminatory manner and needlessly created a harassing, hostile environment for her.

I could go on and on and on. It’s like a house of cards, with one critical card holding up all the others. Once you pull out that card, the entire house comes tumbling down. And that’s probably why I’m having this deer-in-the-headlights reaction – because even though change has been happening for a very long time, there’s been slow movement, then gradual acceleration. Now it’s like a roller coaster that’s just started zooming down the hill that it’s worked so hard to scale, and the ride is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.

Social psychologists – and political pundits – call this the bandwagon effect. As more people come to believe in something, others become more willing to “hop on the bandwagon” and join in that belief system. Malcolm Gladwell re-branded and popularized this concept in his 2002 book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. A “tipping point,” according to the book description, is “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

Have we hit that tipping point?

If we examine public opinion data on same-sex marriage in the United States, I think we can see the bandwagon effect – or tipping point – in pure, living color.  Ten years ago, according to Gallup Poll data, 39% of Americans supported same-sex marriage. Five years later, in 2008 (the illustrious Proposition 8 election year), 40% said that same-sex marriage should be legal. In 2012, that number jumped to 50%. And last month, a Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated that 55% of Americans support same-sex marriage. Going from 39% to 55% in a ten-year span is a HUGE change – especially when it involves such a controversial, value-driven, institutionally-ingrained issue. No wonder I’m feeling so shell-shocked.

But I think there’s another reason for this rare I-have-nothing-earth-shattering-to-say moment. Since the decisions were issued on Wednesday, a lingering question has been in the back of my mind: Where will we go from here? The movement has been so focused on marriage equality, and while full marriage equality obviously hasn’t been achieved yet, I fear that our community will rest on its laurels, assuming that the fight is over. But the fight is anything but over.

This past Thursday, I participated in an event at the San Joaquin Pride Center in Stockton, California. When I got there, I had a conversation with Nicholas Hatten, the director of the center. In the midst of our discussion, he said to me, “I hope that people in our community don’t decide to pack up and leave. I hope they don’t stop speaking out and contributing money. Because if they do, we’re dead.”

My thoughts exactly.

We can shift our collective LGBTQ community energies to planning our respective weddings – choosing wedding attire, selecting the perfect venue, figuring out who to invite and where to seat them during the reception, planning the honeymoon.

Or we can roll up our sleeves and focus our energies on moving towards equality, justice, and acceptance for all LGBTQ people. We can reduce the rates of LGBTQ youth depression and suicide. We can ensure that our LGBTQ students are in a safe, affirming, and inclusive educational environment. We can work towards ending victimization of LGTBQ people. We can fight for the right of intersex people to make decisions about their own bodies. We can demand full health care for all. We can push Congress to pass an inclusive Employer Non-Discrimination Act. We can fight for immigration rights in our community. We can work towards racial justice for all. We can ensure that our LGBTQ aging population is treated respectfully, fairly, and equitably. We can work towards full accommodation of LGBTQ people with disabilities. There is still work to be done, and I haven’t even begun to name all the issues.

My block is gone. I’m ready to move forward.




Filed under disability, gay suicides, hate crimes, health, human rights, intersex, LGBT families, relationships, religion, reparative therapy, same-sex marriage, transgender, Uncategorized, violence

Some are more equal than others

Blog topics come to me in strange and interesting ways. Sometimes, I start off with a clear idea of what I want to write about, and it comes together easily. Other times, I might start off thinking I’m going to write about a particular topic, and then my post morphs into something entirely different and unrelated. And every once in a while, something random happens in my life that sparks creative inspiration, and that’s what I decide to go with.

That’s what happened this week. Actually, this time it was TWO unrelated random somethings that happened in my life. Well, not exactly random. And not completely unrelated, either.

So, here’s Random Creative Inspiration #1: The red and pink equals sign.

For those of you who have been living under a rock (or who don’t use social media), this image literally took over Facebook the week the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the two same-sex marriage cases – one involving California’s Proposition 8, the other focusing on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If you’ve ever seen the blue and yellow Human Rights Campaign logo, this image should look familiar. At one point, when I was checking my Facebook account, the few individual profile pictures that were left were submerged in a sea of red equals signs., showing an overwhelming level of support for same-sex marriage.

Now, for Random Creative Inspiration #2: Uncle Bobby’s wedding. (Note: I don’t have an Uncle Bobby.)

