Learn to love reality.
Many of us are active in the LGBT community because we are very good at envisioning a better world. This is to the good. We need our idealism, optimism, passion, and the certainty that our cause is just or we might not be able to hang in there for the long haul through the ups and downs of the struggle for social change.
But somehow, each of us must also embrace the real world, the world as it currently is, and be as curious about it as we are about the better world we wish for. Otherwise, we will fail to be curious enough about those voters who aren’t yet with us. We will too quickly fall in love with ads that appeal to those who already agree with us but convince no one new to join us. We will take comfort from polls that show us ahead, even as we dismiss polls that show us in trouble. The cumulative effect will be that we will be surprised by trouble and meet it face-to-face only on Election Day when it is too late to tackle it. Then we, and others counting on us, will be so angry and frustrated that we will be tempted to give in to despair or see ourselves as victims.
We are a strong enough group of people to face reality. Part of the electoral process—though not all of it—is fair. Some of the process, though not all, is under our control. More voters, though not all, will join us if we don’t give up on them.
So when we learn that a voter, an experiment, an argument, a message, a poll, a volunteer, a consultant, a news story, or a blog is abjectly and utterly not what we want to hear, listen anyway.
At least one terrible truth is immediately before us in every one of these ballot measures: too many voters hold inaccurate, very unflattering beliefs about LGBT people and are therefore susceptible to emotional, anti-LGBT appeals. This reality of modern American life circa 2010 makes many of us angry. It tempts some of us to slap voters in the face with the truth. But when has a slap helped any of us recognize an error of our own? We need more voters to vote with us. I suspect we will come closer to having them reconsider their assumptions about us if we approach them not only with our self-respect fully intact, but also with a spirit of generosity, a genuine curiosity about how they see the world, and a measure of humility.