Netroots Nation


by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network for LGBT Health Equity at Netroots Nation 2011

Blogging for the Network at Netroots has renewed my enthusiasm for social media, transgender health promotion, and community building. Grateful for the opportunity, I learned on so many different levels– from ways to write a more effective tweet, to methods of quantitative analysis of social media data. I was able to renew old friendships, establish new ones, and identify numerous organizations, including and beyond the familiar LGBT ones, that are working toward common goals and have numerous resources that our communities can use and contribute to (see earlier posts, for example, Sean’s Social Media for the Social Good).

Van Jones’ speech on Saturday (also, take a look at this quick shoutout he did on the fly for COLAGE on Friday) really brought it all home for me; he inspires passion, movement building, acting collectively and working across all our very different issues. His main example, ‘Hope and Change,’ were words from Obama that galvanized an American movement leading up to the 2008 election. By 2009, though, hope and change had turned to heartbreak for many.

But Jones reminded us that all humans are fallible. No social movement–or organization–can simply rely on charismatic leaders to achieve its goals or solve its numerous problems. We all–including our greatest leaders–make many mistakes on our paths toward achievement; some “sell out”; others grow tired and burned out; while others may make very different decisions than we might expect or want. The key is to build a movement, made up of networks and an infrastructure, that is resilient enough to endure our individual flaws. The other key is to love; not just those on “our side” or fighting for “our issue” but those we disagree with and may not understand at all. These are the keys to movement building that will allow us to walk under a common banner without having to give up our own struggles and identities.

Thank you, Van Jones, Netroots, the Network for LGBT Health Equity, and thank you all for sustaining this space for guest bloggers. We’re building networks and maybe even a movement!

Netroots Nation

Branding and Design in Advocacy

By Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network for LGBT Health Equity at Netroots Nation 2011

Logos and tag lines–branding–are really important, underutilized communication tools in the advocacy world. Designers from the Obama 2008 campaign and the Democratic National Committee presented some key tips for creating a brand that will help move you or your organization’s advocacy work forward. Here are 5 branding guidelines from Jessica Teal who did branding for Obama’s 2008 campaign:

  1. Be serious; make branding a priority.
  2. Be authentic; find the essence of your work to craft your brand, rather than trying to please your audience.
  3. Put your brand out EVERYWHERE in all different forms and mediums and make the art work downloadable.
  4. Be consistent, coordinated and aligned (i.e. in the field vs. in the media vs. on your web site).
  5. Be nimble; branding is not a solution–it’s an evolving process.

It’s important to remember that people learn through REPETITION, which has been a recurring, ahem repetitive, theme in several workshops. Repetition and familiarity breed TRUST. Trust in turn evolves into LOYALTY.

Netroots Nation

Screening Liberally: Using Social Media for Social Change

by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network at Netroots Nation 2011

Where are the soundtracks and films for our movements? Although creative voices from the social margins do not get much play via mainstream media outlets, social media has proven to be an excellent way to disseminate our stories.

Here are the inspiring works that we saw in today’s session, ‘Screening Liberally’:

  1. Jasiri X is one artist blazing this trail; check out his youtube channel. Jasiri X is a young, African American rapper from Pittsburgh who raps the news with critical insight, humor and rhymes. You may remember his piece, “What if the Tea Party was Black?”
  2. Also featured is a documentary, Hip Hop Rev (go to the web site if you’d like to obtain the doc and a toolkit to screen locally), about the Hip Hop Caucus and the Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. The Hip Hop Caucus is engaging youth of color and catalyzing the green movement with solutions for rebuilding poor neighborhoods and communities of color with green jobs, clean air, and sustainable energy sources.
  3. The Ironic News Report, also on Youtube and Firedoglake, features comedian Julianna Forlano. Forlano uses satire to underscore the lack of critical news media outlets and to highlight the most pressing current events that are not getting sufficient coverage.
  4. The final film trailer featured is Ron and Laura Take Back America. This piece is a mockumentary told through the eyes of a wholesome Tea Party couple who take on the culture wars in order to save their country and their gay son. Look out for it on the festival circuit in the next year.
Netroots Nation


by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger at Netroots Nation 2011

After listening to Dan Pfeiffer, President Obama’s Communication Director, defend the President’s leadership on LGBT issues, I wondered how the LGBT strategy session would play out. Of course, I find strategy and LGBT issues compelling in their own rights, but I have to wonder how we move forward on issues at the federal level. And while I expected more conflict and even some drama in the strategy session, the format helped to prevent sparks from flying. Here’s the agenda:

Review the strengths, weaknesses of current strategies and develop a new one(s) for the following goals:

  1. DADT
  2. ENDA
  3. DOMA repeal
  4. UAFA

Sounds simple enough, right? We also had to choose a perspective from which to discuss the strategies we have employed on these issues: 1) “insider” advocate, 2) “outsider” advocate, and 3) blogger. Given that I have only actively worked on ENDA, I sat at an “outsider” advocacy table. Here’s some of the takeaways:

  1. As a movement, we might be better served by focusing on more “bottom-up” strategies like how to build stronger coalitions across issues (e.g., the Dream Act and EFCA are QUEER issues, and ENDA is not simply a trans issue), rather then “top-down” strategies like focusing on which politicians *might* support us on the most politically expedient of our issues.
  2. We need to do more education within our own community; racism, xenophobia, transphobia and classism within our own communities make bottom-up strategies challenging if not exasperating.
  3. LGBT media outlets need to step up and produce more positive representations of transgender stories and lives. Check out Original Plumbing or New England GLAD’s Everyone Matters on Youtube, for two very different but important examples. For tips on how to produce effective media representations, see my post from yesterday, Lessons from Hollywood.
Netroots Nation