This past weekend, I attended a children’s book writing and illustrating conference, where one of the breakout sessions focused on diversity in picture books. One of the examples used in the presentation was Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen. It tells the story of a guinea pig named Chloe who is devastated when she learns that her uncle Bobby is getting married – her big fear being that she will no longer be her uncle’s favorite person. Eventually, as Chloe spends more time with Uncle Bobby and his boyfriend, Jamie, she comes around, and is delighted to be the flower girl for their wedding. It’s a very sweet story, with a spirit of acceptance and love.

So these two Random Creative Inspirations weave together perfectly, right? It’s time for same-sex marriage to be legalized. We’re just as normal as everybody else. Same-sex relationships are becoming as mainstream as opposite-sex relationships.

Well, that’s not where I’m going with this. As much as I support marriage equality rights, I’m going to talk about the dangers of “normalcy.”

The speaker at the breakout session I attended at this conference was an editor for a major children’s book publisher, and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding comes out of that publishing house. Although she used numerous other books as examples throughout her talk, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding was the only one she read to us cover-to-cover.  And when she finished reading, these were my thoughts:

That was a beautiful story.

The illustrations were delightful.

And, unfortunately, that is NOT how it goes down for a lot of people.

The fight for legalizing same-sex marriage has used, overwhelmingly, the sameness argument. In a 2006 article published in American Psychologist, UC Davis researcher Gregory Herek carefully lays out an argument in support of same-sex marriage rights, grounding each of his assertions in social science research. His thesis essentially boils down to these main points:

  • On most psychological measures, same-sex relationships are no different from opposite-sex couples.
  • Children raised by same-sex couples are no different than children raised by opposite-sex couples; and
  • Marriage bestows significant benefits with regard to health, financial stability, and psychological well-being.

Hence, the sameness argument. Or, to use a more political term, the assimilationist argument.

The dirty little secret about the fight for same-sex marriage rights is that there are factions within the LGBTQ community that are deeply divided over this issue. For example, the week that Facebook was flooded with red and pink equals signs, a number of people in the LGBTQ community responded by posting their own subversive versions of that image. One looked like this:

Granted, some who posted this divide sign are Religious Right-type people who are not in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. But others who posted this image come from the trans* community, the poly/non-monogamous community, and others who exist on the edges of the mainstream LGBTQ umbrella.

One of the reasons some members of the trans* community chose the “divide” symbol over the “equals” sign is because of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Over a long period of time, the HRC, which is one of the largest gay advocacy organizations in the world, has committed some serious transgressions against the trans* community, the most noted being their support for excluding protections based on gender identity and expression from the Employer Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Their argument? It’ll pass more easily without the gender stuff. Just wait your turn, and be patient. (NOTE: To date, neither the exclusive or inclusive forms of ENDA have been signed into law.) More recently, at a marriage equality rally in front of the Supreme Court, a trans* activist was asked by an HRC staffer to remove a trans pride flag that had been erected behind the podium. These incidents highlight the ongoing tension between the “LGB”s and the “T”s, with the trans* community never feeling a sense of inclusion.

The divide sign highlights another very serious issue when it comes to same-sex marriage rights, and that is this: Not everybody in the LGBTQ community will benefit if Proposition 8 and DOMA are overturned.

What if you are gender-variant, and you don’t identify as “male” or “female”? So far, same-sex marriage policies haven’t included a “third gender” or alternative to the two-box binary gender system we’re so accustomed to.

What if you are in an ongoing polyamorous relationship? This, of course, is the “slippery slope” example that the Religious Right loves to whip out. Well, if we legalize same-sex marriage, then people will want to have multiple wives, or multiple husbands! Or they’ll want to marry their dog, or their horse, or their toaster! Usually, the response from marriage equality activists is this: Oh no, that will NEVER happen – because we’re just like heterosexual people.

Guess what? It happens. And when people enter into a polyamourous relationship, they are not legally protected. If a triadic (three-person) relationship splits up, there are no policies in place that guide how property and assets should be divided up. If a woman is in a quad (four people) and has a child with one of the men in the group, then decides to leave the quad entirely, how does child custody get sorted out? (Hint: She probably gets full custody, because the quad isn’t legally recognized by the state.)