Lessons from Hollywood

by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network at Netroots Nation 2011

As an aspiring, starving filmmaker, this afternoon I ventured over to ‘Moving Hearts and Minds, What Hollywood Can Teach Progressive Activists.’ Marta Evry, a film editor from Blue Cow Productions, took us through some guiding principles and very simple film and video ad storytelling techniques. Television and social media ad campaigns are an excellent way to move skeptical audiences to empathize with your position, campaign, or movement. If your goal is to find common ground with a movable middle or even the “opposition,” keep in mind these three basic objectives:

  1. INVITE the viewer to your position; do not hit them over the head with your position. “Show; don’t tell,” is a key guiding principle to follow. Appeal to the viewers’ senses with music, sights, smells, and feelings.
  2. Create EMPATHY with imagery, not endless facts and figures. Sentimental images and music are powerful mediums for creating empathy and shared experiences; camera angles, lighting, and filters can make a big difference in the viewers’ experience as well.
  3. Convey information through EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT and REPETITION.

We reviewed three examples. Workshop participants were invited to give their reactions. Marta wanted to know: How did the ad make us feel? Who in the ad did we identify with? And what was the most memorable moment for us? Although some felt very manipulated, others felt moved, nostalgic, angry, sad and sentimental. Clearly, we all have very subjective experiences of stories that we are told, but the effective ones invited us in while the ineffective ones left us mostly confused over facts and figures, wondering about the overall point. The takeaway seemed to be that ads are opportunities to find common ground through shared emotions and the humanity of our individual experiences.

Netroots Nation

Our Common Struggles: the Immigrant and LGBT Equality Movements

by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network for LGBT Health Equity at Netroots Nation 2011 LGBT Pre-Conference Connect

This afternoon’s ‘Immigration Reform Through A Queer Lens’ session highlighted the intersections of queer and undocumented struggles for civil rights and equality in the U.S. Four remarkable young, queer, undocumented panelists shared their stories of suffering in silence, enduring multiple stigmas, and the challenges and affirmations that came with coming out of the shadows as an undocumented person and with coming out as queer and providing leadership in the immigrants rights movement. The reasons for being undocumented are varied and complex; coming to the U.S. often is not a choice but a matter of a family or individual’s survival in the face of economic, social and political upheaval in the aftermath of NAFTA, war, or the installation of conservative dictators in countries of origin. These social forces can make coming out as queer especially challenging and often drive one to choose between familial acceptance/support or a queer identity without one’s family. Coming out as queer and potentially losing one’s family leaves an undocumented young person particularly vulnerable–to poverty, isolation, homelessness, arrest, and deportation to a country of origin where one may know nobody anymore.

This panel was audiotaped, by the way, and I encourage you to listen. For now, I will say that in the face of massive anti-immigration legislation in different parts of the country (not to mention widespread anti-marriage equality legislation which also impacts undocumented queer immigrants) it is imperative that LGBT communities reach out and support this movement for civil rights. Sign and circulate petitions, use inclusive language in your blogs and in your everyday conversations (e.g. people are not and cannot be “illegal”), call out media representations that criminalize and stigmatize undocumented persons and communities, build friendships, alliances, collaborations, and create spaces to give voice to the immigration rights movement. This panel underscored how our movements intersect in many ways we don’t consider because we can be so silo’d. The Dream Act is a queer issue and marriage equality is an immigration issue.

Netroots Nation

NETROOTS NATION: LGBT Pre-Conference Connect

by Hale Thompson, Guest Blogger for the Network at NETROOTS NATION 2011

Good afternoon from Minneapolis and the Netroots LGBT Pre-Conference. This morning I had the privilege to hear from a room full of caffeinated LGBT activists, jounalists, and community leaders. Some of the most salient issues our various LGBT communities are facing were offered up, including health-related commentary:

  • Queer, undocumented immigrants are being forced into silence due to anti-immigrant legislation and increased police and INS cooperation. Yes, this is a health issue.
  • In Long Beach, queer youth need more education and awareness around HIV.
  • ADAP funding for HIV is under assault across the country.
  • In New York, funding for queer and homeless youth has been cut.
  • At the federal level, we need to be putting immediate pressure on Health & Human Services to include LGBT populations in surveillance and data collection instruments.
  • Charlotte, NC–the city in a right-to-work state that will be hosting the Democratic National Convention next year–has NOT voted on an LGBT measure since 1992 when they voted down employment non-discrimination legislation. Word is that their GOP-dominated state legislature is gearing up to pass a marriage-is-between-a-man-and-woman amendment.

In the next session, a 45-minute rapid-fire session on problem-solving the LGBT movement, we reviewed a few of the key hurdles we have to resolve:

1) How to engage more effectively across racial and ethnic communities, generations, and faith and non-faith lines.

2) Closing gaps in the movement.

3) Keeping the LGBT blogosphere strong and well-funded.

Not to worry. We have the rest of the day to forge ahead, build coalitions, and even mingle with the Pre-Conference Labor folks! In solidarity…