I think some very serious questions are up for the LGBTQ community, and have been for quite some time. Are we fighting for equality – and if so, what does that mean? If assimilation is the goal that the movement is fighting for, then how does acceptance fall into that? Is it about fitting into the system, or changing the system? Uncle Bobby and Jamie fit into the system quite well. But that’s not true for quite a lot of us.


Filed under children, gender nonconformity, homophobia, human rights, intersectionality, intersex, LGBT families, LGBTQ, mental health, psychological research, relationships, religion, same-sex marriage, transgender, transphobia

God is watching us

Thursday afternoon. Spring Break was just hours away for most of my students. And although all of my students behaved politely, their facial expressions belied their true feelings. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock – will she EVER stop talking and let us out of here??? 

When my students get like that, I think, Movie day.

The movie of the day was 8: The Mormon Proposition, a powerful and controversial film about the involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) in the passage of California’s Proposition 8. Some reviewers called the film “outstanding” and “highly emotional,” others referred to it as “propagandistic” and “heavy-handed.” To me, the film revealed the well-organized, high-powered, strategic tactics that were launched in order to pass the initiative. What snagged my attention the most, however, was the astronomical amount of money the campaign was able to raise – to the tune of $22 million. No other statewide initiative has generated that much money – to borrow a phrase used in the film, we’re talking “Obama money.” And when you consider the fact that there are only about 750,000 Mormons living in California (just shy of 2% of the population), the numbers become even more staggering. How, you might ask, did such large sums of money stack up so quickly?

One word comes to mind. Tithing.

Members of the LDS church are very accustomed to tithing. A 2012 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 79 percent of Mormons said they practiced tithing – meaning that they gave about 10% of their income to their church. Once a year, families who are active members of the LDS church meet with their bishop and discuss their donations – at which point they may be encouraged to increase their contribution. Moreover, when Proposition 8 qualified for the November 2008 ballot, LDS churchgoers were encouraged to give even more. On June 29, 2008, in a letter titled “Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families,” Mormons were told that “[m]arriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children.” The letter went on to say:

“We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time [emphasis mine] to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.”

Means and time. Tithe your money, tithe your time. No wonder the LDS church was able to raise $22 million in such a short period of time.

Most people don’t give anywhere near 10% of their income to ANY cause, religious or otherwise. According to one study, members of Protestant churches give an average of about 2.38 percent of their income to their church – a decrease over the last thirty years, despite an increase in prosperity. If we expand our definition of “tithing” to include charitable giving, we find that Americans are actually quite generous; in 2010, individual charitable giving totaled over $200 million. However, if we dig a little deeper and consider a range of data sources, we find that:

  • half of that money went to churches and faith-based causes;
  • people who are religious are far more likely than their non-religious counterparts to make charitable donations; and
  • only about 3% of LGBTQ people donate to LGBTQ-related causes.

Yikes. That last statistic is sobering. Clearly, when it comes to charitable giving, it’s hard to ignore the God factor. While many LGBTQ people believe in a God-concept, very few actually go to church on a regular basis – probably because, in most cases, the church climate is pretty chilly for LGBTQ people. So what is it about believing in God – or going to church – that factors into financial giving?

Whether it’s a belief in God or regular church attendance, the God factor was the focus of a recent study published in Psychological Science. The title says it all: “God Is Watching You: Priming God Concepts Increases Prosocial Behavior in an Anonymous Economic Game.” The primary researchers, Azim F. Shariff and Ara Norenzayan of the University of British Columbia, demonstrated that people were more likely to allocate money to anonymous strangers when God concepts were implicitly activated than when neutral or no concepts were activated. In other words, when people thought that God was watching, they tended to act better – at least when it comes to financial generosity.

I’ll admit openly that, although I do have a God-concept, I’m not a regular churchgoer. I’ll also admit openly that the form of tithing I practice involves a little money here, a little money there, but not with any kind of regularity – and DEFINITELY not 10% of my income. But, I have to say, when I learned that only 3% of the LGBTQ community contributes to LGBTQ causes, that gave me pause. What if the roughly 11 million LGBTQ people in the United States (to give a conservative estimate) contrinuted 10% (or 5%, or 2%, even) of their income to, say, the Human Rights Campaign? Or the Trevor Project? Or the Lambda Legal Defense Fund? Or to your local LGBT community center? Mountains would be moved.


Filed under same-sex marriage, Uncategorized